While doctoral degree programs specifically in complementary medicine are rare, doctoral options are available in complementary and alternative medicine and naturopathic medicine.
These programs include intensive studies in the mind-body connection, whole-person medicine, and natural healing processes. They take five years for completion. In addition to classroom instruction, students gain experience through clinical work. Many programs prepare students to take state board licensing exams in locations that license naturopathic physicians (NDs).
For acceptance into the program, students must at least hold a bachelor's degree, and in some cases, have experience in the general medical field or in naturopathic medicine. Generally, courses in biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, psychology and English are required. Strongly recommended courses include botany, anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, genetics and statistics.
Doctoral Degree in Complimentary Medicine
Programs in complementary medicine cover normal body functions and structure, and how those functions are supported and treated with alternative approaches to medical care. Students gain hands-on experience by engaging in supervised clinical training and lab work. Typical course topics include:
- Therapeutic alliance
- Naturopathic practice
- Integrated structure and function
- Pharmacology and physiotherapy
- Integrated nervous system and musculoskeletal
- Botanical medicine and nutrition
Graduates of the program may find employment in research or treating patients through stimulation, enhancement and support of the human body's natural healing abilities. Common career choices include:
- Natural medicine research scientist
- Primary holistic care physician
- Natural medicine author/speaker
- Rural community doctor
- Naturopathic consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has limited career outlook data for naturopathic physicians, which are categorized under health diagnosing practitioners. Physicians and surgeons in general had a 14% growth projected for the 2014-2024 period, while health diagnosing and treating practitioners were to have an increase of 17%. The mean salary of physicians and surgeons in 2015 was $197,700, according to the bureau. January 2016 data from PayScale.com listed the median salary for naturopathic physicians to be $73,412; however, the pay range was $34,797 to $159,494.
Continuing Education Information
Like all medical fields, complementary medicine is constantly evolving and progressing. Naturopathic doctors continue to study and train throughout their careers. Many advance through teaching, research positions or their own private practice. Some aim to have research findings published in medical journals or by speaking about complementary medicine at scientific conventions. Additionally, a number of graduates may take on leadership roles in the federal government or non-profit organizations while others could continue their education in medical or law school.
Programs in complementary and alternative medicine and naturopathic medicine are available at the doctorate level. Graduates can then go on to careers such as a naturopathic consultant or natural medicine research scientist.