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Alternative Medicine: How to Become an Ayurveda Practitioner

Research the requirements to become an Ayurveda practitioner. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an Ayurveda practitioner.

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Do I Want to Be an Ayurveda Practitioner?

Ayurveda is an alternative medical system used to balance the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of individuals. Practitioners diagnose people through visual and tactile observations and analysis of patients' medical histories and lifestyles. Ayurvedic remedies include herbal supplements and oils, yoga and massage; in addition, patients may be asked to change dietary habits or lifestyle choices. These practitioners may need to work weekends and nights in order to meet the scheduling needs of their patients.

Job Requirements

Ayurvedic practitioners can learn the necessary skills through training programs approved by the National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA). Some aspiring practitioners study in India, where programs are more widespread. As of November 2012, no licensing standards exist for this type of practitioner. However, some organizations recommend that patients seek out licensed medical professionals who have also received sufficient training in this type of medicine. The following table describes the general requirements for Ayurveda practitioners:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Short-term training program; some practitioners also hold professional degrees*
Degree Fields Ayurveda; individuals with professional degrees may study medicine, naturopathy, Chinese medicine and acupuncture, homeopathy or related fields**
Licensure Licensure isn't required in order to practice Ayurveda*, but medical professionals must be licensed**
Key Skills Clinical observation skills; visual, tactile and olfactory acuity*
Additional Requirements Knowledge of Sanskrit***

Sources: *International Society for Ayurveda and Health, **Medical specialty degree programs, ***California College of Ayurveda.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While Ayurvedic practitioners don't need to be licensed medical professionals, many of them have prior medical training. Aspiring practitioners who plan to pursue professional medical training must first complete an undergraduate program. A specific type of bachelor's degree isn't necessary for admission to medical school; however, most medical programs have admission prerequisites, including lecture and lab-based classes in biology, anatomy, chemistry and physics. Students should make sure their curricula includes such coursework.

Success Tip:

  • Choose a medical specialty. Some Ayurveda practitioners specialize in osteopathy, naturopathy or Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Medical disciplines that focus on holistic healing techniques may be more compatible with Ayurveda; however, practitioners in any medical field can apply Ayurvedic techniques when diagnosing and treating patients.

Step 2: Complete a Professional Program

After earning a bachelor's degree, students may pursue professional training in the medical specialty of their choice. Possibilities include Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) and acupuncture programs, among others. Regardless of the medical discipline chosen, all of these programs incorporate lecture-based courses and extensive clinical practice.

Step 3: Obtain Licensure

Doctors, nurses, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other medical practitioners must all be licensed to work within the U.S. Each medical practitioner license has different eligibility requirements, but most require completion of an approved degree program and a minimum amount of clinical experience with patients. After meeting eligibility requirements, most medical practitioners must pass one or more exams according to their specialty.

Step 4: Complete an Ayurveda Program

In Ayurveda training programs, students learn about doshas, yoga techniques, herbal therapies and healthy dietary practices; clinical internships are often required. Schools may offer basic and advanced program levels, and each level can take 3-6 months to complete. In some cases, students may need to take a college-level anatomy and physiology course prior to enrollment.

Success Tip:

  • Enroll in an approved program. Students should look for programs that are approved by NAMA. Approved programs cover core Ayurveda topics; they also include clinical experiences and direct contact with an instructor. In addition, approved programs are provided by legally operating schools.

Step 5: Fulfill Continuing Education Requirements

For Ayurveda practitioners who are also licensed medical professionals, participation in continuing education coursework on a regular basis is required. Completion of some Ayurveda training programs may count toward continuing education requirements.

Success Tip:

  • Join NAMA as a practitioner. Students who complete a 500-hour NAMA-approved Ayurveda program qualify for practitioner membership. Practitioners are listed in the organization's online referral directory and have access to practitioner-only events. In some cases, graduates of non-approved programs may also qualify for practitioner membership if their programs meet NAMA's standards.
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