Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you want to pursue a career in naturopathy, you'll be entering a premed program in college, so you'll want to take high school science courses, such as biology and chemistry. The physical education courses of some high schools offer instruction in health, nutrition, and exercise that would help prepare you for important aspects of work as a naturopath.

English, psychology, and sociology courses will help you sharpen your communication and people skills. As a naturopath, you will need to be an excellent listener and communicator. Much of a naturopathic physician's work involves listening to and counseling clients. Business, math, and computer classes will prepare you to run a business.

Postsecondary Training

To become a naturopathic physician, you must first complete a premed undergraduate program before pursuing the graduate degree doctor of naturopathic medicine (N.D. or sometimes N.M.D.). Your undergraduate courses should be those of a typical premed curriculum, including biology, inorganic chemistry, and organic chemistry. Courses in nutrition and psychology are also important. You should contact the accredited naturopathic colleges as early as possible in order to ensure that you complete the courses required by the school of your choice.

When you're searching for a naturopathic medical school, find one that's accredited and offers the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree. Schools without accreditation offer correspondence courses and may offer certificates. Only a degree from an accredited school, however, will prepare you to become a licensed naturopath. There are only seven naturopathic schools in the United States and Canada accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. They are Bastyr University, Kenmore, Washington (; Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, New Westminster, British Columbia; National University of Natural Medicine, Portland, Oregon (; Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences, Tempe, Arizona (; Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Ontario, Canada (; University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine, Bridgeport, Connecticut (; and National University of Health Sciences, Lombard, Illinois (

The naturopathic doctoral degree is a four-year program requiring courses in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and other basic medical sciences. Students must also take courses in nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, naturopathic obstetrics, psychological medicine, and minor surgery. In addition to course instruction, students receive extensive clinical training.

If you are not interested in completing the N.D. or N.M.D. degree, other postsecondary training is available. The American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board Web site ( can provide you with information on correspondence and resident programs. These programs, however, do not typically have the broad medical background of N.D. programs, and those educated in this way do not meet requirements in states with licensing regulations.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

To practice medicine as a naturopathic physician, you must be licensed in the state in which you practice. Currently licensing is available in the District of Columbia, 20 states, as well as in U.S. territories, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. While Florida does have a few licensed naturopaths, the state stopped granting new licenses in the 1960s. As the public's awareness of this field grows and as it becomes more popular, more and more states are considering setting licensing requirements. All state licenses are contingent upon passing the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), a standardized test for all naturopathic physicians in North America. To maintain their licenses in naturopathic medicine, N.D.'s are required to complete a certain amount of continuing education throughout their professional lives.

Naturopathic physicians who practice in unlicensed states are not allowed to practice as physicians. They can still use their skills and knowledge to help people improve their lives, but they usually limit their practices to homeopathy or nutritional counseling.

The American Naturopathic Medical Association (ANMA) is not in favor of licensure. This group is composed of a broader range of naturopaths, including those who do not hold N.D. degrees, those who have gotten their education through correspondence programs, and those who believe naturopathy treatments should involve only natural methods and nonprescription substances. Instead of licensure, the ANMA offers and promotes certification through its American Naturopathic Certification Board.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A primary requirement for a successful naturopath is a strong desire to help people improve their lives. You must also have a fundamental belief in the whole-person approach to healing. Because counseling plays such an important role in treatment, naturopathic physicians need excellent listening and communication skills. Keen powers of observation and good decision-making abilities are essential to accurate medical assessment. Like other medical professions, naturopathy requires a commitment to lifelong learning. Idealism and a firm belief in the efficacy of natural approaches to medicine are important. You must have the courage of your convictions and be willing to stand up for your beliefs. Naturopathy has become much more respected within the medical profession in recent years, but it is still not accepted by some conventional doctors.

As with other professions in the health care industry, naturopaths must be well trained in their area of medical specialty. In addition, they should keep current with trends in biochemical findings involving the human body and reactions to botanical therapies and nutrition. Naturopaths should have good communication skills and be active listeners. Those who operate their own offices must also possess some business knowledge.