Ayurvedic Doctors and Practitioners


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If Ayurvedic medicine interests you, learn as much as possible about health, medicine, science, and anatomy while in high school, just as you would to prepare for a career in Western medicine. Courses in biology and chemistry are important. It will also be important to study the Hindu tradition and become familiar with Sanskrit terms. Studying Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas and the Ayurvedic texts, is a good idea, although it is not absolutely essential. Although Sanskrit is not offered in high schools, correspondence courses are available, and students in large cities may find Sanskrit courses at universities or may find teachers in an Indian community.

Postsecondary Training

Postsecondary training depends on the path you want to take. To become a full-fledged Ayurvedic doctor in the West, you must be trained as a medical doctor as well as in Ayurveda, which means getting a bachelor's degree, going to medical school, and completing an internship.

Specializing in internal medicine or family practice is usually the best route for those who wish to become Ayurvedic doctors, although it is possible to combine other medical specialties with Ayurvedic practice in a beneficial way. Those who wish to combine Ayurveda with careers as nutritionists, psychologists, naturopaths, and so forth must complete the educational and training requirements for those specialties as well as study Ayurveda. It is not a good idea to go into business in a Western country simply as an expert in Ayurveda, since no licensing is available and doing so may leave you open to charges of practicing medicine without a license.

The single most important part of a doctor's or practitioner's Ayurvedic training is the completion of a rigorous course of study and practice. Naturally, a student who wishes to practice should select the most comprehensive course available. An excellent way to learn Ayurveda is to study at a good Indian institution and become a full-fledged Ayurvedic doctor in India. That kind of program typically takes five years to complete and also involves supervised practice afterward. Remember, though, that being licensed in India does not make it legal to practice as a doctor in the West. Alternatively, a student may study in the West, where various institutions offer Ayurvedic training. 

Other Education or Training

The National Ayurvedic Medical Association, a membership organization for Ayurvedic practitioners, offers continuing education opportunities at its annual conference and via teleseminars. The American Institute of Vedic Studies, Ayurvedic Institute, and The Chopra Center are schools that provide Ayurvedic medicine course work. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Ayurvedic practitioners and doctors who plan to work as physicians in the United States must take an examination to be licensed to practice. Every state requires such an examination. It is conducted through the board of medical examiners in each state. Some states have reciprocity agreements with other states so that a physician licensed in one state may be automatically licensed in another without being required to pass another examination. This is not true throughout the United States, however, so it is wise to find out about licensing procedures before planning to move. Board certification is also available in a variety of medical specialties. Those seeking to become board certified participate in residencies that last up to seven years and must pass an examination by a member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties or the American Osteopathic Association.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

There is no way to obtain direct experience in Ayurvedic medicine in high school, but it's a good idea to take as many health classes as possible. During your medical training, you will gain experience by completing a three-year residency in internal or family medicine and a fellowship.

Ayurvedic practitioners and doctors work closely with their clients, so it is essential that they be able to gain their clients' or patients' trust, make them comfortable and relaxed, and communicate effectively enough with them to gather the information that they need in order to treat them effectively. It is unlikely that an uncommunicative person who is uncomfortable with people will be able to build a successful Ayurvedic practice. In addition, a practitioner must be comfortable making decisions and working alone.

Although some jobs are available in alternative health practices, most Ayurvedic doctors and practitioners have their own practices, and anyone who sets up shop will need to deal with the basic tasks and problems that all business owners face: advertising, accounting, taxes, legal requirements, and so forth. In addition, because Ayurveda is rooted in Hinduism, people whose religious beliefs are in conflict with Hinduism or who are uncomfortable with organized religion may be unwilling or unable to practice Ayurveda effectively.