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Naturopathic Doctor
Licensing & Regulation

Naturopathic Doctor
Licensing & Regulation

Upon completion of naturopathic medical school from one of seven accredited campuses across the US and Canada, a degree from an accredited medical school is required for licensure or certification by a state. Graduates must complete and pass an exam to qualify for naturopathic doctor licensure, which is administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE). The Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX) is a two-part examination. Only students and graduates from accredited or candidate naturopathic programs are eligible to sit for the NPLEX. Passing the NPLEX is required before a doctor of naturopathic medicine can be licensed by a state. Once licensed, NDs must pass examinations and meet other respective state/provincial requirements, including background checks and continuing education. 

female naturopathic doctor

Naturopathic medical students attend accredited, four-year, in-residence, naturopathic medical schools where they study biomedical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, and pharmacology.

Why is licensure & regulation important?

  • Licensure offers protection to the public and a guarantee that the provider has met educational standards and continuing education requirements.
  • It increases access to, and provides a pathway for established and regulated care.
  • The regulations provide oversight and recourse for patient claims and medical malpractice.
  • It codifies the naturopathic doctor in the jurisdiction and paves the road for broader inclusion in government-funded programs.
  • Lastly, it positively impacts the healthcare community and fosters interprofessional practice.

Which states have naturopathic licensing?

In the US there are currently 26 jurisdictions that offer licensure or certification for naturopathic doctors, including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. In Canada, six provinces and one territory regulate naturopathic doctors. For more information on licensure in the United States, check out the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Which states allow naturopathic doctors to prescribe medication?

While pharmaceutical drugs are not usually the first line of defense for a naturopathic doctor, they are sometimes necessary to help restore optimal health. As of 2022, over half of the states that license naturopathic doctors allow for some degree of prescribing pharmaceutical medications. The scope of practice and what can be prescribed varies by state. You should always discuss questions about specific medications with your provider. Learn more about the scope of practice by state from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

Can naturopathic doctors be primary care providers?

While a naturopathic doctor may always act as your first point of contact in any regulated jurisdiction, naturopathic doctors are recognized formally as “primary care providers” by statute or informally by the healthcare system in several states. An ND as your primary care physician would be the first point of contact for you and your family within the healthcare system, helping direct your care to keep you healthy.

Do naturopathic doctors take Medicaid or Medicare patients?

Medicaid coverage is governed at the state level, and because the scope of practice of naturopathic doctors varies, individual states must make the determination on whether the services of naturopathic doctors are covered by Medicaid. As of 2022, Medicaid in 6 states covers naturopathic doctors. Check out the most current information on Medicaid coverage by state here.

Medicare is governed at the federal level, and unfortunately Medicare does not recognize naturopathic doctors as an eligible provider type. Inclusion in Medicare is a primary goal of our partner, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. If you would like to see this changed, we encourage you to share your story.

What is the difference between a naturopathic doctor and naturopath?

Naturopathic medical students attend accredited, four-year, in-residence, naturopathic medical schools where they study biomedical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, and pharmacology. Their medical education incorporates the latest advances in science and natural approaches to illness prevention and management. 

Students complete a minimum of 4,100 hours of class and clinical training, including over 1,200 hours of hands-on, supervised, clinical training. Only after they complete this rigorous training can they be called a naturopathic doctor or physician. Once in practice, licensed naturopathic doctors can order blood tests, X-rays, MRIs, and, in some states, prescribe prescription drugs and hormones and perform minor surgery and office procedures. Naturopathic doctors carry malpractice insurance and are required to complete continuing education courses. 

A “naturopath” is not the same as a naturopathic doctor. Though the term “naturopath” is often used interchangeably with naturopathic doctor by medical and health practitioners, the media and the public, these individuals do not have the same training and privileges as a licensed naturopathic. Unlicensed and unlicenseable naturopaths can have varied levels of education and experience, often from purely online or correspondence programs. Such education is not by an institution recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and does not qualify students to take the NPLEX examination or apply for licensure in any regulated jurisdiction in North America. It is important to know the difference between licensed naturopathic doctors and unlicensed naturopaths so you can make informed decisions about which type of provider can best help you.

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