Naturopathic Program Accreditation

Overview of Accreditation

The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) accredits four-year, campus-based doctoral programs in naturopathic medicine (ND programs) that qualify graduates for licensure in the U.S. and Canada. CNME-accredited ND programs may also incorporate online/distance education coursework, as well as hybrid courses that combine online and in-person components. The CNME does not, however, accredit ND programs that are taught entirely or primarily using online/distance instruction, and these types of programs do not qualify individuals for licensure.

The purpose of accreditation is to promote high-quality naturopathic education and training, and safe and effective naturopathic medical practice. CNME accomplishes this purpose by adopting a stringent set of accreditation standards that naturopathic doctor programs must meet to qualify for accreditation, and sending a team of experts that includes practicing naturopathic physicians and educators to periodically evaluate these programs onsite (see Steps in the Accreditation Process for more information).

CNME’s accreditation standards cover areas such as ND program length and content, clinical training requirements, faculty qualifications, student services, student and program assessment, facilities, and library resources. For information on CNME accreditation standards, see Part Four of the CNME Handbook of Accreditation for Naturopathic Medical Programs.

CNME also supports the ongoing improvement of naturopathic doctor colleges and programs by providing advice to individual institutions and periodically revising its accreditation standards to reflect changes and advances in the profession.

CNME is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for the purpose of accrediting ND programs, and our educational standards provide the basis for licensing/regulating naturopathic physicians in the U.S. and Canada. For information on accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education recognition process for accrediting agencies, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s web site.

U.S. institutions offering naturopathic doctor programs are also accredited by regional agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and approved by their respective state boards of higher education, while institutions in Canada are recognized by their respective provincial higher education regulatory agencies. These other regulatory processes are also intended to ensure high quality naturopathic education and well-qualified graduates.

Steps in the Accreditation Process

  1. Submission of an Eligibility Application
    The purpose of the application is to demonstrate that an naturopathic doctor (ND) program is ready to seek CNME accreditation.
    Outlined in Part Two of the Handbook: “Eligibility Application”
  2. Submission of a Self-Study Report for Candidacy
    If the eligibility application is approved, the ND program engages in a self-study process and submits a self-study report. The report details how the program meets CNME accreditation standards and provides an analysis of its strengths, weaknesses and how it might improve. Candidacy status is similar to accreditation, with candidate programs generally still in a developmental phase.
    Candidacy information is outlined in Part Three of the Handbook: “Candidacy and Accreditation”
    Self-study report information is in Part Five of the Handbook: “Self-Study Guide for Candidacy and Accreditation”
  3. Evaluation Visit
    If the Council accepts the self-study report, it appoints an evaluation team that includes naturopathic medical educators and practitioners to conduct an onsite review of the ND program. Following the visit, the team issues a report on its findings regarding compliance with CNME accreditation standards. The ND program has an opportunity to respond to the team report.
    Outlined in Part Three of the Handbook: “Candidacy and Accreditation”
  4. Council Hearing and Decision
    Following the evaluation visit, the CNME Board of Directors holds a hearing attended by program representatives to review the program for candidacy. After the hearing, the Board makes a decision on whether to grant candidacy. Candidate programs must achieve accreditation within five years. If the Council identifies deficiencies in a program’s compliance with CNME’s standards, the program is required to address them within the first two years of gaining candidacy.
    Outlined in Part Three of the Handbook: “Candidacy and Accreditation”
  5. Initial Accreditation Process
    The process for initial accreditation is the same as the process for attaining candidacy: submission of a self-study report, followed by an onsite evaluation visit, issuance of an evaluation team report, an accreditation hearing before the Council, and a final decision by the Council. CNME accreditation is for a term of up to seven years.
  6. Periodic Reaccreditation
    Programs that wish to maintain their accreditation must go through a periodic reaccreditation process prior to the expiration of their current term of accreditation.
  7. Annual Reports
    Candidate and accredited ND programs are required to submit annual reports to demonstrate that they are addressing any deficiencies identified by the Council, and to keep the Council apprised of changes. If a program has major deficiencies, the Council may require special reporting.
  8. Sanctions
    While most ND programs are in good standing with CNME, it is possible for a candidate or accredited ND program to become out of compliance with specific CNME standards and/or policies. When compliance issues become serious, the Council may take action to sanction a program and may even withdraw accreditation in extreme circumstances.
    Outlined in Part Three of the Handbook: “Sanctions”

CNME Handbook of Accreditation

Download the Handbook (PDF file)

Naturopathic doctor colleges and programs interested in seeking accreditation should first contact the CNME Executive Director to find out more about the process and whether their program is likely to be eligible for accreditation.

Naturopathic colleges and programs should also refer to the CNME Handbook of Accreditation for Naturopathic Medicine Programs, which provides complete information on the accreditation standards, policies and procedures.

Naturopathic doctors take the time to understand the many life factors that can affect health.

Photo courtesy of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic doctors take the time to understand the many life factors that can affect health.