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ND vs. MD: Which Should You Choose?

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If you’ve found yourself here, it’s probably for the same reason as many other passionate future doctors. You want to heal and care for others, but the traditional medical doctor route isn’t what you expected. And, like others who have come before you, you think naturopathic medicine might be the path to the kind of care you’ve always envisioned yourself providing.

Deciding if a career as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) is right for you is a big decision. It only makes sense to have questions about the ND career path and how it compares to the work and education of Medical Doctors (MD).

Below, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about becoming an ND, and how to tell if a career in naturopathic medicine is right for you.

Common questions & concerns when comparing MD vs. ND

1. What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies.

Diagnosis and treatment in naturopathic medicine are focused on identifying the root cause(s) of illness and implementing therapeutic modalities that integrate conventional, scientific and empirical methodology with the philosophy that nature is the most effective healer.

2. What is an ND?

Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are primary care physicians who blend knowledge of the body’s natural healing capacity with current research on health and human systems.

Like other primary care providers, naturopathic doctors diagnose, treat, and manage patients with acute and chronic conditions. They use natural therapies along with medical and clinical science to emphasize disease prevention and help the body heal itself.

3. Is an ND a real doctor?

Medical Doctors (MD), Osteopathic Doctors (DO), Naturopathic Doctors (ND) and Nurse Practitioners (NP) have a lot in common beyond two-letter acronyms. The chart below highlights a few key similarities in their education and practice.


4. How does a traditional medical school compare to an ND program? Are ND programs rigorous and scientific?

Naturopathic doctors are educated in all of the same basic sciences as Medical Doctors (MDs) and use the conventional medical sciences as a foundation for diagnosis and treatment.

NDs also study holistic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and promoting wellness, often including (but not limited to):

    • Clinical Nutrition
    • Homeopathic medicine
    • Botanical medicine
    • Psychology
    • Physical medicine
    • Counseling
    • Acupuncture
    • Oriental medicine

Is a Career in Naturopathic Medicine Right for You?

You might enjoy a career as an ND if you want to take a holistic approach to patient care, mind-body medicine, prevention and nutrition. Patients seek care from naturopathic doctors because of their communication skills and attention to detail in addition to medical skills and expertise. Here are some personality traits that can be attributed to successful naturopathic doctors, according to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC):

  • Compassion
  • Persistence
  • Open-mindedness
  • Optimism
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Passion
  • Creativity
  • Confidence
  • Curiosity
  • Determination
  • Tenacity
  • Flexibility

Natural Patient Care Starts at Bastyr

If you’re ready to start a meaningful career as a naturopathic healthcare professional, the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program at Bastyr University will help you develop the knowledge and skills to be a leader in the evolving field of naturopathic medicine.

Find out How To Become a Naturopathic Doctor in our new guide, and discover why Bastyr is internationally renowned for its rigorous curriculum, comprehensive training and groundbreaking research in naturopathic medicine.

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Read the ND Guide


Written by Bastyr

Bastyr University's academic and research programs have received international recognition for pioneering work in science-based natural medicine. We offer a learning environment that fosters serious inquiry, professional dedication and lifelong relationships. Your career begins here, where comprehensive training makes the difference.