How Does an ND Compare to an MD?

naturopath vs medical doctor

Naturopathic doctors are real doctors but their approach to medicine is slightly different than that of most medical doctors. NDs receive similar levels of training and share similar diagnostic and assessment skills but the foundational philosophy of their distinct system of medicine differs from conventional medicine.

Naturopathic doctors view symptoms of disease and illness as the body’s attempt to heal itself. We believe that natural therapies should be used first, and drugs and surgeries should only be used if absolutely necessary.

Recognizing that health is not just the absence of disease, but the complete mental, emotional, and physical well being of their patients, NDs strive to help you and your family meet your goals in all of those areas.

How much training do naturopathic doctors get compared to medical doctors?

Both NDs and MDs attend 4-years of intensive professional programs after completing very similar pre-med courses. All accredited naturopathic colleges require students to have completed an undergraduate degree before starting medical school.

The basic and core clinical sciences that NDs and MDs learn in school are almost identical. Both NDs and MDs get around 1500 hours of training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, clinical physical diagnosis, genetics, pharmacology, microbiology, and other clinical science topics.

Both also learn dermatology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, radiology, and other clinically focused topics.

As part of a naturopathic curriculum, NDs complete between 1100 and 1500 hours of clinical internship where they work with patients to apply their skills and develop treatment plans while under supervision, the same way a medical doctor would.

Naturopathic doctors also get hundreds of hours of training in core clinical modalities, like botanical/herbal medicine, traditional Asian medicine, acupuncture, counselling, homeopathy, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, and clinical nutrition.

One major difference between NDs and MDs is the number of residencies available. Very few residencies are available for NDs and while more are becoming available, it isn’t a standard part of most NDs’ educations. However, thousands of hours of combined classroom and clinical training ensure they have the skills and the tools to practice safe, effective, natural medicine.

ND licensing exams

Naturopathic doctors seeking to get licensed in regulated states must have written a multi-step, standardized licensing exam called NPLEX. The first part of the exam tests core clinical sciences and is very similar to the USMLE Step 1 Medical Licensing Exam that MDs have to write. The second part of NPLEX is a comprehensive examination of therapeutic modalities and clinical treatments.

Individual states also have jurisdiction-specific licensing exams to test practical ability and jurisprudence knowledge, to make sure we can confidently and safely treat you while following applicable laws.

Is a naturopathic doctor the same as a naturopath?

Naturopathic doctors go to accredited schools for 4 years of intensive classroom and clinical training. They are regulated by professional state-specific licensing bodies and must maintain high standards of professionalism, complete continuing education credits, and stay in good standing with our colleges.

‘Naturopath’ is a non-professional term used by unlicensed practitioners. Although some of these practitioners have gone to school to learn about natural healing techniques, their education does not include the rigorous diagnostic and assessment training required to make their practice safe and effective, and certainly does not qualify them to be primary health care providers.

Make sure that your ND is able to show you their degree or diploma in naturopathic medicine, their license from a professional regulating body, and evidence of malpractice insurance.

If you’re interested in learning more, book your complimentary 15 minute consult today to find out how we can help you attain your health goals.