This page provides information for students interested in pursuing a career in naturopathy. This information may also be relevant to student loan lenders, health care regulators, medical professionals, and patients.
Accredited naturopathic schools operate independently from the medical education system. Naturopathic programs are accredited by a naturopathic council, which does not submit itself to external review. Naturopathic curricula are not equivalent to those of medical schools. Due to the recognized inferiority of a naturopathic degree (ND or NMD), naturopathic graduates lack medical career opportunities and are not eligible for medical residencies or internships. Naturopathic doctors in hospitals are rare, and pigeon-holed into a role below that of a physician. Hospital-based naturopaths typically cannot order medical procedures or dictate treatments because naturopaths lack medical expertise.
In short, naturopathic school is not medical school and nor is it similar to medical school. It is distinctly naturopathic school.
There are seven accredited naturopathic schools in North America. They include:
- Bastyr University
- Kenmore, Washington campus
- San Diego, California campus
- National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon
- Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona
- University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut
- National University of Health Sciences in Chicago, Illinois
- Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Ontario
- Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in British Columbia
Completion of a naturopathic program from one of these schools is required for licensure in the states and provinces that regulate naturopaths.
There are numerous non-accredited naturopathic schools in North America, which the naturopathic profession characterizes as inferior. These programs offer short correspondence degrees, and many have been labeled as degree mills, although they offer overlapping curricula with the accredited programs.
Education and Training: Family Physicians versus Naturopaths. American Association of Family Physicians.
NUHS: an unlawful but accredited naturopathic program? 2016. Naturopathic Diaries.
The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) accredits naturopathic programs. It also approves post-graduate naturopathic training programs, called “residencies” by the CNME. The CNME is made-up of sixteen members, twelve of whom are naturopaths.
Accreditation is not an endorsement of any program’s curriculum by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation reflects proper administration, organization, and operation of an institution or program. A few requirements do directly impact curricula, but most do not.
Most importantly, accreditation allows naturopathic students to borrow large sums of federal student loan money to pay tuition.
The Accreditation of Naturopathic “Medical” Education. 2015. Science-Based Medicine. Britt Hermes.
Getting into naturopathic school
The requirements for matriculating into naturopathic school are extremely lax. A bachelor’s degree may be required. There are usually low or no G.P.A. minimums. A graduate exam, such as the G.R.E., and the medical school entrance exam, M.C.A.T., is not required.
There are serious consequences to such low admission standards. Students accepted into naturopathic programs may not be adequately equipped to embark on an intensive course of study that will lead to the practice of medicine in some states and provinces.
Why ‘Naturopathic Medicine’ Is An Oxymoron. 2016. American Council on Science and Health. Julianna LeMieux.
Implications of Low Admission Standards in Naturopathic Education. 2015. Naturopathic Diaries.
Naturopathic curriculum and licensing
The CNME requires naturopathic students to complete significantly less clinical training than medical students. The naturopathic curriculum emphasizes branches of alternative medicine that have been debunked (i.e. homeopathy, energy healing), are unproven (i.e. botanical therapies), and are dangerous (i.e. ozone therapy). The basic science courses taught in naturopathic schools are entry-level courses and not on-par with the rigorous science-based courses taught in medical schools.
The naturopathic licensing exam is drastically different from the medical licensing exam. Like the naturopathic curriculum, it emphasizes alternative therapies, even in life-threatening situations. For example, naturopaths are tested on which homeopathic remedies should be use to treat a plethora of medical conditions.
Naturopathic clinical training inside and out. 2015. Science-Based Medicine. Britt Hermes.
Accredited Naturopathic Education: Official Reading List. 2015. Naturopathic Diaries. Taylor Hermes.
A question off the naturopathic licensing exam (NPLEX). 2016. Naturopathic Diaries. Britt Hermes.
Paying for naturopathic school
Tuition for naturopathic school costs about $40,000 per year, excluding living expenses. I borrowed about $220,000 to attend school at Bastyr University. This is on-par with the average cost of attending medical school in North America.
This is an exorbitant amount of money to pay for any degree, but especially a degree in naturopathy. The average naturopathic doctor makes $60,000 a year in private practice. To put this in perspective, the average primary care physician income is about $186,000.
Medical and health professional students are eligible for several loan, scholarship, and repayment programs administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Unlike other health professionals, naturopaths are not eligible for any of these services, including aid programs specific to primary care.
In some circumstances, naturopaths may be eligible for state-run loan repayment programs. Whether or not a naturopath’s debt qualifies for loan repayment depends on the program. Graduates cannot rely on the availability of these scarce programs in order to pay down loans. Sadly, licensed naturopaths are drowning in student loan debt.
The price of naturopathic education. 2015. Science-Based Medicine. Britt Hermes.
The naturopathic student loan crisis. 2015. Naturopathic Diaries. Britt Hermes.
Career prospects as a naturopath
The majority of naturopaths enter private practice. Depending on the state or province, naturopaths may not be able to contract with health insurance companies. It is rare for naturopaths to be employed in a hospital setting. Some naturopaths work for Cancer Treatment Centers of America and provide alternative cancer therapies to patients.
Unlike a medical degree, the naturopathic degree does not allow for direct entry into a PhD program. It is not possible to complete an ND/PhD degree at any of the accredited naturopathic schools.
The naturopathic degree holds no value outside of North America. It is impossible to practice any kind of medicine outside of Canada and the United States.
If you are looking for a stable career with diverse and meaningful job opportunities in the fields of health policy, research, or medicine, a doctorate in naturopathy is not for you.
Should I go to naturopathic school? 2015. Naturopathic Diaries. Britt Hermes.
Included below are additional links pertaining to the training and practice of naturopathy
Naturopathic training in pediatrics
Naturopathic pediatrics is not safe. 2016. Naturopathic Diaries. Britt Hermes.
Naturopathic training in cancer
Naturopathic cancer care- Is it safe and does it work? 2016. Quality Cancer Treatment. Britt Hermes.
The ethics of naturopathy
The Morality of Practicing Medicine and the Licensed Naturopath. 2015. Naturopathic Diaries. Anonymous.
Is your naturopathic “doctor” talking about you on the Internet? 2016. Naturopathic Diaries. Britt Hermes.
In office sales is an ethical problem for naturopaths. 2016. Naturopathic Diaries. Britt Hermes.
CTCA: The Cancer Treatment Charade of America? Profiting on Alternative Medicine. 2015. Naturopathic Diaries. Anonymous.
The Wild West: Tales of a Naturopathic Ethical Review Board in Arizona. 2015. Science-Based Medicine. Britt Hermes.