More and more Americans are seeking integrative medical practices because they employ both mainstream medical techniques as well as complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and use a wellness-based model of care, as opposed to a disease-based model of care. Preventative lifestyle changes, low-tech, and low-cost measures are put into place with CAM patients before pharmaceutical or invasive procedures are considered.
What is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)? In short, CAM treats pain and disease much differently than traditional Western medicine. Rather than masking the pain with pharmaceuticals, CAM offers a long-term and preventative approach, treating the root cause of the pain and/or by stimulating mechanisms that allow the body to heal on its own. This allows for more patient involvement, minimal side effects, and long term wellness. CAM fields include but are not limited to Chiropractic Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, and Massage Therapy.
If you are considering a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), we understand that it can be intimidating to know where to begin when it comes to navigating the complex world of educational financial aid. We created this guide so that you don’t have to spend valuable time sifting through thousands of online resources; we’ve done that for you! Regardless of whether or not National University of Health Sciences is the school of your choice, we hope that all hopeful CAM students can benefit from this guide.
Founded in 1906, National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) is a leader in the growing field of integrative medicine and is respected worldwide for success in balancing healing arts and science, combining broad-scope integrative medicine with patient-centered care. With locations in Illinois and Florida, the university offers programs in chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, oriental medicine, massage therapy, and biomedical science.
NUHS is an established champion of high admission standards, accreditation, and academic excellence for its professions. That's why students from across the globe choose NUHS to pursue higher education in health care.
With a degree in complementary and alternative medicine, you’ll be on the cutting edge of the medical field, and in a position to choose from a wide variety of work environments: integrative medicine clinics, private practice, medical spas, hospitals, and more. Not only that, but the career outlook for practitioners of CAM is excellent: for example, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, chiropractic jobs are expected to increase by 12% by 2024, which is a faster job outlook than most.
As conventional healthcare costs continue to rise, more and more people are seeking less expensive alternative treatments that not only relieve current symptoms, but also prevent further illness. Complementary and alternative medicine, because of its preventative, non-invasive nature, is also a more attractive option to those who have been unsatisfied with traditional medical treatments. For example: the current opioid epidemic has led to a decrease in physicians prescribing powerful pain medication and an increase in both patients and physicians seeking the kinds of nonpharmacologic solutions found in complementary and alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, spinal manipulation, massage therapy, etc.
What makes CAM so unique and different from conventional, allopathic medicine?
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Fields
The rising cost of higher education is old news at this point, but most people would be surprised to find out exactly how much a traditional medical degree costs today. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the average cost of attending public medical school in 2016-2017 ranged from $34,592 for in-state students to $58,668 for out-of-state students. Those attending private schools paid an average of $50,000 a year. While these figures include tuition, a meal plan, and health insurance, they do not include cost of living expenses, which adds several thousand more dollars per year for most students.
Just how much has the cost of medical school changed in recent years?
Between 1984 and 2004, average tuition and fees jumped 165% in private medical schools and 312% in public medical schools. “According to the 2007 Medical School Tuition and Young Physician Indebtedness update, projections showed that graduates in 2033 would be graduating with a debt of nearly three-quarter of a million dollars, putting many physicians in the position of paying off loans throughout their careers” (source).
Compared to the cost of traditional medical school, complementary and alternative medical education is markedly less expensive: the average yearly tuition is $25,000, but can be as high as $35,000.
Average Annual Cost of Tuition, 2016-2017
Regardless of the school and program you choose, becoming a CAM practitioner requires dedication and a serious time commitment. Degrees in chiropractic medicine, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, and oriental medicine are typically a four year commitment, whereas certification in massage therapy can take one to two years to earn. Not only do CAM students have to take many of the same rigorous science courses that traditional medical students take, they must also learn to work with practitioners from other CAM fields, which means obtaining a broad and diverse knowledge base. Intellectual curiosity, good communication skills, a collaborative spirit, and a compassionate approach to care are all necessary qualities for aspiring CAM students.
If you’re going to spend $25,000+ a year on an education, you need to be confident that the return on your investment will be worth it--especially if you take on debt to finance your degree. Fortunately for those interested in a CAM degree, the career outlook for complementary and alternative medicine practitioners is excellent: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Source), health diagnosing and treating practitioners earn a median salary of $74,530. More specifically, Chiropractors can earn up to $121,900, Naturopathic Doctors earn an average of $90,000 per year, Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine practitioners can earn up to $120/hr, and Massage Therapists earn an average of $46/hr, including tips.
Average Salary of Health Care Professionals
The demand for alternative methods of health care is on the rise due to the increase in the prevalence of chronic disease coupled with an increased desire on the part of health-conscious Americans for alternatives to traditional Western medicine. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans use some form of complementary and alternative medicine treatments (CAM), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Consumer demand for alternative health care will continue to grow according to The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) because of “research and changing attitudes about alternative, non-invasive health care practices.” The DOL also forecasts that employment of physicians and other health care practitioners in general will grow faster than average for all occupations, driven in large part by the rapidly increasing older population.
Employment of physicians and other health care practitioners in general will grow faster than average for all occupations, driven in large part by the rapidly increasing older population.” — The U.S. Department of Labor
But career outlook and compensation aren’t the only aspects of ROI to consider: no amount of money can make up for lack of work-life balance or unseemly amounts of job-related stress.
CAM careers often allow you to choose your frequency of patients, offering a more balanced work and personal life. CAM practitioners are also able to spend more time developing a collaborative relationship with patients, assisting them in maintaining their health and promoting a healthy lifestyle. This kind of doctor-patient partnership is highly gratifying for both parties and contributes to the high job satisfaction that CAM practitioners experience.
The flexibility of CAM job options is another factor to consider. Practitioners of integrative medicine have several career options they can pursue, including sole proprietorship, working in private or integrative practices, hospitals, and specialty clinics such as Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). They can also pursue a career in academics, research, or administration.
Percent of NUHS Students Who Are Able to Pay Off Their Student Loans
One of the biggest concerns related to ROI for medical students is paying back loans. Many potential med students worry about their ability to repay their loans in a timely manner once they graduate. We are proud of the fact that at NUHS, we have a 4.5% default loan rate, meaning that more than 95% of our students are able to pay back their loans.
While the cost of a medical degree can be daunting, there are many ways to finance your education that won’t leave you with a mountain of debt on graduation day. Below, we have compiled a list of scholarships, loans, work study/assistantship opportunities, and grants offered to those pursuing a graduate degree specifically in complementary and alternative medicine. We will also link to other sites that are helpful tools in finding lesser-known scholarships and grants.
The primary source of financial aid obtained by National University students is federal student loans. NUHS participates in the Federal Direct Loan Program whereby students borrow these federal loans through the U.S. Treasury.
Amount You Can Borrow: $20,500 per year of Stafford loans; limit of $138,500 (includes any Stafford loans that you borrowed as an undergraduate). These are fixed rate Direct unsubsidized loans. Each year, Congress sets the interest rate on federal student loans with an effective date of July 1.
Fees: The Federal Government charges a fee of 1.069% of the disbursed loan amount. The fee amount is deducted from the amount that you borrow. This means that the amount of money you receive for your loan will be lower than what you actually borrowed, but you are still responsible for repaying the full amount back.
Repayment: Student loan repayment begins six months after you graduate or become enrolled less than half time.
Graduate PLUS Loans
To qualify for a Graduate PLUS Loan, you must not have an adverse credit history. You have to complete a Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) and can request a Direct PLUS Loan at StudentLoans.gov. Keep in mind that this is also a fixed rate loan, but has a slightly higher interest rate than the Stafford Loan.
Amount You Can Borrow: You can borrow up to the cost of attendance as determined by your school, unless any financial aid is received. Unlike Stafford loans, there is no limit.
Fees: You will pay a fee of 4.076% of the disbursed loan amount, which is deducted from your loan principal before your student loan is disbursed and sent to your school.
Repayment: Like the Stafford Loan, repayment begins six months after you graduate or become enrolled less than half time.
Credit-Based Private Loans
Private loans are exactly what they sound like: non-government loans that are issued by banks, credit unions, or other financial companies. Unlike federal loans, private lenders offer both fixed and variable interest rate loans. The catch is that you typically have to begin paying these loans back while you’re still in school, although the payments are lower than those you pay after graduation. These loans are best for those who have a strong credit history.
Federal Work Study (FWS) is a need-based federal financial aid program that helps to subsidize student wages in on-campus jobs. FWS earnings are excluded from adjusted gross income on the following year's FAFSA, so it is advantageous for a student to have FWS earnings versus regular non-FWS earnings. At NUHS, students are paid according to the Federal Work Study Established Pay Grid and have the opportunity to work in the department(s) that most interest them.
Aspiring CAM students may be surprised to find out that many scholarships are geared specifically toward holistic medicine. You can find a comprehensive list of websites that enable you to search for scholarships online here.
University Scholarships for Incoming New Students
National University offers several types of scholarships to students of all programs. Some scholarships reward academic achievement, some programs recognize Illinois residents or children of alumni, and other programs assist minority and international students.
Institutional Scholarships for Current NUHS Students
National University is proud to offer 34 institutional scholarships, many of which are awarded each trimester. These special scholarships are made possible by the many friends, alumni, and supporters of the University. Each scholarship has different criteria and may be awarded based on an evaluation of a student's financial need, academic achievement, character, extracurricular participation, or special area of interest.
Ethnic and Minority-Based Scholarships
These scholarships are designed to assist financially needy, academically competitive students who are identified as members of certain ethnic and minority groups.
State Association Scholarships
A number of scholarships are available to students who reside in certain states.
To qualify for federal, state, and college financial aid for grad school, you have to submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
While you (or your parents) may have filled out the FAFSA when you were applying to college, as a graduate student, your experience will be different. As an undergraduate student, you had the opportunity to receive federal loans and grants (which do not need to be repaid). Graduate students do not qualify for federal grants, but may borrow larger amounts in federal loans (which must be repaid). Also, the Department of Education considers graduate students as “independent students,” meaning that only your income information (not your parents’) is needed to file.
Unfortunately, interest rates are higher for grad students than for undergraduates, and those interest rates start accruing as soon as you begin your degree. Keep in mind that if you have undergraduate loans that still need to be paid off, you can defer payments on the principal, but still have to pay interest while you are in grad school.
Important Tips for filing the FAFSA as a medical student from National University’s Financial Aid Director, Marc Yambao.
NUHS has been educating chiropractic doctors since 1906. Our world-renowned professors use modern medical science, evidence-based treatments, adjustment techniques, medical diagnostics and laboratory tests, and never hesitate to refer or co-manage a case with an MD when it would help a patient. In this way, National University provides a broad-scope approach to addressing the whole health of each patient. We believe this approach better prepares our graduates for career success in today’s health care market.
National University trains its students to focus on treating the individual rather than the disease and to look for underlying imbalances to determine naturopathic treatment modalities best suited for the patient. We encourage students to apply the six naturopathic principles in action and equip our students with models for case analysis and treatment by taking them further into naturopathic clinical theory. This comprehensive approach prepares our graduates to be exceptional diagnosticians and physicians.
Learning from a master is the bedrock of acupuncture and oriental medicine instruction. That is why National University’s acupuncture and oriental medicine programs incorporate apprentice-style learning with world-class faculty experts and leaders in the field. Our faculty are truly masters in their profession. They hold PhD or MD degrees from China, and several have a background as physicians in Chinese hospitals. You’ll get hands-on guidance and close supervision, allowing you to learn via direct transmission of knowledge and skills from our faculty masters.
At National University, students get a full immersion in eastern medicine. You'll study the complete range of traditional diagnostic techniques such as tongue and pulse analysis. You'll learn point location and correct needle techniques and get rich exposure to oriental healing arts such as tui na, qi gong, moxibustion, and cupping.
Our massage therapy students become proficient in a plethora of massage techniques: Swedish massage, chair massage, sports massage, trigger point therapy, orthopedic massage, and deep tissue work as well as geriatric, cancer, pregnancy, infant, and pediatric massage. We also believe that a strong background in the sciences is essential for massage therapists, especially in an integrative medicine setting. Anatomy and physiology classes are required for all massage therapy students, and our expansive human cadaver-based anatomy laboratory contains dissecting facilities for 42 cadavers. While most massage therapy schools offer only diagrams and workbooks on anatomy, NUHS massage therapy students actually see the muscles, tendons, and ligaments they will work on by observing them inside real human cadavers in the lab. NUHS also offers all massage therapy students access to The Anatomage Table, today's most technologically advanced digital visualization system for anatomy education. In fact, all of our classrooms and facilities are equipped with the most advanced educational and medical technology.
Cost of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Programs Degrees at NUHS
Chiropractic Medicine: The Chiropractic program at NUHS tuition and fees cost for the 2017-2018 academic year is about $25,000, which includes tuition and fees.
Naturopathic Medicine: The tuition and fees for 2017-2018 for the Naturopathic program at NUHS are also around $25,000 total.
Acupuncture: To earn a Master of Science in Acupuncture in 2017-2018, the yearly tuition and fees are about $15,000.
Oriental Medicine: Earning a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine in 2017-2018 will cost approximately $16,000 in yearly tuition and fees.
Massage Therapy: The 2017-2018 total cost for tuition and fees for the entire Massage Therapy program is approximately $14,000.
A note on living expenses: It’s slightly less expensive to live on campus, and costs go down considerably if you live with parents or relatives. In addition to budgeted amounts for tuition, fees, books, and supplies, additional funds for Living Allowances are provided in the financial aid award. The Living Allowance is a fixed amount per trimester based on an average cost depending on the living situation of the applicant. This includes allowances for rent, utilities, food, transportation, and personal expenses. Financial aid funds are to be used solely for educational expenses.
We hope this guide has been helpful to you in your journey toward a complementary and alternative medical
degree. As the demand for better, holistic healthcare continues to rise, our world will need more CAM
practitioners, and we at NUHS are passionate about encouraging and empowering capable individuals to pursue
this type of education.
For more information about integrative medicine and the programs offered by
National University, contact the Office of Admissions