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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): Natural Health Degree Overview

A Doctor of Philosophy in Natural Health isn't a common degree program, but students interested in natural medicine can still earn a degree at the doctoral level. Explore the program options, common coursework and job opportunities.

Essential Information

Applicants to doctorate programs need a master's degree in the field, and some schools want students with experience in natural medicine. Students can choose from program fields like naturopathy, acupuncture and oriental medicine. Both programs require clinical experience in addition to classroom and lab work.

To enter a 4-year ND program, students must hold a bachelor's or master's degree and have experience (academic or on-the-job) in medicine or naturopathy. Many degree programs require students to hold a specific grade point average in their prerequisite coursework. Once enrolled, students are expected to complete a residency program to graduate. Students entering the 2-year DAOM program are required to hold a Master's in Acupuncture and Oriental medicine degree. Alternatively, students may hold an acupuncture certificate and have extensive (ten years or more) clinical experience.


Doctor of Naturopathy

Naturopathic medicine focuses on treating the cause of symptoms and providing treatments allowing a patient's body to heal while allowing the physician to teach his or her patients to take responsibility for their own health. These doctoral programs teach a mix of medical science, medicinal botany, acupuncture, and medical research, so students learn to treat patients using personalized, holistic, and natural medicine.

Preparation for hands-on training involves a significant amount of theoretical learning in both traditional and natural medicine, such as:

  • Naturopathic practice
  • Homeopathy and anatomy
  • Botanical medicine and diseases
  • Medical research
  • Physical manipulation
  • Clinical diagnosis and observation

Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

DAOM programs teach students a blend of traditional, Western medicine, Oriental Medicine, and acupuncture. Students take these programs after the completion of a Master's in Oriental Medicine or similar master's-level, degree program. Common study topics include pain management and cancer treatment, also known as oncology. Graduates leave the program with an understanding of biomedical philosophy.

Classes cover ancient oriental texts like the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen as well as the alignment of breathing and physical posture; other topics include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Oncology and orthopedics
  • Chinese herbs
  • Biostatistics and research skills
  • Pathology of pain
  • Treating terminal illness

Popular Career Options

ND program graduates are prepared to work in a number of medical settings, like hospitals and private practices. Typical jobs include:

  • Primary natural care physician
  • Natural medicine research scientist
  • Wellness entrepreneur
  • Natural medicine spokesperson
  • Corporate wellness educator

Graduates of DAOM programs are prepared to practice Oriental medical techniques that meet the standards of traditional Western medicine. Typical career paths for these biomedical theory experts include:

  • Licensed acupuncturist
  • International health acupuncturist
  • Oriental medicine expert/author
  • Specialist in sports medicine

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps naturopathic physicians and acupuncturists with health diagnosing and treatment practitioners, all other, and this group is projected to see a 17% growth in employment from 2014-2024. In May 2015, the average annual wages of these workers was $85,120.

Licensure Requirements

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine - a center administrated by the National Institute of Health - says that most states require that acupuncturists obtain a license in order to practice. Training requirements and renewal terms vary by state (nccam.nih.gov).

Students interested in earning a doctorate in natural health can pursue a Doctor of Naturopathy to focus on treating symptoms and educating the patient, or a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to focus on Oriental medical techniques. Graduates will need to meet licensure requirements and can expect positive job growth in the field.


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