Naturopathic Medicine Specialist: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for naturopathic medicine specialists. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Naturopathic Medicine Specialist?

Naturopathic medicine specialists take a drug-free, holistic and natural approach to the practice of medicine. They still perform some of the same tasks as a regular physician, such as taking medical histories, examining patients and designing treatment plans. They also address any concerns or questions that a patient may have. However, their treatment plans may include things like changing a patient's diet instead of prescribing medication. These professionals can also perform minor surgeries, and although they do not typically use medication for treatment, most are qualified to prescribe them if needed. Naturopathic medicine specialists also put a lot of emphasis on preventative health techniques with their patients. The following chart describes career expectations for these professionals.

Degree Required Professional doctorate
Education Field of Study Naturopathic medicine or medicine
Training Required Residency and fellowship, focus on integrative medicine and/or naturopathy
Licensure Required All physicians must be licensed
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% (physicians and surgeons, all other)*
Average Salary (2015) $197,700 (physicians and surgeons, all other)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Do I Become a Naturopathic Medicine Specialist?

Naturopathic medicine specialists, or naturopathic doctors, are trained in many of the same ways as traditional allopathic doctors. You can begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree, preferably in a pre-medical program. After you earn your bachelor's degree, you can enroll in a naturopathic medicine doctoral program, which will result in a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree.

Because some states require NDs to be licensed, it's important that the schools you apply to are accredited by the Department of Education and the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). You'll take the same science courses as you would in a traditional allopathic medicine program, including anatomy and physiology, chemistry, biology and mathematics. You'll also study the subjects that set naturopathic medicine apart from allopathic medicine, such as homeopathy, aromatherapy, herbalism, hydrotherapy and massage therapy.

Most ND programs feature a combination of classroom lectures and lab courses. As you progress through the program, you'll enter the clinical phase of the program, in which you would practice your skills on real patients and work with licensed NDs and other naturopathic professionals in a healthcare setting. The CNME also accredits many post-doctoral programs that could train you in a medical specialty.

How Do I Get Licensed?

According to the Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), as of 2017, 19 U.S. states required NDs to be licensed (www.aanmc.org). You can begin this process by taking Part I of the Naturopathic Licensing Exam (NPLEX), which is administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners. After you receive your ND from a CNME-accredited school, you'll be eligible to sit for Part II of the exam, which is case-based and covers skills learned during your clinical training, including imaging, diagnosis, nutrition, psychology, public health and pharmacology (www.nabne.org). Some states may require you to take the Part II elective examinations in minor surgery and acupuncture.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) reported in 2012 that its surveyed members yield on average $140,000 annually working in administration, while those in academia and research earn $120,000 on average and those who work in direct patient care earn $90,000. These figures are similar to those provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), where the 2015 average annual wage for all physicians and surgeons under the specification of 'all other' was $197,700.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related careers that require a doctorate or professional degree include dentists, chiropractors and veterinarians. Dentists provide oral healthcare to their patients. They clean and diagnose any issues with patients' teeth, gums and mouth. Chiropractors specialize in treating neck and back pain in patients. They may use spinal adjustments and other techniques to relax the nerves, muscles, bones and tissues in these areas. Veterinarians are similar to physicians, but treat animals. They diagnose and treat a variety of injuries and illnesses in animals, and may specialize in treating small, large or exotic animals.

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