Ayurveda Practitioner: Job Description and Education Requirements

Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional medicine practiced in India for thousands of years. In the U.S., it is considered a complementary or alternative medicine that utilizes massage, diet, exercise, and other techniques to fight disease and illness by restoring the balance of the spirit, body, and mind. Although one can practice ayurvedic medicine without certification, formal training is most often desired.

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Job Description of an Ayurvedic Practitioner

An ayurvedic practitioner uses holistic techniques from India to help patients maintain a healthy life, eliminate impurities, reduce stress, and fight disease. Through observation techniques that focus on the interconnectedness between body, mind, and spirit, practitioners assess the entire well-being of the patient. Ayurvedic practitioners assess dietary habits, lifestyle choices, and mental states.

Once the cause of imbalance is analyzed, the practitioner draws from numerous treatments to find the best remedy. Each diagnosis is tailored to the individual and treatment can range from diet and lifestyle advice, massages, yoga, and meditation to herbal supplements, counseling, or specialized therapies. Practitioners may be self-employed, as well as work in a practice, wellness center, or hospital.

Education Requirements of an Ayurvedic Practitioner

There are no standard requirements in the U.S. to become an ayurvedic practitioner; however, formal training and certification is highly recommended by most employers. The education requirements for certification depend on what area of specialty is chosen including massage, herbal skincare and nutrition. The National Ayurvedic Medical Association (NAMA) provides a list of programs that meet the 500-hour practitioner NAMA requirements (recognized in the U.S. as the highest level of practitioner training), as well as other programs and seminars.

Many of the programs that meet the 500-hour practitioner requirements offer certification to become a Certified Ayurvedic Educator (CAE) or a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (CAP). CAE certification programs are often one-year programs that focus on teaching the basics of ayurveda and prepare the student to teach ayurvedic fundamentals. Some students may stop after they complete the CAE program, but if interested in becoming a licensed practitioner one must also complete the CAP program.

The CAP certification program is an additional year of study and includes an internship, which is 650 hours. Once certified, the practitioner is then ready to open a private practice or pursue employment opportunities within holistic centers. Often those certified as ayurvedic practitioners will go on to pursue a bachelor's, master's, or doctorate degree in alternative medicine and surgery.

Salary Info and Career Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data specific to ayurvedic practitioners, it does categorize such holistic health providers among specialized types of health diagnosing and treating practitioners. It was reported by the BLS in May 2012 that these practitioners earned a median annual salary of $72,710, although salaries vary greatly by specialty, location, education, and experience. Employment among all health diagnosing and treating practitioners is projected to grow by about 20% between 2010 and 2020, per the BLS.

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