Characteristics of the Australian complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) workforce

Matthew J Leach, Erica McIntyre, Jane Frawley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Background/aim: The complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) workforce is the third largest occupational group in the Australian health sector. Yet the profile of this workforce is not well understood. This study aims to provide new insight into the Australian CAM workforce by exploring the demographic and practice characteristics of this occupational group. Methodology: Members of the National Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA) were invited to participate in a descriptive, online survey. The NHAA, comprising of 1,125 members, is a professional association representing both Western herbalists and naturopaths, although nearly half of members primarily practice in another CAM discipline. The 82-item survey consisted of demographic questions (e.g. gender, age, highest qualification, place of residence, location of business), questions related to CAM practice (e.g. main occupation practiced, years in practice, employment type, number of clients consulted per week, fees charged and annual taxable income for practice), and questions relating to NHAA membership. Results: A response rate of 35.4% (n=399) was obtained. Participants were primarily female (86.7%), aged between 41-60 years (56.1%) and resided in a major city (61.7%). The majority of respondents (37.1%) held an undergraduate degree as their highest qualification, with 34.6% holding a postgraduate qualification and 27.6% holding an advanced diploma or lower-level qualification. Respondents most commonly practiced naturopathy (61.6%), herbal medicine (51.9%), nutrition (15.2%), massage therapy (14.4%) or another discipline (20.2%), with the majority of participants being in practice in their main modality for less than 10 years (47.6%). The number of years in practice, initial consultation fee and employment type were found to be statistically significantly associated with a higher income from clinical practice (p<0.001). Conclusion: The CAM workforce is a significant part of the healthcare landscape in Australia. Findings from this study suggest that the profile of this occupational group is changing, with signs of a shift toward a more female-dominant, part-time and highly qualified workforce. A more comprehensive investigation of the CAM workforce is now needed to corroborate these findings and to explore the implications of these results on CAM practice and policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-65
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Journal of Herbal Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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