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Overview

Naturopathic medicine--a holistic approach to health and healing--is a collection of ancient practice that are regaining popularity today. Rather than isolating and treating patients’ symptoms alone, naturopathic practitioners focus on the complete well-being of a person and consider the patient an active participant in their own recovery and well-being.

In addition to the same basic science and clinical training conventional medical doctors receive, naturopathy students are grounded in naturopathic philosophy and theory and explore an exhaustive array of both Western and Eastern medical techniques. These include classical Chinese medicine, nutrition, herbal medicine and homeopathy, natural childbirth, hydrotherapy and naturopathic manipulative therapy, as well as standard medical practices such as pharmacology, diagnostic medicine, and surgery.

Students gain firsthand clinical experience in patient examinations, and graduates are eligible to take state board exams for licensure (where applicable) as a naturopathic physician (N.D.).

Degree Information

Becoming a naturopathic doctor requires a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree. (The initials right behind your name on your business card would be “N.D.”) It’s typically a four-year, post-baccalaureate program, though many students complete it in five.

A popular related degree is the Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (M.S.O.M.), a four-year program focused on Classical Chinese Medicine. While N.D. majors explore some facets of Chinese medicine, M.S.O.M. students delve deeply into it and are challenged to bring this practice, intact, into their framework of Western scientific thought. Graduates are eligible to test for certification in acupuncture and herbal medicine. At some schools, it is possible to complete a dual N.D. and M.S.O.M. degree in a six-year, combined program of study.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What are the licensure or certification requirements in your state?
  • Does your school feed into a licensing or certification program?
  • Is an internship or job-placement program operating at this school?
  • What specialized, naturopathic modalities are taught at this school?

Career Overview

There are really two types of naturopaths. A traditional naturopath cedes regular treatment of illness and trauma to ordinary M.D.s and uses naturopathy as a body-, mind-, and spirit-balancing complement to conventional medicine. Generally, traditional naturopaths study through an apprenticeship program and are not degree-bearing or licensed like naturopathic physicians. While they can be effective, the lack of regulation in their education and practice means that unskilled practitioners from this camp have occasionally given naturopathy a bad rap in the public eye through tragic accidents.

The second type of naturopath—the kind who has obtained their N.D. degree and the kind we’re focusing on here—typically works as a primary-care physician. They conduct regular intake and evaluation of patients, discussing symptoms and diagnosis and advising them on nutrition and stress. In addition to a repertoire of conventional medical practices, stellar people skills, and capacity for out-of-the-box thinking really come in handy for a naturopathic physician, to better grasp the big picture of holistic health and helping patients understand the benefits of an integrated, healthy lifestyle.

An N.D. may perform some inpatient procedures, such as minor surgery, manipulation, or hydrotherapy. They may prescribe homeopathic remedies and herbal medicines and refer patients to specialists as necessary. Some N.D.s work in specialized fields like obstetrics; others focus on specific naturopathic modalities that run the gamut from A to Z--from commonly accepted procedures such as acupuncture to less conventional practices like zero balancing, a massage-like technique designed to balance the body’s energies with its structural elements.

Career/Licensing Requirements

The regulation of naturopathic physicians is an evolving and somewhat controversial issue, and many states are considering naturopathic legislation. Right now, naturopathic doctors are licensed and regulated by law in twelve states and four Canadian provinces. They are: Alaska, Arizona, British Columbia, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Maine, Manitoba, Montana, New Hampshire, Ontario, Oregon, Saskatchewan, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. In addition, some organizations certify--but don’t regulate--naturopathic doctors. Certifying organizations basically just document that their certified members have completed a course of study (of whatever caliber) in the naturopathic field.

Salary Information

According to a survey by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, naturopathic doctors generally earn in the low- to mid-range of family practice doctors. A beginning N.D., just starting up his or her practice, working part-time or building a staff, may earn between $20,000 to $30,000 per year. However, an N.D. who runs or partners in a large, busy practice makes an average estimated income of $80,000 to $90,000 per year--and may make upwards of $200,000.

Related Links

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians
Contains naturopathic resources, publications, and practitioners.

Natural Healers
Provides a Q&A on education, careers, and popular modalities of naturopathic medicine.

Personal Health Zone
A general site for heath, fitness, and alternative medicine.

Wholistic Animal
Dedicated to naturopathic medicine for animals.



SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • Naturopathic Medicine

  • Bodywork / Massage Foundations

  • Botanical Medicine And Herbs

  • Cellular Systems

  • Chinese Medicine

  • Homeopathy

  • Minor Surgery

  • Musculoskeletal Anatomy

  • Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy

  • Nutrition

  • Organ Systems

  • Skills Of Communications

  • Stress Management