What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 17, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
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If you want to become a doctor, there are many different options. You can become a naturopathic doctor and enjoy a career in the medical industry. Of course, before you go into this career, you should understand what it is.

Naturopathic medicine is a choice for doctors that want to provide natural remedies for patients. This type of doctor works with holistic health as a licensed primary care provider.

Those considering a career in medicine may want to look closer at the career of a naturopathic doctor. Let’s look at the job duties of this career and how you can become a naturopathic doctor.

What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

Job Duties of a Naturopathic Doctor

When you decide to become a naturopathic doctor, you will use a holistic approach with your patients. This will include both conventional and alternative treatments. Some of the types of alternative treatments you will use may include nutrition, massage therapy, exercise, hydrotherapy, herbs, and botanical therapies.

You will provide a holistic care plan for your patients after diagnosis. As a licensed naturopathic doctor, you will treat patients of any age or gender. You will be qualified to diagnose and come up with treatment plans for those suffering from acute or chronic health conditions. Some of the different types of diseases you may treat include:

A plan that minimizes the symptoms and discomfort of the patient will be recommended by a naturopathic doctor. You will also assess how the disease is making the patient and their emotional health. You may recommend therapy or other treatments to help with the health of your patient.

Acute illnesses are also treated by naturopathic doctors, such as strep throat, flu, burns, or even broken bones. It’s common for a naturopathic doctor to use a treatment plan to help minimize future health issues when treating acute illnesses.

The main job duties of a naturopathic doctor include:

These tasks are rather common for those that work as naturopathic doctors.

How to Become a Naturopathic Doctor in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Complete High School

Just like the steps to become a doctor of any type, you will need to complete high school. Most students planning to become doctors need to take AP or honors courses and do very well. You should have a high GPA and high scores on the SAT or ACT.

Getting into a good bachelor’s degree program is important. This can help you get into medical school. Using the right test prep courses for the SAT or ACT, along with AP courses can be very helpful in high school.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree will take you around four years to complete. You will want to get a degree in biology, physics, physiology, chemistry, or anatomy to get into medical school. Some pre-med programs may also be available at some colleges and universities.

It’s also very helpful for naturopathic doctors to take courses in massage therapy, botany, and herbs. This can help build the right foundation for your next step towards this career.

Step #3 – Get into a Naturopathic Medical School

You will need to complete medical school to become a naturopathic doctor. The medical school you get into should be a naturopathic medical school accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME).

You will spend two years working in a classroom in medical school. The second two years of schooling will be spent completing a clinical program under supervision.

Step #4 – Become Certified

Along with your medical degree, you will need to pass the postdoctoral board exam called the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX). This exam is one you will take after medical school in most states. Some states don’t offer this exam because naturopathic medicine isn’t regulated in all states.

After passing the exam, you will be certified for one year. You will need to complete 20 hours of education credits every year to re-certify.

Step #5 – Finish a Residency Program

A postdoctoral residency will provide the necessary training you need. You will need to complete this training in some states, while other states may not require a residency program. It’s common to complete a residency, even if it’s not required.

Some may choose a professional shadow partnership instead. Either option will help you gain the advanced training you need to work as a naturopathic doctor.

Naturopathic Doctor vs. Traditional Naturopath

While both of these professional workers to heal patients through alternative treatments, they are different. A traditional naturopath won’t hold the same professional certifications. They also don’t have the ability to prescribe treatments or diagnose patients.

When you become a naturopathic doctor, you will complete medical school and residencies to gain the necessary certifications. You will be able to diagnose many medical conditions and recommend treatments.

Common Specialties for Naturopathic Doctors

After becoming a naturopathic doctor, you can specialize in a specific area. It’s a broad area of study and it’s necessary to gain specialized knowledge if you want to work in a specific area. Some of the common specialties of a naturopathic doctor include:

These are just four of the many possible specialties you can go into as a naturopathic doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

How much can I make as a naturopathic doctor?

According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a naturopathic doctor is about $135K. Where you work and the specialty you choose will have a direct impact on how much you can make in this career.

If you work in Portland, you will likely earn a higher salary than the national average. San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Sacramento are the next highest-paying locations in the United States.

If you work in your own practice, you will likely earn more by seeing more patients. According to AANMC.org, you can expect to earn between $60K and  $80,814 per year, if you see 11 to 19 patients. Those seeing 20 to 39 patients can earn between $97K and $122,535. As a naturopathic doctor, if you see 40 to 59 patients, you can earn between $108,500 and $146,621 per year.

Your earnings will vary based on where you work, how many patients you see, the procedures you provide, the specialty you offer, and the years in practice.

What type of benefits will I get as a naturopathic doctor?

When you work for an employer as a naturopathic doctor, you will likely get a benefits package. This package might include health insurance, a 401(k), life insurance, paid time off, a flexible schedule, dental insurance, and vision insurance. Some employers will also provide relocation assistance and a loan repayment program.

What are the principles a naturopathic doctor will follow?

In most cases, a naturopathic doctor will likely follow several different principles. These may include using the healing power of nature and working to identify and treat the cause, not the symptoms.

A naturopathic doctor will use the principles of do no harm and treat the whole person, as well. It’s common for this type of doctor to spend time educating patients and providing lifestyle tips to help with the prevention of illness and disease.

How long will it take me to become a naturopathic doctor?

You will need to gain a bachelor’s degree and complete medical school, just like any other type of doctor. This will take at least eight years. Along with schooling, you will likely need to gain another 2 to 5 years of experience through a residency, job shadowing partnership, or another program. Overall, you will likely need 10 to 15 years to become a naturopathic doctor.

If you want to become a doctor, but you prefer to provide natural treatments for patients, this is the career for you. Naturopathic doctors have the ability to help patients without pushing pharmaceutical drugs or other procedures that may have damaging side effects. They can also recommend medications, when necessary.

Those seeking a rewarding career in medicine will likely fit in well as a naturopathic doctor. It is a career that requires plenty of education and training, however. If you’re ready to take on the steps to becoming a naturopathic doctor, you can use the guide above to get started.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!