10 Degrees in Functional Medicine (With Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 14, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many aspiring nutritionists and health care practitioners pursue degrees in functional medicine. Studying functional medicine is an excellent way to learn about a wide variety of environmental, lifestyle, genetic and dietary factors that affect people's health. If you're pursuing a career in health and wellness, then you might be interested in learning about some of the degrees in functional medicine that are available. In this article, we explain what functional medicine is, discuss the benefits of earning a degree in this field and list 10 programs you can enroll in to begin your career.

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What is functional medicine?

Functional medicine is a holistic approach to health care that focuses on understanding biology systems to identify and treat the root cause of diseases. By uncovering the root cause, functional medicine practitioners can alleviate many of the symptoms their patients experience. Some of the areas functional medicine practitioners assess when meeting with patients include their medical history, environment, genes, diet and lifestyle choices. Functional medicine practitioners often use a combination of treatments, including herbal supplements, whole-food diets and exercise plans, to improve their patient's overall wellbeing.

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Benefits of earning a degree in functional medicine

Earning a degree in functional medicine can provide you with additional tools and resources that allow you to help patients overcome diseases and improve their health through lifestyle changes and natural remedies. It can also help you learn how to apply an evidence-based approach to holistic wellness practices. Some other benefits of earning a degree in functional medicine include:

  • Job security: Earning a degree in functional medicine can prepare you to pursue a wide variety of career opportunities, including roles as a nutrition specialist, health coach, wellness educator or dietitian.

  • High earning potential: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for dietitians and nutritionists is $63,090 per year.

  • Job satisfaction: Many professionals find working in nutrition and holistic medicine to be a deeply rewarding career because they're able to give patients the tools they need to improve their health using natural medicines, exercise and whole foods.

10 degrees in functional medicine

Researching some of the functional medicine degree programs available today can help you make an informed decision about your academic and professional career. It can also help you compare what types of benefits each program provides. For example, some academic institutions may offer clinical hours, flexible schedules, remote classroom opportunities, career services or networking events. Here are 10 functional medicine degree programs you can explore to begin your search:

1. University of Western States

The University of Western States offers master's, doctoral and graduate certificate programs in human nutrition and functional medicine. As partners with the Institute for Functional Medicine, the University of Western States is the only institution that offers an accredited Master of Science degree in this area. All courses are online and feature flexible pacing to accommodate students with busy work lives and personal obligations.

Students pursuing a doctoral degree in human nutrition and functional medicine may need to visit the university's campus in Portland, Oregon for a one weekend long training program. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Nutritional biochemistry

  • Evidence-based nutrition

  • Gastrointestinal imbalances

  • Sports nutrition and exercise metabolism

  • Hormone and neurotransmitter regulation

Related: 10 Undergraduate Majors To Prepare for Medical School

2. Maryland University of Integrative Health

Maryland University of Integrative Health has a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition program that offers a hybrid format, which allows students to take some classes in-person and some online. As one of two integrative Doctor of Clinical Nutrition programs in the United States, it focuses on preparing students to develop personalized and respectful wellness plans for their patients while acquiring clinical knowledge and skills.

This program consists of eight trimesters with courses available on weekends to accommodate busy schedules. Students also complete a clinical nutrition residency at the end of this program to gain hands-on work experience. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Research literacy in nutrition

  • Cardio-metabolic health

  • Gastrointestinal health and disease

  • Bioethics in clinical nutrition

  • Epigenetics and nutritional genomics

3. George Washington University

George Washington University offers a Master of Science in Health Sciences (MSHS) in integrative medicine program that focuses on using an evidence-based approach to help patients achieve wellness. Accredited by the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM), this program is the only MSHS in integrative medicine that's currently available.

All of the courses are available online to make this program easily accessible. Students come from a wide variety of wellness professions, including chiropractors, acupuncturists, nutritionists, nurses, pharmacists and therapists. It typically takes students 30 months to earn their master's degree through this program. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Nutritional metabolism and environmental exposure

  • Metabolic networks in integrative medicine

  • Legal and medical ethics

  • Biochemistry and advanced nutrition

  • Nutritional immunology

Related: A Comprehensive List of Medical Field Majors

4. John Patrick University of Health and Applied Sciences

Designed for students who want to pursue health and wellness professions in private businesses, community organizations and health care settings, the John Patrick University of Health and Applied Sciences' master's degree in integrative and functional medicine is available completely online. Students can choose from several concentrations, including cannabinoid medical sciences, lifestyle medicine, nutrition, sports medicine, memory care and bioinformatics. It typically takes students two years to graduate from this program. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Herbal medicine

  • Diet, genes and nutrition

  • Health and wellness coaching

  • Gastronomy science

  • Integrative kinesiology

5. Georgetown University

Georgetown University offers a Master of Science in physiology that's designed to help college graduates improve their chances of being accepted into medical school. Courses for this in-person program take place on the Georgetown University campus in Washington, DC. Students may choose to pursue a specialization in complementary and alternative medicine to learn how to assess the efficacy and safety of these modalities.

Georgetown University also focuses on biochemistry, microanatomy, physiology and embryology throughout this master's program. Students also take a course in gross anatomy, which involves working in Georgetown University's innovative non-dissection lab with prosecuted cadavers. It takes approximately 10 months to complete this program. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Advanced pathophysiology

  • Respiratory and renal biology

  • Endocrine and reproduction biology

  • Pharmacology and pathology

  • Gastrointestinal biology

Related: 12 of the Highest Paid Medical Specialties

6. The Institute for Functional Medicine

The Institute for Functional Medicine offers a functional medicine certification program for licensed healthcare professionals to help them advance throughout their careers. Students can also enroll in the Applying Function Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP) course to learn how to integrate new medical research with a holistic model of care. The programs The Institute for Function Medicine has feature hybrid classes that include online sessions, live stream videos and in-person seminars. Earning a functional medicine certificate typically takes students two years. Some of the courses you may take through this program include:

  • Preventing type one diabetes

  • Micronutrient deficiency

  • Alleviating chronic pain

  • Nutrition and mental health

  • Stress and inflammation

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7. Grace College

Through Grace College's partnership with John Patrick University of Health and Applied Sciences, students can enroll in a Master of Science in Integrative and Functional Medicine dual degree program. By enrolling in this program, students complete both a bachelor's and a master's degree in four years. The courses included in this program prepare students to assess the lifestyle and environmental factors that contribute to their patients' overall health to help them make thoughtful choices and improve their wellbeing. The entire integrative and functional medicine program is available online. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Community health and welfare

  • Epidemiology

  • Disease prevention

  • Personal health

  • Fitness, exercise and health behaviors

8. Saybrook University

Saybrook University has an online Master of Science in integrative and functional nutrition course that typically takes students between 28 and 32 months to complete. Registered dietitians may receive six advanced standing credits to graduate early. Students can also choose to minor in integrative wellness coaching or mind body medicine through this program. While all of the coursework takes place virtually, students who choose to complete the residential training component must attend an in-person residential conference. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Research literacy for practitioners

  • Physiology and pathophysiology

  • Biochemistry systems

  • Foundations of integrative and functional nutrition

Related: What Can You Do With an Osteopathic Medicine Degree?

9. Bastyr University

Located in Kenmore, Washington, Bastyr University offers two on-campus Bachelor of Science programs in nutrition and herbal sciences. Through these studies, students learn how to apply whole-food nutrition and wellness practices in a way that benefits their communities. Students also gain hands-on experience growing their own food at Bastyr University's medicinal herb garden, which features 350 species of seasonal crops and herbs. Through this opportunity, students learn how to advocate for sustainable, organic and renewable agriculture. Full-time students typically graduate within two years. Some of the courses you may take through this undergraduate degree program include:

  • Psychology of nourishment

  • Ecological aspects of nutrition

  • Ethnobotany and northwest herbs

  • First aid for herbalists

  • Pharmacognosy for herbal sciences

Graduates may continue their education by pursuing a Master of Science in Nutrition degree at Bastyr University. A few of the concentrations students who participate in the master's program can choose from include counseling psychology, wellness and health coaching and dietetics.

Related: D.O. vs. M.D.: Differences Between Osteopathic and Allopathic Doctors

10. National University of Natural Medicine

The National University of Natural Medicine provides a hands-on approach to learning its Master of Science in Nutrition program. In addition to offering traditional coursework in a classroom setting, this school provides opportunities for students to hone their skills in a teaching kitchen and on organic farms. Students also learn how to use diet to treat diseases and improve the health of their patients.

The National University of Natural Medicine uses a holistic approach to teach students about clinical nutrition, community nutrition, culinary nutrition and environmental nutrition. It typically takes two years to complete this program and students can apply for their certified nutrition specialist credential upon graduation. Some of the courses you may take through this degree program include:

  • Nutritional biochemistry

  • Cultural humility and food justice

  • Community nutrition and food policy

  • Medical nutrition therapy

  • Psychology of eating

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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