Education & Training
Naturopathic Doctors in America
In the United States, consultation time in a conventional doctor’s appointment averages about 20 minutes. In contrast, naturopathic doctors (NDs) spend between one and two hours face-to-face with patients in an initial appointment and 30 to 60 minutes in subsequent appointments.
There are approximately 6000 NDs practicing in North America, 3900 of whom are in the United States. There are currently naturopathic licensure or registration laws in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, the District of Columbia, and the US territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands to prevent graduates of unaccredited programs from claiming the ND credentials.
Naturopathic Medical Education (NME) curricula is a comprehensive, rigorous, and well-rounded scientific medical education that is both comparable and complementary to that of MDs and DOs. NME incorporates a foundation in biomedicine, cutting edge natural therapies, and supervised clinical application of classroom knowledge. Naturopathic doctors demonstrate competence through a two-part standardized licensing examination and are required to maintain that competence through continuing education.
Naturopathic Medical School
Students and graduates of naturopathic colleges and programs accredited or pre-accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) are eligible to apply for the Naturopathic Physician Licensing Examinations as administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners and are generally eligible for state and provincial licensure in the U.S. and Canada. Our U.S. schools are also accredited by the U.S. Department of Education regional institutional accreditors.
What do I need to know about naturopathic doctors?
Naturopathic doctors graduate from four-year accredited naturopathic medical schools, which are in-residence, hands-on medical programs consisting of a minimum of 4,100 hours of class and clinical training. Medical students complete a standard medical curriculum, similar to medical doctors and osteopaths. However, they also receive four years of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, physical medicine, and counseling. During the final two years of their medical program, naturopathic medical students intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals. Given the importance of hands-on, clinical experience for naturopathic medical students, the accrediting body for naturopathic medical colleges does not recognize degrees from online programs of study. Learn More
Though the terms sound similar, a naturopath is not the same as a licensed naturopathic doctor. Licensed naturopathic doctors are regulated at the state level to practice naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medical students attend accredited, four-year, in-residence, naturopathic medical schools. Naturopathic doctors can order diagnostic tests such as blood tests, X-rays, and MRIs, and in some states, prescribe prescription drugs or hormones and may perform minor surgery or office procedures. State-mandated regulatory bodies oversee standards of practice, complaints, and discipline for all licensed jurisdictions. Licensed naturopathic doctors carry malpractice insurance and are committed to lifelong learning through continuing education. Though the terms naturopath and naturopathic doctor are sometimes used interchangeably, unlicensed naturopaths can have varying levels of education and experience and are not overseen by an agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. They are not qualified to take naturopathic physicians licensing examinations (NPLEX) or apply for licensure in any regulated jurisdiction in North America. Learn More.
Just like a medical doctor or osteopath, naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained to provide primary care and diagnose and treat patients of all ages, genders, and conditions. During a naturopathic medical visit, NDs examine the person to obtain a comprehensive biological, psychological, and social history. Once the examination and diagnostics are complete, therapeutic interventions may include clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, physical medicine, behavioral medicine, and lifestyle recommendations. Care is guided by the Therapeutic Order to remove obstacles to health, stimulate the self-healing process, restore weakened systems, correct structural integrity, prescribe natural substances to restore and regenerate, and only if necessary, use pharmaceutical therapies or more invasive therapies.
Congratulations for considering visiting a naturopathic doctor (ND). It is essential that you seek an ND from an accredited, four-year, in-residence naturopathic medical college and make certain they have passed exams that are a part of a licensure or certification process. Currently, 25 jurisdictions, 22 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have licensing or registration laws for naturopathic doctors (NDs/NMDs).
Some NDs take insurance, depending on the state, so inquire about whether preauthorization is required or whether reimbursement is possible. Some NDs require payment at the time of service but are happy to offer a superbill/service summary with billing codes so that patients may work with their insurance company to see if they can get reimbursed for care. Also, inquire about a sliding scale for payment. Find an ND here.
Naturopathic doctors focus on whole-person care.
The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) was established in 2001 to advance the naturopathic medical profession by actively supporting the academic efforts of accredited and recognized schools of naturopathic medicine. AANMC’s member schools meet regional and national academic standards for accredited programs of naturopathic medicine. They are the only ND programs recognized by the US Department of Education.
Naturopathic doctors graduate from four-year accredited naturopathic medical schools, which are in-residence, hands-on medical programs consisting of a minimum of 4,100 hours of class and clinical training. Naturopathic medical students complete a standard medical curriculum, similar to medical doctors and osteopaths. However, they also receive four years of training in disciplines such as clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, physical medicine, and counseling. For at least the final two years of their medical program, naturopathic medical students intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals. Given the importance of hands-on, clinical experience for naturopathic medical students, the accrediting body for naturopathic medical colleges does not recognize degrees from online programs of study. Learn More
Naturopathic doctors have extensive training in Behavioral Medicine, which enables them to empower patients to make and sustain lifestyle changes that improve health. Because of their rigorous training, naturopathic doctors go beyond treating physical symptoms; they help patients understand and address the underlying social, emotional, and psychological patterns that influence health. Naturopathic doctors are trained to utilize a broad range of therapies, counsel patients on lifestyle medicine, and incorporate comprehensive approaches to stress reduction.
Scope of Practice
Naturopathic doctors are trained to perform or order physical exams, laboratory testing, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, X-ray exams, gynecological exams, and other diagnostic tests. They can prescribe medication. Naturopathic doctors are trained to perform minor surgery which includes repair of superficial wounds and removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses, with use of local anesthesia as needed.
Botanical Medicine & Clinical Nutrition
Also known as herbal medicine, botanical medicine is the use of plants as medicine. Many plant substances are powerful, safe, and effective medicines when used properly.
A cornerstone of naturopathic medicine, clinical nutrition is the practice of using food to maintain health, prevent sickness, and treat illness. The application of clinical nutrition includes dietary recommendations based on presenting symptoms and clinical assessment, including the utilization of targeted vitamin and nutrient therapy, given orally and/or by IV.