In preparing to become a primary care naturopathic physician, you’ll want to receive a top-notch, four-year, professional-level education. By choosing an AANMC member school, you benefit from having three key organizations working to ensure the quality of your education:
- US Department of Education (ED)
- Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME)
- North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)
Each of these organizations functions to ensure that your medical education meets the standards set for the naturopathic profession, thereby preparing you, as a graduate, to practice in states that license naturopathic physicians.
Attending an AANMC-member school is the best way to guarantee a quality education. AANMC members are the only naturopathic medical schools accredited (or in some cases, are in candidate status for accreditation) by accrediting agencies that are approved by the Department of Education (ED). These agencies have established standards to guarantee that students who attend accredited schools will receive a valid educational degree or credential that meets accepted educational standards.
ND schools are accredited by two different levels of accrediting agencies: regional or institutional, and programmatic.
The following three sections below explain more about why AANMC schools give you an advantage, and which accreditation agencies play key roles.
1. AANMC schools are accredited by institutional agencies approved by the US Department of Education (ED).
While the ED does not actually accredit schools or their programs, it does recognize and approve the agencies that are reliable authorities on educational quality. These regional accreditingagencies are responsible for accrediting a school as a whole, whereas accreditation of each academic program is often done by another programmatic agency. (See section 2.) These regional accrediting agencies evaluate such attributes as:
- Academic standards
- Financial stability
- Truth in marketing and advertising
- Institutional management
These ED-approved regional accrediting agencies are regionally based. Examples of such agencies in the US include:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), which accredits University of Bridgeport.
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), which accredits SCNM.
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), which accredits Bastyr University and NUNM.
All schools that wish to participate in any federal programs must be accredited by an institutional accrediting agency which is recognized by the ED.
More >> US Department of Education
Note: The three ED-recognized agencies mentioned above (NEASC, NCA and NWCCU) are also recognized by the non-governmental accrediting agency The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA is a private, nonprofit, national organization that offers recognition for academic legitimacy, coordinating accreditation activity in the United Sates. The organization represents more than 3,000 colleges and universities and 60 national, regional, and specialized accreditors. CHEA’s primary purpose is to assure and strengthen academic quality and ongoing quality improvement in courses, programs and degrees.
2. AANMC schools’ naturopathic medicine programs are accredited by the programmatic accrediting agency, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).
Beyond the institutional accreditation level, the naturopathic programs themselves at each of the member schools must meet standards set by the CNME, which is the ED-recognized programmatic accrediting agency for naturopathic medicine programs in North America.
Every state, province, and other political jurisdiction that licenses naturopathic physicians as primary care health practitioners relies on CNME program accreditation and standards to qualify applicants for state or province licensure. Naturopathic professional schools and associations in both Canada and the US rely on the CNME to establish and maintain the highest standards for naturopathic education. This is similar to the way standard medical schools rely on the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Medical Association to sponsor a national accrediting authority for their medical programs. (See the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.)
When you choose an ND program that is accredited (or approved for candidacy) by the CNME, you can be confident that the program of study itself meets strict candidacy eligibility requirements:
- Proper organization
- Financial stability
- Good facilities
- A qualified faculty
- A rigorous and comprehensive curriculum
CNME evaluators conduct periodic campus visits and staff/faculty interviews in order to monitor the schools’ activity on an ongoing basis.
If a naturopathic medical program is not accredited by an ED-recognized agency, then that means that the school’s curriculum does not prepare its graduates to practice as licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs). Graduates from such schools are not permitted to sit for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), the passage of which is required to obtain licensure in any of the licensed US states or Canadian provinces.
AANMC schools offer more financial aid and fellowship opportunities.
In addition to ensuring quality of education, ED also provides financial aid opportunities for US students, but only at accredited institutions. ND students at accredited naturopathic schools (AANMC-member schools) are eligible to borrow up to $38,500 from the federal Stafford student loan program for a nine-month (three-quarter) academic year. Learn more about this financial aid opportunity.
Only students in, and graduates of, the four US CNME schools can participate in such federal lending opportunities, as well as in the National Institute of Health (NIH) fellowship programs for naturopathic physicians. The CNME also certifies postdoctoral programs, including ND residency programs, which provide licensed physicians with clinical experience in naturopathic family care and other specialties. The CNME accreditation also allows schools to participate in federal programs, including academic research enhancement awards and loan repayment programs, which are administered by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
3. All AANMC-school graduates are in good stead with the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE), which examines graduates to determine minimal competency to be safe practitioners. Regulatory authorities then use exam results to determine eligibility for licensure.
Every ND who wants to qualify for state or province licensure must first pass the NPLEX exam. These North American board exams are administered by NABNE:
- NPLEX Part I – Basic Science Examinations – tests scientific knowledge as a foundation for clinical training.
- NPLEX Part II – Clinical Science Examinations – tests competency required to practice as an entry-level naturopathic physician.
Only students and graduates of AANMC-member schools (accredited by CNME or candidates for accreditation) are eligible to take the NPLEX.
A note on distance learning programs:
The naturopathic licensing agencies mentioned above currently do not consider correspondence schools to be providers of an adequate education for preparing students to become practicing physicians; nor do naturopathic professional associations accept correspondence-school graduates as part of the naturopathic profession.
Katherine Gantz Morse and Richard Dent contributed to this article.