In order to become a naturopathic physician (ND), an individual must attend a 4-year naturopathic physician program. According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), there are currently seven naturopathic doctoral medical institutions in North America that are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). Graduates of CNME-accredited schools must then pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination (NPLEX) in order to become licensed physicians.
There are no online naturopathy certificate programs offered through accredited institutions. Therefore, most courses for aspiring naturopaths require students to attend on-campus sessions, and they must also complete clinical rotations. However, as a fully online alternative, students do have the option of pursuing a graduate certificate in nutrition science, which also includes courses in health and wellness.
Although there are some institutions that offer online courses in modalities such as nutrition, herbal remedies and other areas, these are not accredited by the CNME and the courses do not qualify individuals to take the NPLEX and become naturopathic physicians.
Curriculum for Naturopaths
Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine that recognizes the healing power of nature. The practice is based upon six principles that include identifying the underlying cause of illness, treating the whole person and focusing on prevention. To this end, NDs employ both modern medical practices and a variety of traditional healing modalities.
Students in ND programs take didactic coursework during their first two years and participate in clinical rotations, just like allopathic medical students. Much of the coursework is similar to an MD program as well, with courses in:
- Macro- and Microbiology
ND students also learn about a variety of other treatment modalities, including acupuncture, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, clinical nutrition, massage and botanical medicine.
Continuing Education Information
NDs must complete a certain number of continuing medical education (CME) credits every year in order to keep their licenses. This varies by state; for example, in California, NDs must currently complete 60 hours of continuing education every two years. There are some restrictions to how the CME credits are distributed; for example, it can include no more than 15 hours of self-study (which includes online webinars and audio/video lectures) and must include 20 hours of pharmacology.
Online continuing education courses must be approved by one of several state or national organizations. Additionally, some webinars are not recognized by the licensing boards of all states; students should check to see whether a given online course or conference will confer the needed CME credits. Below are a few examples of distance learning courses and webinars:
Insurance Billing & Coding for Complementary Alternative Medicine Providers
This continuing education seminar can be attended live in-person or online. The 2-day course explains the intricate language used by insurance companies and educates doctors about how to code for services and adhere to insurance rules and regulations. The seminar awards three CME units.
Integrative Healthcare for All
The topic of the conference addresses integrative treatments used by community clinics for underserved populations, which can end up being both effective and cost-efficient. This 2-day conference can be accessed online or attended in-person.
Participants in this online course learn about the latest research about nutrition and supplements. The 2-hour seminar awards two CME units.
Natural Treatments for Digestive Disorders
In this recorded seminar, participants discuss the action of the GI tract with respect to chronic inflammation. They will gain information on digestive herbal and dietary remedies and learn about the rationales for using natural medicine for the GI tract.
To summarize, there are no online ND programs; only a few courses are available online, and they may not confer academic credit. Students who are looking for a graduate certificate but need the flexibility of an online program may seek a certificate in nutrition science instead.