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Home/ Careers/ Complementary and Alternative Medicine/ Naturopathic Doctor

Naturopathic Doctor

Overview

A naturopathic doctor practices a form of medicine that blends centuries-old, natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems. Naturopathic medicine covers all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care, with a special focus on whole-patient wellness. 

Naturopathic doctors tailor their treatment protocols for each patient, placing a strong emphasis upon prevention and self-care.  Naturopathic medicine is based upon six fundamental principles:

  • 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.

Naturopathic physicians collaborate with all other branches of medical science, referring patients to conventional health care practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.

Graduates from accredited naturopathic medical schools are eligible to practice in any state in which they meet the licensing or state requirements. In some states, graduates are required to pass rigorous professional board exams in order to be licensed as primary care general practice physicians. Only graduates from naturopathic medical schools accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education are eligible to sit for the professional board exams in licensed states.

Working Conditions

Some naturopathic doctors establish and operate their own private practices, while others choose to work for an integrative medical clinic. Others become research scientists, natural pharmacists, public health administrators, consultants to industry or insurance companies or advisors to other health care professionals. The work environments and professional options are as wide-ranging for naturopathic doctors as they are for any allopathic or osteopathic doctor.

The prospects for making a prosperous living in this field are excellent for the foreseeable future. Naturopathic medicine continues to gain acceptance and recognition throughout the United States and in Canada.

Academic Requirements

Licensed naturopathic physicians have attended four-year programs at accredited institutions, where they have been educated in the same basic sciences as allopathic and osteopathic physicians. The curriculum is comparable to that of any major allopathic or osteopathic medical school. In fact, some naturopathic medical schools require more hours of basic and clinical science than do top allopathic or osteopathic medical schools. 

For admission into most naturopathic medicine programs, students must have a bachelor of science degree, including three years of pre-medical studies. Prerequisites include college-level courses in physics, biology and general and organic chemistry. Mathematics and psychology courses also may be required. In addition, an applicant’s standing is strengthened if s/he has taken courses in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, botany and/or developmental psychology.

Naturopathic medical schools look for applicants who are intelligent, curious and capable of high-level critical thinking as well as intuitive, flexible and imaginative. In addition, applicants must have certain internal qualities, such as empathy, integrity, perseverance and a strong belief in the efficacy of natural medicine.

The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools provides information about accredited programs in naturopathic medicine