Our FAQ answers your curiosities and concerns about becoming a naturopathic physician. Please continue your research on naturopathic topics of interest by following the links given to additional resources. Feel free to contact us if you have questions that are not adequately addressed here. We welcome your inquiries and do our best to respond to everyone.
Q: What is naturopathy and naturopathic medicine?
A: Naturopathy is a traditional approach to health that is holistic, meaning that it encompasses the whole being. It is based on natural and preventative care. Naturopathic medicine combines many methodologies, such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic adjustment, homeopathy and herbal cures, along with sensible concepts such as good nutrition, exercise and relaxation techniques. Some refer to it as “alternative care”, which is ironic, since naturopathy and naturopathic medicine are rooted in many age-old remedies that predate what’s known as “modern medicine”. A core concept is one of “doing no harm”, and complementing any necessary treatment. The terms naturopathy and naturopathic medicine are often interchangeable.
Q: How popular is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) among the public?
A: In 2007, U.S. adults spent $33.9 billion out of pocket on complementary medicine practitioner/products. Source: Nahin et al Natl Health Stat Report 2009
Q: What are the fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine?
A: The six fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine are principles adhered to by naturopathic doctors, similar to the Hippocratic Oath. They are:
- The Healing Power of Nature: Trust in the body’s inherent wisdom to heal itself.
- Identify and Treat the Causes: Look beyond the symptoms to the underlying cause.
- First, Do No Harm: Utilize the most natural, least invasive and least toxic therapies.
- Doctor as Teacher: Educate patients in the steps to achieving and maintaining health.
- Treat the Whole Person: View the body as an integrated whole in all its physical and spiritual dimensions.
- Prevention: Focus on overall health, wellness and disease prevention.
Q: Which classes or literature would be helpful prior to enrollment in a naturopathic physician program?
A: For a basic science foundation and overall exposure to help prepare you for naturopathic medical studies, consider the following:
- Read the “Textbook of Natural Medicine” – a very comprehensive and often-used reference among NDs and MDs as well.
- Browse various topics in natural health and medical journals, and related publications. (Some are membership- or subscription-based.)
- Earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably with a pre-medical or other science major. Learn more about prerequisites.
- Research all you can about natural medicine and potential universities prior to pursuing an ND degree.
- Read our Academic Prerequisites page.
Q: What course of action is suggested prior to pursuing a formal, accredited ND program?
A: Investigate more than one of the naturopathic medicine (ND) schools by visiting their campuses, if possible. Another very convenient way to get a taste of all the schools is to join us for AANMC’s Prospective Student Day in the summer, or for one of our Informational Forums in the fall, held in various cities across the US. You’ll also find admissions advisors at several career and college fairs throughout the country. Visit each school page to see when reps will be near your location.
Q: Which undergraduate degree should be pursued, and from where?
A: To learn more about the academic path to pursuing an ND degree, which undergraduate degree to pursue, from what college, and what ND school admissions advisors look for in their incoming students, we encourage you to contact each school you’re interested in specifically.
Q: What is the education of a naturopathic physician like?
A: The AANMC member schools are four-year professional level medical programs that result in a doctor of naturopathic medicine degree/diploma (ND). Students are educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD or DO as well as the latest advances in science in combination with natural approaches to therapy, disease prevention, and clinical education. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician is required to complete four years of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, physical medicine and counseling.
Q: Can I specialize as an ND?
A: Naturopathic medical education is extremely comprehensive and trains graduates for primary care delivery. For those NDs who graduate with a passion for a particular area of focus, there are many options to pursue that interest. Within the naturopathic medicine community, there are several officially recognized specialty associations focused on specific areas of medicine. To learn more about naturopathic specialties, click here.
Q: How much hands-on experience treating patients do ND students gain?
A: For at least the final two years of their medical program, students intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals.
Q: What international opportunities exist to study or practice naturopathic medicine?
A: Many NDs work overseas, either for a brief educational or cultural experience, or as a long-term lifestyle choice — stemming either from a desire to see the world (by staffing a cruise ship spa or clinic), or to help others by offering their health care services to extremely impoverished communities or villages.
Whatever the motivation or location, the experience of these physicians always becomes one that’s rich and colorful, rewarding and mutually beneficial.
Q: What do ND students learn about practicing conventional, allopathic medicine?
A: ND students are educated in the same basic sciences and pharmacology, drug/herb/vitamin interaction and contraction (wound healing) as allopathic medical students. Some AANMC-member schools require more hours of basic and clinical science than many top allopathic medical schools.
Q: What are the admissions requirements?
A: In evaluating candidates for naturopathic medical programs, admissions counselors look for students who want to be challenged academically, yet feel comfortable relying on their own intuition and creativity. They look for high-level critical thinkers who are flexible enough to deal with the challenge of formulating personalized treatment plans. Applicants must demonstrate that they possess the internal qualities essential to becoming naturopathic physicians, including concern for others, integrity, curiosity, motivation and a strong belief in the efficacy of natural medicine.
Q: What academic prerequisites are required to enter naturopathic medical school?
A: Prior to admission into a naturopathic medicine programs, the typical entering ND student has completed three years of pre-medical training and earned a bachelor of science degree. While no specific major is required for admission, students are expected to have completed courses in English and the humanities, as well as math, physics and psychology, with a strong emphasis on chemistry and biology. Courses that will help prepare students for the naturopathic course of study include anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, botany and developmental psychology. In addition to prerequisite course work, prospective students must demonstrate appropriate observational and communication skills, motor function, intellectual-conceptual abilities, integrative and quantitative abilities, and behavioral and social maturity. Learn more about specific recommended prerequisite courses.
Q: What qualities do admissions counselors look for in prospective naturopathic medical students?
A: Counselors look for high-level critical thinkers who demonstrate integrity, curiosity, motivation, concern for others and a strong belief in the efficacy of natural medicine. Learn more about admission requirements.
Q: What about advanced standing? How long is the course of study for a board-certified, degreed medical professional to earn an ND degree, and what does it entail?
A: Many osteopaths, chiropractors and medical doctors, as well as acupuncturists and nurse practitioners seek to expand their knowledge and their practice with a degree in naturopathic medicine. And many are eligible for advanced standing credit upon entering any of the AANMC-member schools. The type and amount of advanced standing will depend upon the type of medical degree already achieved (MD, DO, DC, etc.), and on the college attended. Advanced standing for students who hold one of these medical degrees can vary anywhere from 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years. For more information on advanced standing, or to ask an admissions advisor more detailed questions, read our editor’s response in our Questions Answered column.
Q: What are the AANMC school application procedures?
A: Standard application requirements may include an application, letters of recommendation, essay and/or prerequisite coursework. For complete information on application processes and deadlines, feel free to request information directly or contact the individual institutions:
- Bastyr University
- Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine
- Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine
- National University of Natural Medicine
- National University of Health Sciences
- Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine
- University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine
Q: What is the accreditation system for naturopathic medical programs and schools?
A: The AANMC recognizes the following accrediting institutions:
College accreditation is issued by the US Department of Education (ED). All US AANMC member schools have been accredited – or are in candidate status for accreditation – by an ED-approved regional accrediting agency.
Programmatic accreditation is issued by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). In addition, each of the individual naturopathic medicine programs of the member schools have been accredited – or are candidates for accreditation – by the CNME, the recognized accrediting body for naturopathic medical programs in North America.
The exam required to qualify for naturopathic doctor licensure is administered by North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). After graduating from the naturopathic programs of AANMC member schools, students are eligible to sit for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), administered by NABNE. Passing the NPLEX is required before a doctor of naturopathic medicine can be licensed by a state or provincial jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.
Learn more about the licensure of naturopathic doctors.
Q: Can anyone with an ND degree/diploma practice naturopathic medicine anywhere, or do they have to obtain licensure in their own state or province?
A: In order to practice in a licensed state or province, an ND must obtain and maintain a license in that state or province. This requirement does not apply to NDs practicing in yet unlicensed states and provinces.
Graduates from naturopathic medical schools are eligible to practice in any province or state in which they meet the licensing or other requirements set forth by that province or state. In the provinces and states which license naturopathic physicians, ND graduates are required to pass rigorous professional board exams (NPLEX) in order to be licensed as primary care general practice physicians. Only graduates of naturopathic medical schools accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) are eligible to sit for the professional board exams in licensed states and provinces.
Q: Which US states and Canadian provinces currently license/regulate naturopathic physicians?
A: In the United States:
District of Columbia
U.S. Territories: Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
Scope of practice regulations vary among licensed states and provinces, as do the parameters and restrictions for practitioners located in as yet unlicensed venues. Legal provisions still allow naturopathic doctors to consult with patients, making recommendations and suggestions based on prior diagnosis, in several of the yet unlicensed states and provinces.
Q: Why doesn’t the AANMC represent any online programs?
A: The AANMC believes that becoming a naturopathic physician is not something that can adequately be accomplished through an online or correspondence course. Physicians carry an awesome responsibility, and must be trained accordingly. Physicians diagnose and treat diseases, and any mistakes that they make can have major repercussions for their patients. A physician’s education and training must adequately qualify them for this role. It is a major undertaking requiring years of academic preparation and hands-on clinical experience.
Naturopathic medical students at accredited ND colleges study the same core medical sciences as MD students; they receive many hours of supervised clinical training, learning to diagnose disease and gaining experience treating patients. To understand more about AANMC school requirements, accreditation, and the implications for your career as a practicing ND, read about the seven AANMC accredited naturopathic medical colleges.
Q: Does graduating from an accredited online program still allow one to practice as an ND?
A: In order to work as a general practice naturopathic doctor (ND) in a licensed state or province, one must first graduate from a four-year, professional-level program at a federally accredited naturopathic medical school, none of which offer any online programs. View the full licensure requirements.
Q: What is the AANMC?
A: The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) was established in February of 2001 to propel and foster the naturopathic medical profession by actively supporting the academic efforts of accredited and recognized schools of naturopathic medicine in North America. The AANMC is a non-profit association.
Q: What are AANMC membership requirements?
A: To earn and maintain AANMC membership, an ND school must be accredited – or in candidate status for accreditation – by a regional accrediting agency approved by the US Department of Education (ED). Furthermore, the school’s ND program itself must be accredited – or in candidate status – by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).
Q: Does the AANMC accredit its member schools?
A: No, the AANMC simply offers membership to represent the accredited schools, however proper accreditation is a requirement for all member schools.
Q: Does the AANMC host virtual events?
A: Yes, AANMC hosts regular webinars and naturopathic virtual fairs.
Attending an AANMC Webinar gives you the opportunity to hear from and ask questions of leaders in the field of naturopathic medicine, just as you would at an on-site forum. The difference is that Webinars take place online, in real time, so you can attend from literally anywhere in the world!
We’ll continue to host Webinars throughout the year. To take advantage of this great opportunity, watch our Events page for the next scheduled Webinar, and register today!
Q: What’s the typical patient schedule of an ND?
A: To allow for thoughtful, in-depth exchanges with each patient, NDs are likely to schedule no more than 10 appointments per day. As primary care providers, NDs make it their top priority to take enough time to learn about each patient, his/her family, and his/her lifestyle outside of the doctor’s office. Find other professional organizations in the CAM industry.
Q: Do NDs base their diagnoses and treatments primarily on ancient healing practices or on current medical and scientific breakthroughs, or both?
A: Today’s naturopathic physicians artfully blend modern, cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic procedures with ancient and traditional methods. These physicians are succeeding in their goal to present the world with a healing paradigm founded on a rational balance of tradition, science and respect for nature. Because naturopathic physicians believe in understanding patients from the cellular level up, they actively pursue the latest biochemical findings relating to the workings of the body and the dynamics of botanical medicines, nutrition, homeopathy and other natural therapies. Their diagnoses and therapeutics are increasingly supported by scientific evidence.
Q: What kind of participation or interaction do NDs have with the allopathic medical community?
A: Because they view natural remedies as both complementary and primary, NDs cooperate with other medical professionals, referring patients to allopathic medical doctors, surgeons and other specialists whenever appropriate.
Q: Once I become a doctor of naturopathic medicine (ND), will my patients have to choose between natural medicine and conventional medicine?
A: Absolutely not. With the use of natural medicine steadily on the rise, more people are realizing that both natural and conventional approaches together can play a significant and instrumental role in meeting most or all of their health care needs. Patients are therefore seeking integrative approaches to managing their own health. And the medical establishment is adapting.
To learn specifics about how natural and conventional therapies can work together for you and your future patients, and to hear some common misconceptions addressed, read “The facts about natural medicine” by Jane Guiltinan, ND, core faculty member at Bastyr University’s School of Naturopathic Medicine, and immediate past president of the AANP (The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians).
Q: How many NDs are practicing today, and is the profession growing?
A: There are an estimated 5,000 licensed NDs practicing in North America today, approximately 3,500 of which practice in the U.S. This number has more than tripled over the past 10 years, no doubt in response to the growing patient interest. As it grows, the ND profession continues to spark the interest of those dissatisfied with conventional medicine.
Q: Do NDs typically find positions in natural medicine clinics, or follow other health-related career paths?
A: Some ND graduates choose to work in integrative or private practice clinics, while some establish and operate their own private practices. Others go on to become research scientists, natural pharmacists, public health administrators, consultants to industry, employees of insurance companies and to other health care professionals.
Q: What is a common salary for an ND?
A: There exists a very wide income range among practicing NDs. (It’s important to note that many NDs are not salaried, but rather are self-employed.) On average, industry data shows that an established ND who runs or partners in a large, busy practice makes an average estimated net income of $80,000 to $90,000 per year – and may make upwards of $200,000. A beginning ND just starting up his or her practice, working part-time or building a staff, generally earns less than these averages for the first years of practice. Early residency positions reflect incomes between $20,000 and $30,000 per year.
Realize that the dollar figure can and does vary greatly depending on several factors, including region and location, type of clientele served, fee schedules, business objectives and marketing plans, and willingness to work with insurance carriers.
The information above has been compiled from these sources: Survey of Naturopathic Physicians, AANMC, (Summer 2004); member survey conducted by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) and several AANMC-member colleges; and ExploreHealthCareers.org.
Q: How do NDs rank in terms of income satisfaction and career satisfaction?
A: Of naturopathic physicians surveyed, 71 percent reported satisfaction with their incomes, and an overwhelming 98 percent of our respondents reported satisfaction with their naturopathic medical career. – Source: “Survey of Naturopathic Physicians,” AANMC, (Summer 2004)
Q: How can I serve those who need it most?
A: Many of the AANMC school alumni do choose to dedicate themselves to serving lower-income patients who need it the most – either in local communities or in relief clinics abroad, in both urban and rural areas, either full-time or as part-time volunteers.
Q: What types of professional resources exist for naturopathic doctors?
A: National ND membership associations exist both in the US and in Canada. Find them listed here.
State- and province-level organizations also exist. Both actively support practicing NDs in terms of patient resources, networking, licensure and public affairs efforts. Back to top
Q: What is the typical ND-patient relationship like?
A: Naturopathic physicians encourage patients to take personal responsibility for their own health. They support patients in this by teaching them the steps necessary to create and monitor their own wellness. Naturopathic physicians strive to find the underlying cause of a patient’s illness, rather than treat symptoms exclusively. Recognizing that each body is unique, naturopathic doctors tailor their treatments to meet the individual needs of each patient. NDs honor the healing power of nature as one of the six fundamental principles of natural medicine.
Learn more about what to expect from a typical ND patient visit from the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND).
Q: How do I find a local ND?
A: The absolute best place to find a qualified naturopathic doctor in North America is through the profession’s national associations. These associations maintain active databases of licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs), searchable by name and location.
- In the United States: The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP).
- In Canada: The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND).