In this article, we go in-depth to compare the differences between licensed naturopathic education vs. traditional naturopathic education as well as cost and career differences. 

What is referred to as ‘traditional’ naturopathy used to simply be naturopathy.

Just like there was just medicine before, now there’s alternative medicine, complementary medicine, natural medicine, herbal medicine, holistic medicine, conventional medicine, functional medicine, and integrative medicine.

Well, now there are two kinds of naturopaths, too. There are traditional naturopaths and there are licensed naturopaths, at least in the United States.

What we teach at Rockwell would be considered traditional naturopathy.

This was the only kind of naturopathy taught from the early turn of the century when the ideologies of “nature cure” and “vitalism” were first conceived.

In any case, this was way before NUNM in Oregon and Bastyr of California, (two of the first naturopathic colleges, originally ‘traditional’ themselves) fought for the same rights as regionally accredited 4-year institutions. They were most likely able to do this because they had a physical location.

Founders of these institutions sincerely felt their grads were sufficiently qualified and should have the same right to practice with the same authority as conventional medical doctors.

TND vs. ND: More differences than just professional designation…

Licensed naturopaths are different than traditional naturopaths in that they have the same prescriptive rights as medical doctors in states where licensing is available.

This allows them to treat disease, diagnose conditions, and prescribe pharmaceutical drugs. This is not without some level of controversy, but more about that later.

In any case, treating, disagnosing, and prescribing are all legal no-nos for practitioners of holistic medicine, including traditional naturopaths, where such individuals may only consult, educate, and prescribe natural things vs. pharmaceutical drugs.

But believe us, those consultations change lives! Plus people tend to listen more and follow through when insurance isn’t covering them vs. with conventional medicine which has a lot of impersonalization and low-compliance.

Of course, that’s why our students learn about MI or motivational interviewing, which helps determine how quickly and willing people are to make changes that promote health and healing. 

In any case, we do not use or resort to ‘invasive’ medical tactics, like surgery, and we may not treat, diagnose, or prescribe drugs. Of course, we don’t want to do those things anyway. And those that do need to go to med school.

On the contrary, holistic practitioners present options and share knowledge of evidence-based natural medicine that medical doctors and the general public are not usually aware of.

This is greatly needed, especially considering conventional medical doctors do not learn these things in med school or stay up to date on them.

Their focus is acute care! They also diagnose and treat symptoms of disease vs. developing a multi-faced approach for the whole person. Think emotional, spiritual, and physical. 

You can learn more about the differences between medical doctors and holistic practitioners, and why we are greatly needed here.

You can learn more about the use of TND, CHHP, and ND as professional designations in this article.

The type of accreditation that Bastyr has is the kind that most colleges are expected to have. This is the true accreditation as it is conventionally defined and understood.

Traditional Naturopathy & Licensed Naturopathy 

Before licensed naturopathy, most traditional naturopaths used the professional designation of “ND”, however that has been taken over by the licensed naturopath.

The traditional naturopath, however may now use TND or CHHP. Of course, old school, traditionally trained naturopaths were not happy about this and many still use ND to this day, especially in the states that do not offer licensing to naturopathic physicians. More about that soon.

Which one is better? Traditional naturopathy or licensed naturopathy?

Some people automatically jump to the conclusion that the licensed naturopathic physician is better than the traditional naturopath. This just isn’t so.

Both licensed and traditional naturopathy are wonderful in their own ways, and they each have different strengths and imitations, which we explore below.

However, if there were only licensed naturopathic physicians that people could rely on for alternative medical options, then it would not be good.

It would be like living in a town that only has a bunch of ophthalmologists and no psychiatrists. It’s just not possible for us to know everything a licensed naturopath does, and honestly, it’s just not possible for them to know everything that traditional naturopaths learn at Rockwell. 

On top of this, the numbers of medical doctors needed is at an all time high. We already do not have enough medical doctors to match the level of need for those with aging and chronic disease. Not only that, it’s not ideal at treating chronic disease.

Then there’s licensed naturopathic education, which is honestly just not for everyone. This is in large part due to its limited educational options, as there are only 8 licensed naturopathic college locations total in all of North America.

There is also the high cost of entry (around $135,000), not to mention the conventional academic pre-reqs. Not everyone is into this. Education has changed.

That’s why a black and white approach is not ideal when evaluating which path is right for you. It often will not be the licensed option. It’s just not pragmatic (or even ideal) for many.

To be clear, a lot of people do prefer ‘traditional’ naturopathy because there’s not all the red tape, expense, relocation requirements, and limited modalites that go with licensed naturopathy.

Strengths & Weakness in Education & Practice

The licensed naturopath will definitely have a much stronger clinical experience, with a greater focus on homeopathy and hydrotherapy, bordering with conventional medicine and blending the two. They do learn a decent amount of Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, which is lovely.

The traditional naturopath from Rockwell will comparatively have a more diverse background, most likely having been given the opportunity to study more modalities, such as medical ozone, color therapy, aromatherapy, flower essences, and sodium bicarbonate (to name a few).

Students in the traditional naturopathic program at Rockwell study a literal plethora of modalities with few exceptions to the field. Our grads are ultra well rounded and knowledgeable. Check out the Program page here.

Traditional naturopaths may have more of a grassroots approach in their practice vs. the formality of naturopathic physicians who are currently fighting for the right to be covered by insurance, which is totally understandable.

We feel all kinds of alternative medicine should be covered, especially considering conventional medicine is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States. It appears that people could really benefit from exploring other options. 

In any case, licensed naturopathic physicians do spend about $135,000 on their education and payments on those loans are due ASAP after graduation. In all respects, one is not better than the other.

They are just different in many ways which we cover in this article to help you decide which path is best for you.

Terminology & Use of ND vs. TND

Note: If you reside in any of the states that offer licensing to naturopaths, or if you live in one of the states with restrictions on all form of naturopathy, including licensed, then you may instead use Certified Holistic Health Practitioner (CHHP) in place of Traditional Naturopath (TND).

You can read more about use of ND, TND, and CHHP here.

Rockwell graduates are not permitted to use the standalone designation of ND, even if they reside in a state that does not license.

Even though a few people do use ND in states that do not license naturopathic physicians, it presents a confusion to the public, as eventually licensing will probably be nationwide in the next 2 decades.

This could be construed by the public as misleading. And ideally, no graduates will really even want to. Traditional naturopathy is valid on it’s own.

We love using TND or CHHP and think it’s great. However always check the laws in your state for what is permitted and act in accordance.

We would love to see a debate with a traditional naturopath and a licensed naturopath just for fun! For now, TNDs are not NDs and vice versa. Both are strong in their knowledge! Rockwell naturopaths are very strong!

Can you explain more about why I can’t use ND, even if I’m in a non-licensing state as a Rockwell grad?

The overall goal of licensed naturopathy is to become legal in all states over the next 20-30 years. It may take much less time. In any case, we don’t want to get a reputation for using this term because it can cause problems for us as a school. It can be inferred that the practitioners are pretending to portray themselves as a physician, which we obviously would disagree with.

While we don’t want to impede on the rights of the rebellious students we have (we love you guys), we never want to appear that we are encouraging a traditional naturopath to use the professional designation now legally reserved for licensed naturopathic physicians only.

We also want students to be proud to practice the original form of traditional naturopathy!

Traditional naturopathy is, after all, amazing. And it is the right route for many. Several factors will play a role in helping you determine which path is right for you. We provide the following information so we can clear any confusion. Let’s get started. Down the rabbit hole we go!

Accredited Naturopathic Colleges & Education Programs

According to the AANMC (Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges), there are only 7 colleges in North America which offer an accredited naturopathic program. Bastyr in the US has two campuses, one in Seattle, WA and one in San Diego, CA which make a total of 8 campuses offering an accredited naturopathic program. BINM (Boucher) and CCNM are both in Canada. Below are links each program and an AANMC map for more clarity.

Check the laws in your state regarding licensed naturopathy.

How to Get Into an Accredited Naturopathic College

Naturopathic program prerequisites vary but they do not require a specific test pending acceptance such as the MCAT (Medical College Acceptance Test) for those who wish to study conventional, allopathic medicine.

We’re curious if you think that’s fair or if you think those entering licensed naturopathy should also have to take a test similar to the MCAT. After all, licensed naturopaths are seeking the same rights as medical doctors in every state.

Do you think licensed naturopaths should also have to qualify themselves in this manner?  Let us know in the comment section. Now let’s get into the topic of education. 

Explore the links below to see each accredited naturopathic college prerequisite and admission requirements.

  1. Bastyr (at Seattle and San Diego campuses)
  2. BINM (Boucher Institute of Natural Medicine)
  3. CCNM (Canadian College of Natural Medicine)
  4. NCNM (National College of Natural Medicine)
  5. NUHS (National University of Health Sciences)
  6. SCNM (Southwest College of Natural Medicine)
  7. UBCNM (Bridgeport)

Here is a helpful link from the CNME on accredited programs for becoming a licensed naturopathic physician. 

For a comparison, Indiana University medical school prerequisites:

  • minimum cumulative and science GPA of 3.6, 30 MCAT

For comparison, here are the requirements to get into a (just) a PA (physician assistant program) at IUPUI: As you will see, it’s very stringent!

More context and background:

Keep in mind, PA’s never become qualified to practice medicine without supervision of a medical doctor. It’s because they never do a residency. A physician assistant is someone who can treat, diagnose, and prescribe like a nurse practitioner IF they are working under the jurisdiction of a licensed medical doctor, but not otherwise.

Every year, hundreds apply to various programs across the country, and hundreds are denied. It’s very tough to get into, and they don’t even get independent prescriptive rights, etc.

We show this for comparison to the licensed naturopathy entry requirements – and to show you why critics of licensed naturopathy take issue educationally speaking.

You see, medical doctors and the conventional medical industry are not really fond of the encroaching licensing of naturopaths. We don’t necessarily agree or disagree. We just want to put it out there that licensed naturopathy is not necessarily well respected in the arena of conventional medicine, despite good intentions.

So here are some additional requirements for the PA: 

Note* Please excuse the font formatting errors. We tried and tried and they wouldn’t correct! 

  • bachelor degree from accredited college
  • minimum cumulative and prerequisite math/science GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • 500 clinical hours volunteering or in a career as:
  • Medical Assistant
  • Military Medic, Corpsman or Technician
  • Nurse (LPN or RN)
  • Paramedic / EMT
  • Radiology Technician
  • Physical Therapist
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Nursing Assistant


  • Human Anatomy with Lab*
  • Human Physiology with Lab*
  • Microbiology with Lab*
  • General Chemistry I with Lab*
  • General Chemistry II with Lab*
  • Organic Chemistry with Lab*
  • General Biology I with Lab*
  • General Biology II with Lab*
  • Statistics or Biostats*
  • Psychology
  • Medical Terminology (at least 1 credit)
  • GRE
  • letters of reference
  • personal statement
  • difficult getting in – almost impossible

THe AANMC says their programs are on par with that of medical doctors.

Overview:ND Programs

  • bachelor degree, preferably science
  • generally a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and 2.0 on science course pre-reqs
  • MCAT (Medical College Acceptance Test) not required
  • difficulty gaining acceptance into a program: unknown
  • naturopathic physicians are trained as generalists and do not choose a medical specialty like 3rd year med students.
  • residency, not required (except in Utah), but strongly encouraged when possible
  • NPLEX (Naturopathic Physician Licensing Examination) taken after graduation to gain licensure in 17 states where applicable & 2 US Territories (for more resources about naturopathic  

Overview: MD Programs

  • bachelor degree, preferably science
  • required minimum GPA usually 3.6 or above
  • required MCAT (Medical College Acceptance Test) above a certain score (with the exception of a few colleges)
  • difficulty gaining acceptance into a program: incredibly competitive
  • choose a medical speciality to focus on during 3rd year of med school
  • mandatory 3-8 year minimum term residency depending on specialty*
  • please read more about what a residency is at another post here
  • required to take the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) during residency to gain licensure to practice legally in the USA

Academic & Clinical Hour Comparisons of MD’s & ND’s

According to AANMC, naturopathic physicians are ‘rigorously trained’. The AANMC even goes so far as to say “Some member schools in the AANMC actually require more hours of basic and clinical science than many top allopathic medical schools.” Below is a graph comparing various types of doctors and education hours. The AANMC compares ND curriculum to that of an MD here and below is a graph from their website.

Regarding the graph below, please see this controversial guest post at Science Based Medicine from the author from a woman who went to Bastyr and no longer practices naturopathy due to her doubt in it’s legitimacy.

Accredited Naturopathic College Curriculum & Coursework

Programs vary widely school to school. To view specific course outlines for the different available naturopathic programs, click on the links below.

  1. Bastyr University
  2. BINM (Boucher Institute of Natural Medicine, .
  3. NCNM (National College of Natural Medicine)
  4. CCNM (Canadian College of Natural Medicine)
  5. SCNM (Southwest College of Natural Medicine)
  6. NUHS (National University of Health Sciences) Naturopathic Course Outline & Course Descriptions
  7. University of Bridgeport

Here is a sample of the coursework for a naturopathic program directly from the AANMC website,

First two years naturopaths receive a concentration in:

  • Biochemistry
  • Human Physiology
  • Histology
  • Anatomy
  • Macro- and Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Human Pathology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology

And their last two years, students “intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed professionals.” Coursework includes:

  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Botanical Medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
  • Lifestyle Counseling
  • Massage
  • Physical Medicine
  • Hydrotherapy

Please note, this article continues after the embedded PDF directly below.

2018-19 ND

The AANMC says this “results in a well rounded medical education.” Do you agree that this program is equal to or surpasses that of a med school program/doctor in training education? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Doctors & Residency

*Many people do not know what a postgraduate doctor residency actually is.

By the third year of medical school, a doctor has chosen their specialty – meaning whether they want to work in surgery, emergency room, gastroenterology, or psychiatry for example.

Residency is period of advanced medical training and education, usually between 3-8 years, depending on the doctor’s chosen specialty, and consists of supervised practice in a real life clinical setting such as a hospital ER or a rural clinic.  

It is usually a very challenging time, and incredibly rigorous by the most stringent standards. While recent changes now require a doctor in residency to work no more than 80 scheduled hours a week, a visit to any student doctor forum will reveal some student doctors still clock in excess of 80 hours per week.

During this time a new doctor is paid what can average to be minimum wage considering hours invested while their student loans accrue enormous interest. For more info on residency and debt, read this Resident Salary & Debt Report

A residency is mandatory to becoming a licensed medical doctor. Doctors have on average about 8-12 years from start to finish of school and combined residency requirements in their chosen specialty.

Doctors also have the highest suicide rates of any profession. Some reform may be helpful so that doctors can have more time for family and self-care (exercise + proper diet).

After considering and researching med school, the facts are that most doctors have worked very hard and sacrificed a lot to get where they are. It’s not their fault that the AMA (American Medical Association) sets questionable educational standards with a poor focus on prevention and non-invasive treatment options.

Their education is oversaturated with pharmaceuticals and ‘fix-it-with-a-pill’ medical culture. On top of all of that, doctors now have to pay high costs of education, malpractice insurance, and deal with insurance billing companies and tons of paperwork that may factor in their own health issues mentioned above.

Rarely do doctors simply treat, diagnose and prescribe, but rather they are more employees of hospitals and insurance companies than the romanticized doctors of yore. 

Naturopathic Physician Residency

To residency or not to residency, that is the question.

Allopathic (regular/mainstream) doctoral programs are mandated and regulated by conventional medical schools which require postgraduate doctors to have a residency in order to become licensed.

Naturopathic residencies are not required with the exception of Utah. Why is this? Naturopathic residencies are not currently required or funded by federal government. It should also be noted that all naturopaths are trained as generalists.

But for those naturopathic graduates that desire to have a residency, CNME (Council on Naturopathic Medical Education) offers this handbook as a guide and tips on how to apply can be found here.

In any case, it does not appear that naturopathic physician residencies are as time consuming and ultimately demanding as that of an postgraduate allopathic physician.

What is a Traditional Naturopathic Doctor (TND)

Traditional naturopaths are individuals who have acquired knowledge of herbal medicine (or other therapies, such as aromatherapy, homeopathy, etc. Their knowledge is often passed down generationally, learned through apprenticeship, or autodidactic (self-learned) through a passion or hobby, while others may have studied an online program of various types and courses.

Remote study/distance learning naturopathic programs often provide a course list of suggested study and corresponding texts, a broad timeline, and upon completion provide an award or certificate. With the award or certificate, students receive a title which depends on the program they choose.

It should be noted that none of these programs are accredited regionally (but some may be accredited by 3rd party organizations), nor are their credits transferrable to an accredited naturopathic program, or any college 99% of the time. It does not mean that these online studies are not valuable for the right type of student.

There are many reasons why someone would study traditional naturopathy from a non-accredited distance learning program. Many would be students do not reside in an area close to an accredited program, or they may not be able to afford it or have the time. Many others have no desire to practice acute care, and prefer to consult with others holistically as a supplement to conventional medical care.  

Please share your compliments below. Why did you choose an accredited naturopathic college or a non-accredited distance learning program? What worked best for you in your situation?

Traditional Naturopathic Programs & Coursework

Traditional naturopathic coursework can vary from school to school. Some offer a traditional track of herbalism, iridology, homeopathy, etc while others focus on oriental or eastern medicine such as Chinese, Native American or Ayurvedic modalities. There are a few schools that focus on one specific path of study, while others touch on a wide variety of focus.

Here are samples of programs from many different schools and options:

Keep in mind some of these schools are for in person learning only and some offer distance learning. If you are looking to become a licensed naturopath and need an accredited naturopathic program of study, read this post. If you do not live in an area that can accommodate accredited study or prefer a more traditional naturopathic degree, the links below should provide several options.

Offers Naturopathic Distance Learning

In Person Naturopathic Classes Only

For Comparison, here is a glimpse at the program coursework for some accredited naturopathic study program.

Bastyr Naturopathic Coursework

SCNM (Southwest College of Natural Medicine) Naturopathic Coursework

Naturopathic Controversies

There are many. Everyone will have their own opinion. Including this Classical Naturopathy website which definitely takes issue with the AANMC (Accredited Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges).

The blog Science Based Medicine also takes issue with licensing naturopaths, at least the authors of this piece and this piece from No Naturopaths and this chart they say the AANMC was using to convince legistlators that accredited naturopathic college programs are on par (or better) than that of medical doctors, DO’s and mid-level practitioners such as RN’s, PA’s and NP’s. Here is more info on their link to Legislative Alerts.

From the San Diego Tribune, an article in opposition to giving naturopathic physicians the same scope and right of practice as medical doctors.

Some states have revoked naturopathic physician rights to prescribe. Here is another such article on the issue of naturopathic physicians prescribing medication.

Here is another Science Based Medicine article describing the fight between traditional naturopaths, the medical establishment and degreed naturopathic physicians. But it appears the bill was passed based on the Bastyr website

Science Based Medicine has MANY articles against naturopathy and CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine)., as well as Sketpoid here.

This blog Naturopathic Diaries is very much against naturopathic physicians having the same rights as medical doctors and the idea that a naturopathic physician can or even has the right to treat acute care issues in patients.

Personal opinion on the right, perception and definition of ‘doctor’ and ‘physician’ aside, and whether your education really prepared you personally to carry the title the facts are as follows.

At the time of this writing, November 21st, 2015, 17 states in the US and five Canadian provinces now require licensure of naturopathic doctors/physician, or the right to use ND after your name. Currently, 17 states, five Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia, and the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands all have laws regulating naturopathic doctors (NDs).  (LINK BELOW IMAGE

Requirements for licensure?

  1. graduate from a four-year, accredited residential naturopathic medical school
  2. pass the (NPLEX) in order to receive a license in states where applicable

Here are some other helpful links.






According to the AANMC, States (21 of them) currently offering licensure to naturopathic physicians include:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland (starting in 2016)
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • U.S. Territories: Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

Provinces currently offering regulation and registration to naturopathic physicians include:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Saskatchewan

Regarding pending legislation, this is the most current information available: the following states and provinces all have legislation pending that will enable naturopathic doctors (NDs) to become licensed:

Here are a few interesting articles: 

How to Practice as Licensed Naturopathic Physician in States That Don’t Offer Licensure

Naturopathic Physicians Pushing for State Licensure

Should Alaska’s Naturopaths Be Allowed to Prescribe Medication?

Natural Doctors Face Skepticism

In conclusion, if the licensed naturopath approach is not ideal for you, please consider the traditional route through Rockwell!

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