NDs, MDs, DOs, DCs – what’s the difference?

Even though awareness of different health modalities has increased of late, we still get questions about the differences between all the different credentials. Let’s start with a great primer from the Institute for Natural Medicine; the article does a great job of breaking down the difference in years and type of training for NDs, MDs, DOs, and DCs. (If you’re more of an audio learner, Dr. Naumes speaks about some of the different kinds of health providers beginning around the 06:35 minute mark in this podcast.)

Add to the mix nutritionists, dietitians, FNPs, herbalists, acupuncturists and it can sometimes be hard to know where to start!

Naturopathic physicians have a minimum of 7 years of post-secondary education. Training requires four years of naturopathic medical education from one of seven recognized schools in North America. That training includes 3500 classroom hours divided among: Health sciences – similar to the curriculum at a conventional medical school, the first two years of naturopathic medicine are focused on gaining an in-depth understanding of the science of the body. 1200 hours in the teaching clinic, treating patients under the supervision of a licensed naturopathic physician and 300 hours observing naturopathic physicians in their own offices. Upon completion of this education, naturopathic physicians are qualified to work as primary care physicians in licensed states. More info on ND curriculum.

If you’ve decided that you do want to move forward with a naturopathic doctor, make sure the naturopathic doctor you choose has a degree from one of 7 accredited* naturopathic medical schools in North America. (Kate Naumes ND graduated from Bastyr University in Washington State.)

Are you wondering is naturopathic care is a good investment? Check out this article comparing the cost of naturopathic vs conventional care over the long term.


*All AANMC member institutions have been accredited by one of the regional accrediting agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, all of the naturopathic medicine programs of the member schools have been accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME), the recognized accreditor for naturopathic medical programs in North America. Graduation from a naturopathic medicine program that is accredited or is a candidate for accreditation guarantees eligibility to sit for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), the passage of which is required to obtain licensure.