A naturopathic medical degree allows you to work as a practitioner of natural medicine, but not as a licensed medical doctor. When you earn a degree to work as a naturopathic physician, you learn to approach patient care from a holistic standpoint by practicing complementary medicine. This discipline teaches you to treat more than just a patient’s symptoms, combining Western medical practices with natural therapies.
Also referred to as colleges of natural medicine, naturopathic colleges aren't the same as those accredited by the American Medical Association. Instead, the school may receive its accreditation from the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education or the Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education says that the only naturopathic medical degree available in the U.S. is the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, or N.M.D -- also known as a Doctor of Naturopathy, or N.D., degree. As you investigate schools naturopathic schools to attend, look for one that’s recognized by an accrediting agency that the U.S. Department of Education approves and meets academic and federal standards of education.
Naturopathic College Entrance Requirements
To get into a naturopathic college, you don't have to take the Medical College Admission Test. According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, you generally must have an undergraduate degree in any major. In schools where gaining admission is competitive, you may need to meet with an admission counselor for an interview. Some naturopathic colleges may have admission requirements that call for the completion of undergraduate science classes like chemistry, physics and biology. Therefore, if you earned an undergraduate degree that wasn’t science-related, you may need to go back to school to complete some prerequisite courses.
Earning a Naturopathic Medical Degree
A naturopathic medical degree program takes four or five years to complete. The coursework is similar to that of a traditional medical school but focuses more on natural remedies and therapies. In the first year of school, for example, you’ll learn about human anatomy, as well as natural therapeutic techniques and the history of naturopathic medicine. In addition to learning about nutrition and diagnosing diseases during your second year, you may also take classes that teach about botanical medicine and homeopathic remedies. At some schools, the second year is also when you take a clinical entrance exam. During the third year of naturopathic medical school, students begin working with patients during supervised clinical training sessions. In the last years of a naturopathic medical degree program, students continue to work hands-on with patients and must pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam, or NPLEX. If required by your respective state’s laws regarding the licensing of naturopathic doctors, your educational career may continue with a residency program in natural medicine.
Considerations about Naturopathic Medical Degrees
A naturopathic doctor doesn’t have the same legal rights as a licensed physician, unless he is also a licensed medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy. While naturopathic doctors can prescribe natural and homeopathic remedies, some states don’t allow these professionals to prescribe pharmaceutical medications, while others limit the types of medications that a naturopathic doctor can prescribe. Depending on the respective state in which a naturopathic doctor practices, he may not be able to legally perform allopathic health-care procedures, such as minor surgeries.