Naturopathic medical school

Naturopathic medical school in North America

Naturopathic medical school in Canada and the United States is a four year graduate institution which confers the first professional degree in naturopathic medicine, the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine or ND degree.

Naturopathic doctors in North America practice as primary care providers of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine is a complementary and alternative medicine which emphasizes the body's intrinsic ability to heal and maintain itself. Naturopaths prefer to use natural remedies such as herbs and foods rather than surgery or synthetic drugs. Naturopathic practice includes many different modalities. Practitioners emphasize a holistic approach to patient care, and may recommend patients use conventional medicine alongside their treatments. A naturopathic doctor is trained as a primary care provider with an emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. Regulation and licensing of naturopathic practice may vary greatly state to state.


Admission into naturopathic medical school requires a four-year bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, and completion of mandatory pre-medical courses is required by the six accredited schools in the the United States and Canada. Many applicants sometimes choose to obtain further education before naturopathic medical school in the form of Master's degrees, or other non science related degrees. Admissions criteria include overall performance in the undergraduate years, application essays, letters of recommendation, and interviews.


It takes four years to complete a ND or NMD degree program, although some colleges also offer a less intensive five-year track to complete the same coursework and clinical study. Accredited naturopathic schools require minimum of 4,100 total hours of study.

Preclinical study generally comprises the first two years and consists of classroom and laboratory instruction in core subjects such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, histology, immunology, microbiology, pathology, pathophysiology, physical & clinical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, and neurosciences. Once students successfully complete preclinical training, they generally take step one of the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX).

The second two years of study generally consist of training in natural medicine modalities such as botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, pharmacology, and physical medicine. At the same time they receive training in organ system studies like gastroenterology, cardiology and psychology. The upper years incorporate a minimum of 1,200 clinical hours under the supervision of a licensed Naturopathic Doctor.

Core naturopathic modalities

Naturopathic doctors use a wide variety of treatment modalities. The core set of interventions defined by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and taught at all seven accredited schools in North America includes:

  • botanical medicine
  • homeopathy
  • nutrition
  • physical medicine (includes naturopathic, osseous and soft tissue manipulative therapy, physiotherapy, sports medicine, therapeutic exercise and hydrotherapy)
  • psychological counseling
  • nature cure
  • acupuncture and oriental medicine

In addition to the above core curriculum, individual schools and practitioners often tailor their curriculum and practice to meet regional community needs and standards. For example, not all NDs practice in a region that permits them to perform minor surgery, and so not all NDs are trained in this modality. Likewise, schools located in jurisdictions that permit additional modalities such as venipuncture and intravenous therapy have added these courses to the core curriculum.

Practice and Regulation

Before becoming licensed NDs, or being eligible to apply for a residency in naturopathic medicine, students must pass step two of the NPLEX. Licensed naturopaths must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and have a specific scope of practice defined by the province or state in which they practice. Currently sixteen US states and five Canadian provinces currently have laws that license graduates of North American naturopathic medical schools to practice.. Two US states, South Carolina and Tennessee outlaw all practice of naturopathic medicine.


Naturopathic medical schools in the United States and Canada are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). The CNME also approves postdoctoral residency programs in naturopathic family practice. Naturopathic curricula may be regionally accredited as well.


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