Naturopathic Medicine Degrees: Doctorate, Master & Online Class Info

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What will you learn in a naturopathic medicine program? Read about naturopathic medicine requirements, the pros and cons of a doctorate, related master's degrees and potential careers.
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Naturopathic Medicine Programs at a Glance

Naturopathic medicine combines centuries-old holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with Western medical sciences. As a naturopathic medicine student, you'll be educated in the same basic sciences as in conventional medical school, but also focus on preventative medicine and natural therapeutics.

Read about naturopathic medicine requirements, the pros and cons of a doctorate, related master degrees and potential careers.

Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Who is this degree for? Individuals who would like to become registered naturopathic doctors People who want to focus on acupuncture or an oriental medicine specialty
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - Naturopathic doctor (ranges from $34,645 to $165,120 in 2015)*
- Medical research scientist (median salary of $79,930 in 2014)**
- Licensed Acupuncturist (ranges from $30,229 to $152,700 in 2015)*
Time to Completion 4-6 years 3.5 years, full time (must be completed within six years)
Common Graduation Requirements - Clinical training
- Optional residency program for one or two years upon graduation
- Clinical training, including observation and a clinical internship
Prerequisites - Bachelor's degree and specific prerequisite courses - Bachelor's degree and specific prerequisite courses
Online Availability Properly accredited programs are unavailable Rare to nonexistent

Sources: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

In general, you'll explore the five branches of traditional Oriental medicine: acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tui Na, Chinese nutritional therapeutics, and Tai Chi/Qi Gong. You will have clinical instruction involving the close mentoring and instruction of experienced and knowledgeable faculty members and professionals. You should choose a program that's accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), which is the recognized accrediting agency for the approval of programs preparing acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioners.

Pros and Cons


  • Students gain clinical experience as well as a possible residency allowing them to observe and practice acupuncture and oriental medicine with professionals working directly with patients.
  • The general demand for naturopathic practitioners is growing.
  • The field is supported by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which advances scientific research of CAM therapies, trains CAM researchers and supports integration of proven CAM therapies.


  • A master's program doesn't lead to the ND designation
  • Insurance coverage of CAM therapies is relatively limited compared with coverage of conventional therapies
  • Naturopathic medicine is considered controversial by some people, which may limit your client base

Courses and Requirements

You will be provided with a solid foundation emphasizing the integration of both Western and Chinese medical science, so that upon graduation, you can design integrative treatment plans for patients. You will learn fundamental biomedical science and modern medical diagnostics. Courses include radiology, pathology, physiology, microbiology and public health Clinical education is typically an important part of the program, from observation to full clinical internships. In order to receive a license to practice acupuncture in the majority of states a student must earn either an MSA or MSAOM degree, pass the NCCAOM licensing exam and meet any additional state requirements.

Online Degree Options

Online or correspondence programs are not accredited by organizations recognized for accreditation purposes by the U.S. Department of Education. Also, they do not offer important hands-on clinical experience working directly with patients. If you are getting a master's degree and intend to practice acupuncture or Oriental medicine upon graduation, then attending a traditional campus-based accredited program will allow you the opportunity to become a licensed practitioner.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

As you earn your master's degree, you may have the option of earning a second degree through dual enrollment. This second degree could be a chiropractic or naturopathic degree. Also, you could pursue a residency program upon graduation which provides excellent hands-on experience. Then, after establishing your practice, you could take continuing education classes to help maintain your professional licensure.

Doctorate Degree in Naturopathic Medicine

In addition to a standard medical curriculum, you also will be trained in botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, acupuncture, psychology, counseling, homeopathy, minor surgery, naturopathic physical medicine and nutritional science. You learn to create comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science with traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health. You will prepare to teach patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies' ability to ward off and combat disease.

Pros and Cons


  • Students receive a comprehensive and well-rounded medical education, and they study many of the same biomedical and diagnostic sciences as their MD counterparts
  • Students have opportunities for clinical work and residencies
  • Many schools offer business courses as part of the naturopathic medicine program to prepare students to open private practices


  • Naturopathic residency opportunities are not as common as conventional medical residencies and are not as readily available
  • Not all insurance carriers provide coverage for naturopathic medicine
  • Currently only 16 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors, which may affect professional credibility depending on location

Courses and Requirements

You will use the Western medical sciences as a foundation to build a thorough knowledge of holistic, non-toxic therapies and develop skills in diagnosis, disease prevention and wellness optimization. You will focus on basic and clinical sciences and diagnostics, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, human physiology, histology, human pathology, immunology, macro- and microbiology, neuroscience and pharmacology.

In order to become licensed, you must select a school with a naturopathic medicine doctorate program that is accredited or is a candidate for accreditation by a regional accrediting agency such as the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). This will guarantee your eligibility to sit for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), which are needed for licensure. You must also satisfy all individual state or province licensing requirements.

Online Degree Options

Online programs or correspondence schools offering degrees in naturopathy exist, but they are usually not accredited and they lack proper standards. Graduates of non-accredited schools cannot legally represent themselves as physicians or engage in the practice of medicine unless they are otherwise licensed as medical practitioners.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

You should consider participating in a residency program. Even though a residency program is generally not required by schools, an increasing number of states are requiring a minimum of one post-doctoral year of clinical training. In place of a residency, many new NDs choose to practice with or shadow an experienced ND before setting up their own practices, but new NDs have found that the patient interactions available in a formal residency setting are invaluable in becoming a better doctor.

As a student of naturopathic medicine or as a naturopathic doctor, you should bring a social consciousness to your work as well as your personal life. You can become involved in public health concerns, wellness education for the public and volunteer programs in your community. As a naturopathic professional, you can advocate for the recognition of natural medicine as an affordable, effective medicine for underserved communities both domestically and abroad.

Degree Alternatives

An alternative degree that may interest you is a doctorate in chiropractic medicine. The BLS reports that chiropractors have a faster-than-average job outlook.

If you plan to practice naturopathic medicine as an ND in a state or province that does not have naturopathic licensing laws, you may consider holding another degree in addition to a doctorate in naturopathic medicine, such as a doctorate of medicine, a doctorate of chiropractic, a master's degree in Oriental medicine or a master's degree in acupuncture so that you can obtain licensure in one of these professions.

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