CNME - Council on Naturopathic Medical Education

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Frequently asked questions
  1. Can you compare the colleges? Which one is best?

    We treat as confidential the information we receive from naturopathic medicine programs. All accredited programs have our recommendation, but we do not rank them. Each naturopathic college has unique qualities. We encourage prospective students to visit the campuses and to participate in the schools’ student-for-a-day programs.

  2. Does CNME recognize home-study schools or external-degree programs?

    Many correspondence schools offer N.D. or N.M.D degrees or diplomas. Some are exempt from state regulations because they claim a religious purpose or they do not recruit students from their home states. Correspondence programs do not prepare students for practice as state or provincial licensed naturopathic physicians, and the programs are not eligible for affiliation with our agency. In states and provinces without licensing laws, it is generally not illegal for those who obtain N.D. or N.M.D. degrees from correspondence schools to use the initials after their names; they may not, however, legally represent themselves as physicians or engage in the practice of medicine unless they are otherwise licensed as medical practitioners. Although correspondence courses can be effective in many disciplines, naturopathic licensing agencies do not believe they are adequate for preparing students to practice as licensed physicians. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors do not consider those who obtain N.D. or N.M.D. degrees from correspondence schools to be part of the naturopathic medical profession.

  3. Is there a difference between the N.D. and the N.M.D. degree?

    Universities and colleges may choose to call the naturopathic degree they confer either the “Doctor of Naturopathy” or the “Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine” degree. These are two different names for the same degree. By either name, the degree is usually abbreviated “N.D.,” but an institution that refers to its naturopathic credential as the “Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine” degree may abbreviate it either “N.D.” or “N.M.D.” Presently, all colleges and universities with accredited or candidate naturopathic medicine programs confer the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree or, in Canada, the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine diploma. In all states and provinces that regulate naturopathic medicine, except Arizona, naturopathic physicians use the N.D. initials after their names. In Arizona, they may use either the N.D. or N.M.D. initials; the different sets of initials do not indicate a difference in scope of practice, but only a preference by the individual physicians. The N.D. initials are the ones more widely associated with the naturopathic medical profession and are the only ones used in the corporate seals of both the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

  4. What does “candidate for accreditation” mean?
    Candidacy is a status of affiliation with us that indicates a naturopathic medicine program satisfies our agency’s 17 eligibility requirements – e.g., that it is properly organized, is adequately supported financially, has good facilities and a qualified faculty, offers an appropriate curriculum, and accurately represents itself to prospective students. Candidacy, however, is not accreditation and does not ensure eventual accreditation. We grant candidacy when a program meets our eligibility requirements, complies with our standards to the degree expected for its stage of development, and is progressing toward accreditation. If it does not achieve accreditation within five years, the program loses affiliation with us for at least one year and until deficiencies are corrected. A new program may apply for candidacy at any time, but CNME will not grant candidacy until after at least its first academic year with students enrolled full time. A naturopathic medicine program may not be accredited until it has graduated its first class. Students and graduates of candidate programs are eligible to apply for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations, administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners.

  5. What criteria does CNME use in evaluating naturopathic medicine programs?
    The evaluation process involves a comprehensive self-study by the program, periodic visits to the campus by CNME teams, and ongoing monitoring. Evaluation teams have three or more trained members, with at least one a practicing naturopathic physician, another a member of the Council, and another not affiliated with the naturopathic profession, its colleges, or CNME. Our Handbook of Accreditation for Naturopathic Medicine Programs contains our objectives, eligibility requirements, standards, policies, procedures, Articles of Incorporation, and Bylaws. The handbook may be ordered for $20 (U.S.), prepaid:
    Council on Naturopathic Medical Education
    P.O. Box 178
    Great Barrington, MA 01230
    Or, download a free PDF version of the handbook. The PDF file (81 pages, 800KB) may be opened and printed with Adobe Acrobat Reader, a free download.

  6. Where may N.D.s practice?
    Sixteen states and four provinces allow the practice of naturopathic medicine: Alaska, Arizona, British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ontario, Oregon, Saskatchewan, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also have licensing laws for naturopathic doctors. In a number of states and provinces where there is not yet professional licensure, naturopathic medical associations are actively engaged in legislative initiatives to pass licensing laws. The scope of practice varies from state to state and province to province. In states and provinces without naturopathic licensing laws, many who hold the N.D. degree also hold other degrees, such as the Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Chiropractic, or Masters in Oriental Medicine degree, and they practice under licenses for those professions. Others offer services that do not violate their states and provincial medical practice acts. Most naturopathic physicians are in the states and provinces that regulate the profession.

  7. How is CNME organized?
    CNME was incorporated in August 1978 under the District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act and is recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Agency is run by a Board of Directors that works in partnership with the agency’s Executive Director. Presently, two of CNME’s eleven board members are public members; a public member is not affiliated in any way with the naturopathic profession. The board has three positions for institutional member representatives, who are elected rotationally for three-year terms from among administrators and faculty members at the four accredited naturopathic medicine programs. Our Articles of Incorporation also require from four to six profession members, who must be licensed naturopathic physicians. Five profession members currently serve on the board.

  8. How does someone start a new naturopathic college?
    Establishing a new naturopathic program within an existing college or university is preferable to beginning a freestanding naturopathic medical college, unless the organizing group has the necessary assets and extensive experience in higher education administration. CNME can refer organizations with the potential for developing a new program to consultants. Any new program, to qualify for accreditation, would likely need to be in a state or province that licenses naturopathic physicians, because students do their clinical training primarily under practicing naturopathic physicians. Additionally, state authorities might not approve a college’s request to grant the N.D. degree in a state that does not allow the practice of naturopathic medicine.

  9. May I be licensed in the United States or Canada if I attend an overseas naturopathic college?

    Because no international standards for naturopathic education exist other than those for the U.S. and Canada, students who graduate from naturopathic colleges in other countries are not eligible to apply for the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations. The exams are administered twice a year at the state and provincial level by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners, Portland, Oregon ( Students who attend an overseas school may have some course credits accepted for transfer to a U.S. or Canadian school if the foreign school is a graduate-level institution and governmentally recognized. If you plan to spend the first year or two of naturopathic studies at a foreign school, you should first check with one of the U.S. or Canadian naturopathic colleges to learn if any credits may be transferred later.

  10. May I be licensed in the United States if I attend naturopathic college in Canada, and vice versa?

    As noted in question #6 above, there are a number of U.S. states (and other U.S. jurisdictions) and Canadian provinces where naturopathic medicine is a licensed/regulated profession. Graduates of CNME-recognized N.D. programs in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to take the NPLEX exam, which is used as the licensing exam in both the U.S. and Canada. Generally speaking, graduates of CNME-recognized programs in the U.S. can become licensed in Canada and vice versa. However, every jurisdiction licenses and regulates naturopathic medicine differently: therefore, if you are interested in enrolling in a CNME-recognized N.D. program in one country, but intend to practice in the other country, you should review the specific licensing requirement in those states or provinces where you may wish to practice to find out whether there are potential impediments to becoming licensed. For information on licensing in the U.S., visit (the website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians); for information on licensing in the Canada, visit (the website of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors).

  11. What is the difference between CNME and the other organizations that accredit naturopathic programs?

    CNME is the organization that accredits programs which prepare students to become licensed naturopathic physicians. It is the accrediting agency accepted by the U.S. and Canadian professional associations for licensed naturopathic doctors, and it is the agency recognized by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners. CNME is also the only naturopathic accreditor with membership in the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors. This organization accepts as members those accreditors recognized by the Secretary of Education or that meet ASPA’s own criteria. Among the almost 50 agencies that belong to ASPA are the recognized accreditors for allopathic (M.D.), osteopathic (D.O.), chiropractic (D.C.), acupuncture, and dental programs. Other naturopathic accrediting agencies accredit correspondence and other schools that do not prepare students to practice as licensed naturopathic physicians. None is recognized by the Secretary of Education, and none of the schools or programs they accredit has institutional accreditation from a recognized regional accrediting agency. Comparing the published standards, policies, procedures, and bylaws of accrediting agencies is one way to determine their differences. For CNME, these documents are in its Handbook. Please see question 5 above for information on obtaining the Handbook.

  12. What does “recognition by the U.S. Secretary of Education” mean?

    Accrediting agencies with the Secretary of Education’s recognition have been found in compliance with the federal regulations that apply to accrediting agencies. The recognition means the schools or specialized educational programs that the accreditor accredits are eligible to seek participation in programs sponsored by federal agencies. Students and graduates of U.S. naturopathic medicine programs with CNME accreditation are eligible to apply for such federal programs as the Academic Research Enhancement Awards and the Loan Repayment Program administered by the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Last updated July, 2012