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Naturopathic Medical Education

Naturopathic Medical Education

Naturopathic Physicians Are Rigorously Trained

Naturopathic Doctors complete a minimum of eight years of education. This includes four years of undergraduate studies which must satisfy pre-medicine requirements including biology, chemistry, physics and psychology followed by a four year doctoral-level naturopathic medical program. The naturopathic medical training includes both didactic and clinical education.

The first 2 years of naturopathic medical education focus on basic and diagnostic sciences including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, histology, pathology, embryology, neuroscience, immunology, pharmacology, physical and clinical diagnosis, and lab diagnosis. The final 2 years of naturopathic medical education focus on clinical sciences and practicum. Coursework specific to naturopathic medicine is woven throughout the program, which includes naturopathic theory, diet and nutrient therapy, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, massage, naturopathic manipulation, therapeutic exercise, counseling, and case management. A minimum of 2,580 hours of didactic instruction along with a minimum of 1,200 hours of clinical instruction must be successfully completed before a student can graduate with the degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.

Some NDs receive additional training in related disciplines, such as midwifery, Oriental herbal medicine, or acupuncture. NDs are trained as general-practice primary care providers, but some naturopathic doctors may choose to specialize in certain populations, such as pediatrics, women’s health or oncology.

Today’s naturopathic physicians artfully blend modern, cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic procedures with ancient and traditional medicine practices. They offer the world a healing paradigm founded on a rational balance of tradition, science and respect for nature. Their main focus is that of prevention and health optimization. Naturopathic Doctors are very well trained to help address many of the chronic diseases currently plaguing our country including Diabetes, Obesity and Cardiovascular disease.

In short, NDs are specialists in natural, holistic medicine who focus on disease prevention in the integrative care setting. ND’s are uniquely suited to lead the way in integrative healthcare, working alongside conventionally trained medical colleagues.

Board Examinations and Licensure

The Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX)1 is conducted by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)2. These extensive postdoctoral examinations are offered to graduates from CNME approved naturopathic medical schools3 and must be successfully completed before a naturopathic doctor can apply for a state license. Board examinations take place after the second year (basic science) and final year (clinical science) of naturopathic medical school. Additionally, naturopathic doctors must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and practice under a specific scope as defined by each state’s law.

Currently, 16 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands implemented licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. In states where no licensure is offered, anyone can claim to be a “Naturopathic Doctor” regardless of their training.


There are a limited number of 1- to 2-year postdoctoral Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME)4- certified naturopathic residency programs available. The Naturopathic Post Graduate Association (NPGA)5 has a centralized application process and matching program for participating programs. Currently, residency is not required for licensure in any state except for Utah. Programs are extremely competitive, with an average of 350-400 new ND graduates in the U.S per year and only 30-40 openings. Most of these programs are offered through accredited naturopathic medical schools and affiliated clinics, although other opportunities are emerging. An Integrative Medicine Residency is available through several hospitals and clinics, which gives NDs the opportunity to collaborate with conventional medical practitioners.

The naturopathic profession is commited to increase clinical training opportunities, including the availability of postdoctoral residencies. There is a common informal practice of mentorship in which a new graduate joins the practice of a senior ND.

Naturopathic Medical School Accreditation

There are currently seven naturopathic medical schools in the US and Canada that are either accredited or are in candidate status for accreditation. Accredited naturopathic medical schools must attain both regional and programmatic accreditation.

Regional accreditation is provided through one of the U.S. Department of Education recognized regional associations of schools and colleges. Programmatic accreditation for all naturopathic medical schools in North America is through the CNME. All accredited naturopathic medical schools are supported by The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), which acts to promote the naturopathic profession by ensuring rigorous educational standards.

List of Naturopathic Schools

More About Naturopathic Medical Education

1 Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX):
2 North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE):
3 Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC):
4 Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME):
5 Naturopathic Post Graduate Association (NPGA):