Doctor of Natural Health: Degree Overview
Doctoral degree programs in naturopathic medicine are typically based on the holistic philosophy that every part of a system is tied to the rest and that any action on any part of that system affects the whole. Get information on these programs, including prerequisites, courses and licensing to make an informed decision about your education.
A doctor of natural health spends four years enrolled in a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program studying a combination of traditional Western medical science and naturopathic medicine. Students may undertake clinical practice at on- or off-campus sites where they can practice what they've learned about nutrition, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, botanical medicine and counseling patients while working under supervision. Applicants need a bachelor's degree; it can be in any subject, but studies in the sciences or pre-medicine might be helpful.
After completing the doctoral programs, practitioners of natural medicine complete a residency program, working with patients in increasing levels of responsibility. Licensing requirements in this field vary by state, with some requiring passing a national exam and renewing the certification periodically.
Like many doctor preparation programs, schools offering a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Students may come from any educational background, but should be strong believers in the effectiveness of natural medicine. The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges suggests that pursuing a bachelor's degree with a science major or pre-medical track may be helpful (www.aanmc.org).
Programs prepare students to integrate natural healing techniques with established medical science. The curriculum balances naturopathic classes with a traditional science core of biology, physiology and anatomy, as well as pharmacology, obstetrics and gynecology, dermatology, pathology and diagnosis, oncology and minor surgery techniques. Students also learn about the philosophy and principles behind various natural modes of illness and disease prevention and natural healing. Naturopathic courses may cover:
- Clinical naturopathic diagnosis
- History of naturopathic medicine
- Homeopathic diagnosis and treatment
- Issues of consulting practice
- Natural approaches to childbirth
- Therapeutic nutritional approaches
Popular Career Options
Many naturopathic doctors choose to teach how a healthy lifestyle can create more energy and positive feelings. As holistic health practitioners working in varied environments, naturopathic doctors use nutrition, herbs and mind/body therapies to serve patients directly or indirectly in careers like:
- Naturopathic primary care physician
- Natural medicine research scientist
- Corporate wellness consultant
- Public health administrator
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps naturopathic physicians with health diagnosing and treatment practitioners, all other, and this group is projected to see 20% growth in employment from 2012-2022. The average annual wages of these workers were $85,740 in May 2012.
Residency and Licensing Requirements
After completing a degree program, aspiring naturopathic doctors may complete a residency program. As the residency progresses, students take on a more active role in providing patient care, under the supervision of a professional doctor of natural health.
Naturopathic doctors do not have licensing requirements in all states. For states requiring licenses, the Nauturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX) is designed to fulfill that requirement. Some states may also require continuing education in order to maintain licensing.
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