Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that supports the belief that the human body is capable of healing itself by natural means, without the need for drugs, surgery or other conventional forms of medical treatment. Naturopathy encourages people to achieve good health by balancing their lives with a nutritious diet, plenty of exercise, regular contact with family and friends, and reducing stress as much as possible in order to foster good emotional and mental health. College coursework within this field involves the study of alternative medical treatments, particularly those included in traditional Chinese medicine. Although most naturopaths are trained physicians with medical degrees, there are several different career paths open within this field of alternative medicine.
A naturopathic doctor (ND) is one who has taken the same college coursework as a medical doctor (MD), but with graduate-level classes in traditional Chinese medicine practices such as acupuncture or herbal medicine, for example. An ND may perform the same type of physical examination and diagnostic tests as a medical doctor to determine a patient's level of health and fitness, but the strategy he recommends for a patient thereafter will typically involve following a healthy lifestyle rather than, for example, treating symptoms with medication.
Although some people interested in naturopathy choose to pursue an ND degree, others prefer to specialize in a specific naturopathic field such as acupuncture. This profession typically requires less education than that of a physician. Completion of a three-year Master of Acupuncture program is usually sufficient to secure a position as an acupuncturist. Although not as financially lucrative as becoming a naturopathic doctor, becoming an acupuncturist does afford an individual the opportunity to become immersed in a single area within the naturopathic field.
Another career path available to people with a degree in naturopathy is that of a naturopathic nutritionist. One of the fundamentals of traditional Chinese medicine -- as well as other medicinal practices of indigenous people from around the world -- is the consumption of healthy, organic, unprocessed foods not only to provide nutrition but to serve medicinal purposes as well. Naturopathic nutritionists may work in research or as nutrition counselors within a health care setting. This profession typically requires a master's degree in naturopathy with an emphasis in nutrition or a Master of Science in nutrition from a college that specializes in naturopathic medicine.
If you have a passion for alternative medicine, you may choose to share that passion with college students. Becoming a naturopathy professor may be a long road. To teach undergraduate courses, you'll need at least a master's degree in the field and probably some amount of teaching background or other experience in a naturopathic profession. If you want to teach aspiring NDs, you'll need practical experience as a physician as well as an ND degree. Still, teaching is certainly an attractive alternative for an ND who desires a change of pace from medical practice.
- American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
- WebMD: Naturopathic Medicine -- Topic Overview
- National College of Natural Medicine: School of Classical Chinese Medicine
- Natural Path Health and Fitness: What is Naturopathic Nutrition
- National College of Natural Medicine: Master of Science in Nutrition Program Overview
- Connecticut Naturopathic Physicians Association: Assistant Professor of Clinical Science Position Available
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