A doctor of naturopathy combines elements of traditional medical (allopathic) practice with alternative diagnostic and healing techniques such as acupuncture. Naturopathy treats symptoms from headache to menopausal conditions to digestive disorders. Become a naturopathic doctor in much the same way as you would pursue a conventional medical degree.
Attend an accredited 4-year university that offers a pre-medical track in biology, chemistry or psychology and confers a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. Most graduate schools will require a 2.5 grade point average.
Add to bachelor of arts training by taking additional science courses that satisfy prerequisites at the naturopathic colleges. You can enter medical school without having to earn a full B.S. degree.
Find out what naturopathic practice entails. Talk to licensed physicians. Schedule an office visit for a health check and see for yourself what the doctor-patient relationship is all about. Learn more about deciding to become a naturopath at ScienceCareers.org (see Resources below).
Research colleges of naturopathic medicine. Expect a rigorous 4-year graduate program. The first 2 years focus on basic health sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, botany and developmental psychology. The remainder of the program offers more specialized study of natural medicine, including nutrition and homeopathy, as well as practical internships.
You'll find accredited graduate schools of naturopathy in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Connecticut and in British Columbia and Ontario, Canada, ONLY. Tuition is expensive, similar to regular medical programs. If you want to become a doctor and practice in the U.S., you will likely end up working in one of the 15 states that license naturopathic doctors: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington or Washington, D.C.
A degree from a non-accredited college will not qualify you to practice as a primary care provider. An online or distance learning program is not recommended by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education as preparation for health care practice. Some types of symptoms that should be immediately addressed with an M.D. consultation or emergency room visit include excessive bleeding, difficulty breathing or sudden loss of consciousness. Before you start any alternative medical technique, be aware that many have not been scientifically evaluated. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about how alternative medicine practitioners can be professionally licensed. If you decide to visit one, choose one licensed by a recognized national organization. Consult your primary health care provider about your decision first. Keep your doctor informed about the alternative medical technique you undertake.