Naturopathy is an area of medicine that combines conventional medical practices with natural, holistic remedies and treatments to help patients stay healthy. Practitioners of this area of medicine are naturopathic doctors, and these professionals often fill specific niches for patients who want holistic healthcare. If you're interested in this career, it may be helpful to understand the basics of what these doctors do.
In this article, we discuss how much a naturopathic doctor makes, the typical duties of their job and what you need to do to start a career in naturopathy.
Read more: Learn About Being a Naturopathic Doctor
What is a naturopathic doctor?
A naturopathic doctor is a medical professional who concentrates on holistic wellness, which means they address concerns with a patient's body plus their mind and spirit to diagnose and treat conditions. These doctors often use natural healing techniques, like therapy and herbal medicine, in addition to traditional medical services to help patients stay healthy. Many naturopathic doctors also encourage their patients to practice self-healing, in which patients learn to cope with their feelings and guide their medical treatment with intuition and personal motivation.
Most professionals consider naturopathy a type of alternative medicine. In this area of medicine, medical practitioners typically use science with unconventional healing practices to help their patients achieve wellness. Naturopaths combine science with natural remedies and appeals to a specific target audience of patients who want to try treatments different from those they can get at most hospitals. Since naturopathic doctors perform alternative treatments, there are typically fewer of these professionals in practice than there are other types of doctors.
What do naturopathic doctors do?
Naturopathic doctors perform many of the same duties as conventional doctors, but they often use natural healing techniques with those duties. Consider some common tasks these doctors perform to help you decide if a naturopathic career is right for you:
- Diagnose illnesses and conditions
- Work with patients of varying ages
- Perform medical tests
- Consider the mind, body and spirit of each patient
- Create individualized treatment plans
- Administer medication and natural remedies
- Educate patients to prevent illness
- Recommend activities, foods and lifestyle changes
- Write reports and detailed records for patients
How much does a naturopathic doctor make?
There is high earning potential for naturopathic doctors, with the national average of this job being $136,090 per year. This amount may change depending on your training, the size of your practice and your location. Typically, naturopathic doctors can make more money in bigger cities with populations who value natural medicine. Some of the highest-paid cities for naturopathic doctors are Portland, OR, with an average salary of $146,661 per year, and Seattle, WA, which has an average salary of $110,871 per year.
What specializations are there for naturopathic doctors?
Since naturopathy is a broad area of study, many naturopaths may specialize in a specific type of natural medicine and healing to give patients more concentrated care. Sometimes, these doctors use their specialized knowledge to aid conventional healthcare, but others may focus only on their specialization and natural healing practices. Here's a closer look at some specializations available for naturopathic doctors to pursue:
Oncology: Naturopathic doctors who specialize in oncology may use natural remedies and psychological practices to help patients who have cancer increase their well-being and health. They may work with oncology teams of other doctors and professionals to offer different treatment perspectives and create a holistic sense of health for patients.
Pediatrics: This specialization focuses on using naturopathy to help children maintain their health and learn about their bodies. Doctors in naturopathic pediatrics typically want to proactively teach children how to be healthy through natural means that they can combine with more conventional treatments if needed.
Homeopathy: Another specialization for naturopathic doctors is homeopathy, in which professionals prescribe small amounts of certain natural remedies to help someone with an illness recover. Doctors can use their knowledge of natural substances like herbs and foods to practice homeopathy.
Obstetrics: Obstetrics is a specialization for naturopaths who want to use physical therapies and natural diets to help pregnant people have healthy pregnancies and births. These doctors typically try to create a relaxing, natural environment for pregnant patients but may refer them to specialists or other doctors if medically necessary.
What are the requirements to become a naturopathic doctor?
Since naturopathy is an alternative medical practice with fewer practitioners than other areas of medicine, the requirements to start this career differ slightly from those of conventional doctors. To become a naturopathic practitioner, you typically have to fulfill the following requirements:
The educational requirements for naturopathic doctors typically include receiving a four-year degree from a naturopathic medical school. These courses these degrees require often include typical medical school courses like biology, chemistry and physics that teach you about the human body and scientific reasoning. Many naturopathic schools follow a similar first-year curriculum to typical medical schools before allowing students to take courses on naturopathy.
After taking the basic medical science classes, you can then take courses that teach you the different aspects of naturopathy. You may learn more about subjects like herbal medicine and psychology that can help you address physical, mental and spiritual concerns for your patients.
There usually isn't a training requirement, like medical residencies, for students of naturopathic medicine. This is because there are few practitioners of this type of medicine and fewer opportunities for studying with experienced naturopathic doctors. However, if a school does require residency or other training for students, you can typically fulfill this requirement by doing your residency with conventional physicians and test your naturopathic skills in classes in and outside of school.
However, there may be specific training requirements for specializations in naturopathy, like obstetrics. Many doctors in these fields may pursue certifications and learn how to help patients in different ways before they can claim to be specific types of naturopathic doctors.
Licensing requirements for naturopathic doctors may differ depending on the state in which you practice, but all doctors in this field of medicine must pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam, or NPLEX, before they can work. The North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners, or NABNE, administers this exam to naturopathic school graduates. It's often a prerequisite to being licensed in various states that require such licensing.
The exam consists of questions that establish a candidate's ability to practice naturopathic medicine safely and competently. The NPLEX Part I focuses on biomedical science, and candidates can take this exam while still in school. After passing the first part, you can take the NPLEX Part II, which tests your core clinical science skills and allows you to apply for licensure or register as a naturopathic doctor.
Certifications for naturopathic doctors usually depend on which specializations they choose to pursue. Some specializations require certification, like the Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO) certification for naturopathic oncologists. There are also many educational certifications that you can gain after taking classes in natural medicine and healing, although regulatory bodies rarely require these for you to practice naturopathic medicine.
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