The 5 Best Jobs to Have as a Naturopathic Student

by Dr. Alison Chen ND | Follow on Twitter

Taking a job while in medical school for some extra spending money isn’t smart. Here’s why…

YOUR LOOMING STUDENT DEBT IS REAL. It affects your daily habits – shopping, eating, going out and where you work. It’s easy to allow the urgency for cash to drive you to take on a convenient job, but this isn’t smart.

Here’s why.

$15/ hr x 12 hrs per week (approx.) = $180/ wk
$180/ wk x 48 weeks (minus a few weeks for vacation and exams) 
= $8,640/ year
1 year of Naturopathic medical school = $20,000+ rent 
+ food + transportation, etc. = $30,000 
     (this is likely an under-estimate)
Therefore, $8,640/ $30,000 = approx. 30%

*If your situation is different, do the math and figure out how much of your annual debt is being supported by your current job.

To work a job (that won’t further your career) for 30% off of your annual debt and allow very little down time for your adrenals and sanity is – a poor trade off.

Your $15 an hour part-time work at your local restaurant is too short-sighted. You are living in the reactive moment of debt and not building your career. If you think you are in debt while in school, wait until you have graduated and need to start paying it back.

When you start at a clinic it doesn’t magically get really busy with floods of patients booking in to see you on day 1. Not normally that is. It’s a process and takes a lot of your own marketing to get your name out there.

Most student debt requires a payment plan to start 6 months after graduation. Graduation… not licensing.

Which means, if you graduate in May; write NPLEX-2 in August; get your NPLEX-2 results in September; pass; and get your license number and malpractice insurance in October/ November, the earliest you can start seeing patients (on your own) is November.

May to November is 6 months. Go ahead and count it on your fingers.

[Now, there are some exceptions. You can definitely start seeing patients at a clinic under another Naturopathic doctor’s license after you graduate and before you get licensed. If this is a goal for you then make sure you take the correct steps to find your supervisor and clinic before graduation, and ensure you are allowing time to balance studying for NPLEX-2.]

So what are the best jobs to have? Well, that $15 an hour job (or even volunteer work) may be worth it if it gives you something back that you can take with you into clinic and your Naturopathic doctor career.

The best jobs to have while in Naturopathic medical school are ones that will contribute to your:

  1. Clinical knowledge
  2. Business skills and/or
  3. Build an audience (aka. your customers)

Here are the top 5 jobs to have while in Naturopathic medical school.

1. Work at a health food store

Learning about supplement brands, costs, fads, and common patient questions can be invaluable. Using this information can help you brand your business, target the consumer with effective marketing, and predict their questions before they even ask. It allows you to stay on top of health trends to be able to research and give confident answers to common questions. For example,

“I saw on Dr. Oz last week that Green Coffee Bean is a magic pill for weight loss. What do you think?”

Creating relationships with customers as a knowledgeable source can be a great starting point to build your network of potential patients specifically interested in natural health. Make sure you have a website or start an email list to capitalize on these potential patients. You not only want them coming to the student clinic but to eventually follow-up with you once you are out on your own.

Side note: I can’t tell you how many times a patient can’t remember which supplement they are taking and can only describe the bottle as,

“You know, it’s orange and white with big letters”

To be able to spout out a few possibilities, “Natural Factors, NOW, Orange, Carlson, Kirkland” can help progress an intake along rather than waiting for them to bring in their supplements to their next visit.

2. Reception at a busy clinic

Great receptionists are invaluable to a clinic, especially a busy clinic. They are the glue that allows a clinic to run smoothly and the practitioner to be able to do their job effectively.

Receptionists are the first person that your patient sees, the one they pay and re-book with. They can leave a lasting impression on the patient experience long after their visit.

Experiencing what goes into being an effective receptionist will not only help you to choose the right one for your own clinic, but help you understand how to set up a successful clinic of your own.

It’s important to understand all aspects of a clinic, even if you don’t ever wish to own or run a clinic. As a receptionist, you get an appreciation for learning how to book in patients, build patient relationships, create effective systems, organize paperwork/ files/ accounting, and the process of ordering labs/ requisitions/ supplements. This is especially important if it’s at a clinic you want to eventually work in.

More than that, you see first hand what a busy practice looks like and gain confidence that you can become successful in your own practice. Confidence is huge. It’s something that is often lacking from many practitioners in our profession.

3. Be a personal trainer, fitness instructor or therapist

As a personal trainer myself, I’m biased. I’m biased but I truly loved my experience as a trainer during CCNM and I’ve remained close with many of my past clients to this day. The benefits of being a trainer or fitness instructor are:

  • flexible hours that often coincide with working outside of the class schedule
  • education in an aspect of health that is lacking for many Naturopathic doctors: specific exercise prescriptions
  • being able to practice clinical skills (ie. physical exam, physical medicine tests)
  • working one-on-one and connecting with clients, and potential patients
  • creating relationships with local gyms and businesses
  • an active job outside of studying

4. Build a website, blog or Youtube channel

Even if it doesn’t make you money in the immediate future, taking the time to build a high quality and consistent online following will pay off when you’re ready to see patients or launch a product.

Blogs can be difficult to write during Naturopathic medical school. Just like your health, it takes consistent effort and time, two things that are in limited resource. I was an on-again-off-again blogger until I approached my website like a school assignment with strict deadlines to post regular blogs (ie. weekly or monthly), regardless of whether it was “perfect” or not.

The same goes for starting a podcast, Youtube channel or other media forms. Consistency is key.

Once you get started, use these blog posts, podcasts or Youtube videos to send to your email list. Collecting emails will be the best way to stay at the top of your potential customer’s mind and offer valuable information, whether or not they become a patient of yours.

When you deliver quality content you develop trust and become an expert in your reader’s mind. If any health concerns or questions come up, you will be their go-to health care person. They will be much more willing to book an appointment with you or purchase a product that you sell if they’ve already received value from you.

Learn how to build a blog, website and email list by downloading the free “Start a Naturopathic Blog Blueprint” and signing up for theNDDC newsletter.

5. Be an entrepreneur

Take the plunge. Look into creating your own supplements, detox program, skin care line, cookbook, textbook, online program, etc. The best way to build your business skills is trying it out with an actual product or concept. Do it solo or tag-team with other committed people, either Naturopathic medical students or other professionals.

You may want to invest in joining a business or entrepreneurial group to get your creative juices going and broaden your network.

Why not start making money as a student, which can continue growing and creating income regardless of if you are in clinic, staying home to take care of your family or traveling.

But you didn’t mention…

Of course there are other very valuable jobs to do as a medical student. I found being a supplement rep really beneficial to my clinical learning and it was a great way to attend conferences and trade shows covered by the company. I also had the potential to continue working for the company as an ND.

You can turn virtually any job into a way to further your Naturopathic doctor career. That serving job can absolutely lead to your colleagues becoming patients of yours, or building a referral network with the restaurant.

Picking a job that pays really well, creates a community outside of the health industry, or is mindless is also beneficial:

  1. A well paying job takes some stress off your looming student debt but it can be more daunting than supportive. If you were a nurse, singer, or graphic designer in your past career, capitalize on your experience and ability to finance part of your schooling. However, if it is causing you to miss classes, lose significant sleep and live an unhealthy life, it is probably not worth it. The fear of being in major debt is stressful no doubt, so find your balance. There will come a point where investing 100% of your concentration and efforts in your Naturopathic doctor career will be essential to have it reach its full potential.
  2. Everybody is a potential patient. Creating a community outside of the health industry is smart. The people who are not well-versed in health care often benefit the most from our medicine. So start planting seeds and offer intriguing answers when ever someone asks, “What do you do?”. You can provide valuable education to this new audience that can turn into potential patients in the future.
  3. Do something fun to balance the heavy academic load of Naturopathic medicine. Never underestimate doing something you love, have fun with or can let you shut your brain off. You don’t need any other reason besides “I love it”.

Whether you are working for the money, experience or the potential to drive your Naturopathic doctor career forward, make sure it fulfills you. Naturopathic medical school is hard enough. Your health, well-being and sanity is the most important thing. Take care of yourself now so that you can enjoy your prosperous future.

About the Author
Dr. Alison Chen ND

Dr. Alison Chen ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) and was the recipient of the humanitarian award. Her background in competitive gymnastics, personal training, and volunteer work in Africa gives her a well-rounded view to living well.   Since graduating Alison has traveled the world exploring different ways to think and teach about healing. She believes that education should be consumable and fun, so she created theNDDC and wrote an illustrated rhyming book about poo. Seriously, check out the poo book on Amazon here.