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From classes to tuition, here’s a comprehensive look at the process to becoming a Doctor Of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D.)
From anatomy to hydrotherapy, naturopathic schools don’t leave anything out when it comes to what they teach. There’s a lot of material to cover in four years, but at the end, students earn a doctorate degree (ND).
Lest there be any confusion: Naturopathic school is medical school. And here’s what you can expect before you enroll, in class and in clinical training.
What Will Classes Be Like?
Naturopathy school curriculums are designed to train students to work as primary care physicians. Instead of focusing only on natural medicine, ND programs incorporate Western medicine into their programs as well. This means you’ll take the same types of science courses as you would in a traditional medical school.
On the naturopathic side, you’ll likely take classes in:
- Oriental medicine
- Botanical medicine
- History of natural medicine
Clinical experience is also a large part of a naturopathy school program and students will be required to complete a certain number of hours in a medical setting. To give you a well-rounded experience and build your skill set, naturopathy programs place students in situations with different types of patients. You could work in pediatrics or with underserved populations. You might instruct patients in nutrition or provide treatments for minor injuries.
As a student, you’ll be directed by a licensed ND and spend the first portion of clinical training as an observer. As you get further into the program and your naturopathic expertise grows, you’ll begin treating patients (under the supervision of a licensed ND). It’s during this period you’ll take a hands-on approach, learning by doing.
What Does ND Residency Entail?
Depending on the state you plan to practice in, you may be required to complete a one-year post-doctoral residency. However, even if you don’t need a residency to get licensed, spending 12 months on rotations will give you more experience and confidence.
The number of naturopathic residencies is limited. Most schools only have a handful available each year which means you’ll face stiff competition. In fact, students from other schools often apply for residencies offered by other schools.
Residencies are typically done in teaching clinics, community clinics, family practices and mental health clinics. Each type of location serves a different purpose. For instance, you’ll treat patients from varying backgrounds at a community clinic whereas you may spend more time learning how to run your own business at a family practice.
What Is the Admissions Process Like?
Naturopathic colleges have a number of requirements for acceptance. Since it’s a doctorate-level program, schools want to ensure you’re fully prepared for a rigorous course load.
An example of what you’ll need:
- Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited school
- Satisfactory grade in college algebra, chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy and humanities
- GPA of 3.0 or higher
Some schools provide a “suggested” list of other courses that can help you in the admissions process. Examples of those include anatomy, statistics and botany.
Experience can also help in your quest to become a naturopathic doctor. Schools tend to look more favorably at candidates who have past exposure to the natural health field. This can come in the form of paid work experience or volunteering.
What Else Do I Need to Apply to ND School?
Having good grades isn’t all you’ll need to apply to school. You’ll need to fill out an application, which usually includes a fee, plus provide letters of recommendation, official transcripts and an essay. Most naturopathic schools will also want to see a resume and conduct an in-person interview.
Always be sure to check the list of application requirements for each school you’re interested in. There can be nuances between each college or university. For example, some might expect three letters of recommendation while another only needs two.
The Importance of Accreditation
The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the accrediting agency for naturopathic colleges. There are seven schools in North America accredited by CNME, but why is it important?
Quality: CNME defines accreditation as “quality assurance” and that’s exactly what it is. Schools seek out accreditation voluntarily and if they receive approval, students know the program meets CNME’s strict standards.
Financial Aid: If you plan to apply for federal aid, your school must be accredited. Financial aid isn’t disbursed to students in unaccredited programs.
Licensing: In order to take the licensing exam (NPLEX), you need to get your ND from an accredited school.
How Much Does Naturopathic School Cost?
Whether you’re just embarking on your education journey or you’re heading back to school for a career change, you’ll need to know what school is going to cost and how it’ll affect your budget.
Tuition varies by school, but you’ll find one year of tuition ranges from just under $30,000 to more than $33,000. Remember, this is just tuition. Before you enroll, you’ll need to take total costs into consideration: books, fees and living expenses.
These numbers can be jarring at first, but fortunately, naturopathic schools offer financial aid. Depending on your financial situation, you may be awarded loans, grants, or scholarships.