Interested in a rewarding healthcare career that combines the healing power of nature with modern science? Attending a naturopathic medical school may be the right choice for you.
According to the 2020 Graduate Success and Compensation Study conducted by AANMC, there are many reasons to consider pursuing a naturopathic medical education and career. Here are ten compelling reasons to consider becoming a naturopathic doctor.
1. ND-School Graduates Have Access to Resources to Decrease Debt
For naturopathic medical school students and graduates with education debt, there are various options in place to manage the financial challenge, including federal financial aid and institution-specific resources. Such financial resources help many people who otherwise could not afford ND school achieve the education that they want.
Government loan repayment and forgiveness programs are available through various organizations to lessen the financial burden of education costs. Graduate and professional students are eligible to receive various loans designed to make education and repayment accessible.
ND students should always meet with their school’s financial aid office to best understand their financial situation and options.
2. NDs Have a Good Work/Life Balance
Naturopathic medical professionals are able to enjoy a healthy work-life balance. On average, they see significantly fewer patients than a typical medical doctor. This does not necessarily mean NDs spend less time with patients, since ND appointments are longer than typical medical visits, but it reduces the stress of switching from patient to patient quickly and allows practitioners to focus on individual patients. A new patient will typically spend 1-2 hours with an ND on their first visit, and follow-up visits are generally even longer
On average, NDs see 20–39 patients per week, while MDs see 80–99 patients per week. NDs also have the option to split their time between clinical work and other professional opportunities, such as writing, consulting, and public speaking. As a result, NDs have a significantly better work/life balance that offers flexibility, job satisfaction, and may help prevent burnout.
3. Most Graduates of ND School Find Work Quickly—Many Run Their Own Practice
Virtually all graduates from naturopathic medical colleges use their degrees professionally, and the vast majority become employed less than a year after graduating. Many are entrepreneurs who own their own practice.
77% of ND-school alumni found work within 6 months of graduating*, with 54% operating their own business and 56% joining a private practice with other naturopathic doctors.According to a 2023 membership survey, 90% of graduated NDs are using their degree professionally.
*Some graduates delay practice to continue their education in an additional degree.
4. The Majority of Naturopathic Medical School Graduates are Happy in Their Careers
Most naturopathic medical college graduates say they are satisfied with their career decision. This is likely due to a combination of good work/life balance, financial stability, and the satisfaction that comes from helping people on a regular basis.
Nearly three-quarters—74%—of naturopathic medical college graduates are pleased with their choice to pursue a career in naturopathic medicine. According to the 2016 Graduate Success and Compensation Study, 40% of naturopathic doctors are satisfied with their decision to become an ND, and 34% are very satisfied.
5. ND-School Graduates Find a Wide Range of Professional Opportunities
Graduates from naturopathic medical schools are finding professional opportunities in a wide range of areas. Many NDs work in multiple employment settings, allowing them to pursue varied interests and achieve a flexible schedule that prioritizes work/life balance.
Most naturopathic medical school graduates use their degrees to become clinicians, with ~10% not doing any clinical work at all. Those who choose not to go into clinical work often work in a variety of rewarding careers as health consultants, writers, public speakers, academic faculty and administrators, researchers or a combination of these careers.
6. An ND Career Lets You Align Your Values with Your Work
The naturopathic medical approach offers students and professionals the unique opportunity to align their personal philosophies and ethics with their healthcare careers. A growing body of students support addressing the root cause of illness and managing disease through diet and supplements when possible.
The six guiding principles of naturopathic medical care are fundamental drivers for professionals in the field. These naturopathic medical principles unite NDs worldwide: The Healing Power of Nature; Identify and Treat the Cause; First Do No Harm; Doctor as Teacher; Treat the Whole Person; and Prevention.
7. NDs are Educated in the Same Clinical Diagnostics as MDs
Naturopathic doctors are educated and trained in similar biomedical sciences and clinical diagnostics as MDs and DOs.
Naturopathic doctors don’t have to make a choice between using natural remedies and conventional medicine; in fact, they can integrate both lines of practice to best meet the patient’s needs. In addition to focusing on natural, self-healing treatments, they may order prescription drugs, blood work, and other medical tests as needed.*
*Scope of practice for naturopathic doctors vary by jurisdiction. Contact your local naturopathic medical association to understand the scope in the location you would like to practice: the U.S. naturopathic state associations and Canadian naturopathic associations provide information about naturopathic practices.
8. NDs Treat a Wide Range of Conditions
Naturopathic medical professionals treat a wide range of conditions affecting millions of patients. NDs provide preventative services and treatment options for both minor ailments and severe health problems.
9. NDs Have Resources to Grow Their Practices
Naturopathic doctors are easy and convenient for patients to locate, providing ample opportunity for a practice to gain recognition and grow over time.
Licensed naturopathic doctors—those who graduate from an accredited naturopathic medical school and have passed the national Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX) or provincial College of Naturopaths of Ontario (CONO) professional examination—can opt-in to join an easy-to-search physician database on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website (in the U.S.) and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors site (in Canada). Individual state/province associations and specialty associations also have directories available.
10. As Focus on Nutrition Rises, Interest in Naturopathic Medicine Increases
As more and more patients recognize the vital role of nutrition in staying healthy—a centerpiece of naturopathic medical care and philosophy –opportunities will continue to grow to keep up with patient demand.
The 2022 Organic Industry Survey, conducted by the Organic Trade Association, shows that the organic food industry is continuing to steadily grow, which signals rising consumer interest in healthy nutrition. Nutritional habits are commonly identified as a contributing factor to health problems and NDs can suggest appropriate nutritional changes before symptoms develop. By taking ample time to understand every patient’s health history, including nutritional habits, NDs typically work to understand and address underlying causes of health issues as opposed to merely treating symptoms.
Interested in Becoming an ND?
If you are considering becoming a naturopathic doctor, take a look at the AANMC-member schools that offer accredited naturopathic medical degrees.
In the U.S.:
- Bastyr University in Seattle
- Bastyr University in San Diego
- National University of Natural Medicine in Portland
- National University of Health Sciences in Chicago
- Sonoran University of Health Sciences in Phoenix
- The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine Boucher Campus in Vancouver
- The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto
To find a licensed naturopathic doctor in the U.S., visit www.naturopathic.org. In Canada, go to www.cand.ca.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated in September 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.