Naturopathic Medicine Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about salaries in the field of naturopathic medicine. Read the job descriptions and learn about education requirements and career prospects to decide if a naturopathic medicine career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine is a holistic approach to health care emphasizing the use of natural remedies to encourage general health and wellness and treat illnesses and ailments. Naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists and herbalists are all common jobs within the field of naturopathic medicine. You can learn more about these career paths here:

Naturopathic Doctor Acupuncturist Herbalist
Career Overview Naturopathic physicians take a holistic approach to health and healing using natural remedies and herbs. Acupuncturists treat ailments with needles and nutritional supplements. Herbalists study the medical benefits of plants to create and dispense natural remedies.
Education Requirements Naturopathic Doctor (ND) Master or Doctor of Acupuncture Certificate of Herbology
Program/Training Length Four years beyond bachelor's degree 3-4 years beyond bachelor's degree Varies
Certification and Licensing Must pass board examination (NPLEX) in 16 states and Washington, D.C. Professional certification available and sometimes required; licensing required in 40 states Optional professional registration
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Average growth (8-14%)* Average growth (8-14%)* Not available
Median Salary (2014) Roughly $73,400* Roughly $73,400* Not available

Source: *O*Net Online

Naturopathic Physician

Naturopathic doctors believe in the body's ability to heal itself and work to facilitate this process with herbal remedies, natural medicine, dietary supplements and proper nutrition. You are expected to treat the whole person as you treat a medical condition such as hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue or digestive problems. A naturopathic doctor's duties are similar to those of a traditional medical doctor, such as gathering patient history, examining and diagnosing patients, administering medication and performing required therapies. Your education and training also qualifies you to perform minor surgery.

Requirements

Most naturopathic doctors work in hospitals, clinics and in private practice. In 16 states and Washington, D.C., you are required to graduate from an accredited 4-year naturopathic medical school and earn your Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree. Courses may include the study of immunology, pharmacology, Oriental medicine and homeopathy. In addition, you must pass a board examination known as the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX) to become a licensed practitioner.

In November 2012, some employers of naturopathic physicians were looking for the following:

  • A cancer treatment department at a regional medical center in Atlanta wants to hire a naturopathic physician to work 80 hours per pay period. Responsibilities include developing naturopathic assessments and treatments for patients. Candidates need a ND degree, a license to practice naturopathic medicine, at least five years of experience in general clinical practice and experience with oncology.
  • A medical spa in Arizona is looking for a naturopathic doctor with experience using esthetic injectables, such as Botox. Candidates are required to have a naturopath license and experience with hormone replacement therapy and dermal fillers. The employer prefers candidates who are bilingual and have experience with laser treatments and mole removal.
  • In Pennsylvania, a medical center wants to hire a naturopathic physician to help with the oncology department. Candidates must have a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree, as well as two years' experience working in oncology. Applicants must be licensed, and the employer prefers candidates who have been certified through the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology.

Standing Out

Since naturopathic medicine practitioners may operate their own practices, they may need to know how to operate a business - including activities like maintaining patient records or handling business accounts. Some degree programs offer courses in office administration and business operations so that graduates are prepared to build careers and medical practices.

Acupuncturist

Acupuncturists treat a variety of ailments, such as back pain and headaches, through needling, massage and recommendations for dietary changes or herbal supplements. Acupuncture is associated with Oriental medicine; these methods are believed to relieve illness by restoring a natural flow of energy that circulates throughout the body. An acupuncturist gathers a patient's health history before examination. After a diagnosis and treatment plan has been made by applying your knowledge of anatomy, physiology, principles of Oriental medicine and needle technique, you would then treat the patient using the appropriate methods. Many professionals are self-employed.

Requirements

To become an acupuncturist, you must typically complete a master's or doctoral degree program in acupuncture and Oriental medicine before approaching the intensive examinations required for certification and licensure. You can expect to spend 3-4 years working toward your degree; in order to qualify for professional certification, the degree program you complete must be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). Courses may include the study of nutrition, needle technique, anatomy and herbology. Hands-on training through supervised clinical practice or an internship is typically required.

After graduating, you may be eligible to sit for the Diplomate of Acupuncture certification examinations administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncturists and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Each state maintains its own licensing standards, but you must typically be a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) to begin a career in this field.

In November 2012, some employers of acupuncturists were looking for the following:

  • A medical group located in California posted a listing for an acupuncturist. Essential duties include preparing detailed case histories, educating patients about treatments, treating patients with proper needling technique and monitoring patients after treatment. Knowledge of acupuncture techniques, points and treatment is required. Candidates should have an acupuncture degree from an accredited school, as well as a valid license to practice allopathic or osteopathic medicine and 6-12 months of direct experience.
  • A spa within a fitness facility located in Washington, D.C., wants to hire an acupuncturist with the ability to work either part-time or full-time. The ability to work with patients in a group setting as well as on an individual level is required. Duties include diagnosing and treating patients using acupuncture.
  • A private practice in North Carolina wants to hire an acupuncturist to join its team. In addition to being licensed within the state, candidates must also be certified through NCCAOM in both acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Candidates must be available to work weekends and evenings in both a community clinic and private office setting.

Standing Out

To stand out as an acupuncturist, you should consider joining the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM). This organization provides a quarterly journal called The American Acupuncturist, which contains valuable information on case studies, research and clinical practice. This information can help prepare you for future cases and keep you abreast of changes in the field.

Herbalist

Herbalists study plants to harness their medicinal properties and prepare treatments for various ailments. As an herbalist, you could specialize in various types of herbology, such as Western, Chinese or Ayurvedic. Typical duties include cultivating herbs, consulting with patients about their health concerns and treating patients with natural remedies. Many herbalists are either self-employed or work as herbal consultants. Careers as sales representatives for health stores are common.

Requirements

You can take a variety of approaches towards becoming an herbalist, whether or not you're already a licensed healthcare professional. Education and training options may include certificate or degree programs. A degree program in Oriental medicine, which includes the study of herbology, typically takes 2-3 years; certificate programs are generally much shorter. The American Herbalists Guild recommends that your course of study run at least 1,600 hours and that one-quarter of that be clinical practice. You can expect courses in plant identification, pathology, nutrition, pharmacology and ethics.

Since herbology is not recognized as a health care profession within the United States, certification is not available; however, you may pursue the professional Registered Herbalist credential through the American Herbalists Guild or, if you've completed the required accredited master's level program in Chinese herbology or Oriental medicine, the Diplomate in Chinese Herbology credential offered through the NCCAOM. A mentorship with a skilled herbalist can provide you with valuable clinical skills.

In November 2012, employers of herbalists were looking for the following:

  • An herbal pharmaceutical retail store in California wants to hire a retail associate with interest in herbal medicine and natural health remedies. Candidates educate customers on products, so strong communication skills are required. In addition, candidates need at least a year of retail experience.
  • A therapeutic arts center in Georgia wants to hire an herbalist to join their staff of therapists. This center offers various services, such as acupuncture, Reiki, hypnotherapy and counseling. The structure of this business offers rental space with an 80% commission rate for licensed professionals.
  • A Maryland wellness center seeks an herbal medicine practitioner to join the ranks of its other members. New and experienced herbalists may apply; new practitioners have access to center's client lists and may receive help with building business and marketing skills to develop their practice.

Standing Out

Herbalists may work independently or as part of a collaborative practice. The American Herbalists Guild recommends that prospective herbalists consider academic or training programs that include courses in topics like business management, records maintenance, networking and professional ethics in order to prepare for owning or operating a business enterprise as an independent practitioner or part of a group practice.

Professional associations, such as the American Herbalists Guild, may coordinate and support mentoring programs for aspiring and newly trained herbalists. Since academic and training programs in this field are uncommon, mentoring is another way to gain hands-on experience and supervised clinical training.

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George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.

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