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How to Become a Naturopathic Doctor

Holistic wellness and an increasing emphasis on natural, non-toxic treatments have taken their place at the front-and-center of today's health care marketplace, due in large part to consumer frustration with the limits of conventional medicine. As a result, acupuncture treatments, monthly massage therapy sessions, and taking vitamins or herbal supplements on a regular basis are more commonly recommended and desirable treatment options/practices than in years past. An August 2001 Harvard Medical School survey confirms this fact; survey results indicate that sixty-eight percent of adults have used at least one kind of alternative or complementary therapy.  

Aspiring doctors of naturopathic medicine (NDs) receive training in every aspect of family health and wellness (from pediatrics to geriatrics) and have an impressive scope of practice ranging from nutritional science and clinical diagnosis to ayurvedic and botanical medicine, says the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC).  

The field of naturopathic medicine is diverse and multifaceted; settings for practice correspond accordingly. As per the AANMC, NDs can work as primary care physicians (in private settings/integrative health clinics), researchers, faculty at alternative/conventional medicine schools, public health administrators, natural pharmacists, or wellness educators, to name a few.  

Just because you choose a focus on naturopathic medicine does not mean you are restricted from contact with the allopathic medical community. According to the AANMC, naturopathic doctors are trained to blend modern diagnostic and therapeutic procedures with the ancient and traditional methods that holistic care emphasizes. Many NDs cooperate with other medical professionals, providing referrals to the traditional medical world when appropriate. Many health care consumers prefer this integrative approach, rather than choosing one type of health care practice over another.

Med School for Naturopathic Doctors
As is the case with many highly skilled positions, education is necessary to secure a job as a licensed naturopathic professional. If you want to be a naturopathic doctor, you must attend a four-year, accredited institution and study much of the same curriculum as traditional medical students. Prior to attending the school of your choosing, indicates that a Bachelor of Science degree is required by most schools, along with three years of pre-medical studies. It wouldn't hurt to check with your prospective school regarding other pre-requisites that may be required.                       

A licensed naturopathic physician's training is in no way inferior to its traditional counterpart, as naturopathic med students will also study biochemistry, anatomy, microbiology, and neurosciences, to name a few. In some cases, certain AANMC member schools call for more hours of basic and clinical science than their allopathic equivalents.  

After graduation, naturopathic-doctors-to-be can practice in any state once they have met the necessary licensing requirements and have passed a rigorous professional board exam. estimates that naturopathic physicians can expect to earn an average salary of $80,000 per year (some NDs make upwards of $200,000).  

The job outlook for this field is bright: according to the AANMC, there are just over 3,000 naturopathic doctors practicing in today's health care marketplace, a number that has tripled in the past decade.

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