Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) have a similar education structure to allopathic medical doctors such as MDs and DOs. That being said, it must be clear that there is a difference between a "licensable naturopathic doctor" or "naturopathic physician" (meaning they qualify for a medical license in a licensed state), versus a "naturopath." Anyone can call themselves a "naturopath" in a state where naturopathic doctors are not protected by licensure. Unfortunately, that is why there are a lot of misconceptions about naturopathic medical education.
Licensable Naturopathic Doctors/Physicians:
- Have an undergraduate degree in pre-medical science to fulfill medical school prerequisites
- Are NOT required to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) prior to admission
- Graduate from a 4-year, postgraduate, naturopathic medical school that is accredited by the same agencies as Harvard Medical School and any other medical school in the country
- Have to pass multi-step, national board exams similar to USMLE, the first focusing on basic sciences and the second and third on clinical practice
- Get a minimum of 72 in-class hours in pharmacology, where many allopathic schools learn pharmacology in an average of 24 in-class hours or in the field
- Get an average of 1500 clinical hours as an intern/preceptor during 12-week clinical rotations of varying specialties (including working with MDs and other allopathic specialists) that involve direct patient care under the supervision of an attending physician and/or resident physician
- May have an opportunity for residency - residencies are limited in number and are not yet required for licensed NDs, which is a major difference between allopathic and naturopathic educations. That being said, there are often significantly more clinical hours included in the ND core curriculum to give an adequate clinical exposure to those who may not achieve residency.
- Once licensed, must complete annual continuing education requirements which vary by state
- Are currently licensed in 18 states as well as US territories Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands
- Are true experts in integrative medicine as NDs learn allopathic standards of care and both pharmaceutical and naturopathic treatment interventions as part of their core curriculum
If you live in an unlicensed state, make sure your naturopathic doctor is a licensable naturopathic doctor by asking to see their out-of-state license, as most NDs in unlicensed states carry a license from another state. If they do not have a degree from one of the 7 accredited, North American schools, they are not qualified to be a licensable naturopathic physician and therefore have not had any of the education outlined above.
Check out the similarities between ND and MD medical education below (as well as the extreme difference of non-accredited, un-licensable naturopathic training programs - proving why state licensure is extremely important):