Which Certification Should I Do?
Here is an overview of the most popular functional medicine training programs and how they compare. All offer registration periodically through the year, so check the websites to see when the next offerings will be so you don’t miss a deadline to sign up.
💚 The Institute for Functional Medicine: the most well known and prestigious “gold standard” functional medicine education. The learning style is compared to “drinking from a firehose.” Lots of MDs and DOs go this route, but it is open to any licensed healthcare professional and more pharmacists are starting to do this program as well.
I recommend their two free trainings to anyone who is brand new to functional medicine:
Introduction to Functional Medicine: https://www.ifm.org/learning-center/introduction-functional-medicine/
Introduction to Functional Nutrition: https://www.ifm.org/learning-center/introduction-to-functional-nutrition/
The AFMCP program (Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice) is a good intro to functional medicine for anyone, and a first step to decide if the full IFMCP is right for you. AFMCP can be done live over 5 days or in a two month online self paced course with recording of the live event, that takes 35 hours to complete. This course is normally $2450, but FMPhA Premium Members get 20% off, making it only $1960! You also will be listed in their Practitioner Directory if you maintain annual membership (automatically included for FMPhA Premium Members).
The full certification is IFMCP, which is AFMCP + all six Advanced Practice Modules (APMs) which are in a conference format, requiring up to 5 days off to participate onsite or livestream, so you must attended as they scheduled. APMs are $1650 each, and there’s $1825 in fees, so average total investment is $14,175 and it takes 2-4 years to complete (not including travel costs or time off work.) Caveat: students get 50% off so if you can manage pharmacy school and training then it’s an amazing opportunity to graduate way ahead of the game!
Regardless of if you complete their trainings, you can simply become an FMPhA member for $385 which will give you access to the IFM Toolkit that contains over 300+ printable resources.
💙 American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine: A4M is technically about “regenerative medicine” which to me is like functional medicine to the next level where we are not only reversing chronic disease but also the aging process itself. This group and training is likely the most useful if you are a compounding pharmacist, as they have several pharmacists speakers like Jim LaValle and Sahar Swidan. A4M has a range of educational offerings, from Fellowships, Certifications, and Online Courses. Pricing varies widely depending on the program, but the Fellowship in Anti-Aging, Metabolic & Functional Medicine is normally $18,000. However, FMPhA Members now receive $100 off A4M membership, $100 of Spring Congress or World Congress, and special pricing of only $1,500 per module instead of the regular $2,250!
💜 The School of Applied Functional Medicine: (updated Sept. 2021) SAFM is less expensive than IFM but still an investment, this program is also a commitment since they have shifted from the option of completing individual Semesters or independent Deep Dives, to a comprehensive certification program for the Applied Functional Medicine for Coaching (AFMC) credential. The learning style is “warm and rich!” Practitioners from all walks can do this program, from health coaches to doctors to pharmacists. Format is recorded video and live webinars combined lots of case studies and highly motivated peer group huddles via Zoom for accountability. Big focus on application of knowledge and building a thriving practice. Total cost if you pay upfront is $8,997 or you take advantage of various payment plans and early bird pricing. I also host a pharmacists huddle circle on Facebook for us as pharmacists to stay in touch and discuss the SAFM experience. Start here to watch a Pearl Packed Webinar for Pharmacists, and get a free four webinar series on the root causes of disease.
💛 Functional Medicine University: most flexible, also most affordable, but learning style is “cut and dry”. This program was founded by a DC and can be completed by any licensed health care practitioner. All recorded, and completely self paced with no time limit. The 200 hour program can be finished in a month or take years if you’d like. However, the webinar format looks and feels somewhat “old school” and there is little to no interaction with other students or the instructor, except for an online forum, so you have to be very self-motivated. They also offer a practitioner directory for graduates. It’s $2395, and enrollment is offered in January, April, July, and October.
Here is a free webinar to give you a taste of their lecture style, Then, if you are interested in enrolling, consider save your seat for the next semester here:
🧡 Integrative Health Practitioner: IHP is becoming more popular lately as practitioners look for online programs. IHP is actually open to anyone, whether a licensed healthcare professional or not. IHP is unique in that it is also a health coaching program (there’s a separate certification if you complete both levels and the mastery program). It also covers 7 different disciplines including Functional Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Bioregulatory Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine & Herbalism, Eastern Philosophy, Traditional Naturopathy, Orthomolecular Medicine. There are two levels: Level 1 covers all essential steps of the DESTRESS protocol. Level 2 takes you in-depth through 7 different at-home lab tests (Food Sensitivity, Parasite & Bacteria Stool, Organic Acids, Omega-3, Adrenal Hormone, Thyroid Adrenal Hormone Testing, Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.) There’s also a Level 3 “Mastery” option to obtain the Registered Health Coach (RHC).
One perceived limitation of this program is the “MLM” aspect of it. They primarily teach and recommend the EquiLife supplements and testing kits, which are sold by Dr. Cabral. While I do think these are all good quality, they don’t really teach about all the other options available through Fullscript supplements or Evexia labs.
Often times, pharmacists have more knowledge than they give themselves credit for, but they seek a “certification” as a validation that they are “ready” to provide these functional medicine services… which is not required! You will forever be learning more, and a certification may actually be a distraction or procrastination from actually doing the work!
So if you are looking for a program that will teach you the knowledge and the how-to of being a functional medicine pharmacist, then these CPE programs may be more helpful as it is functional medicine education by pharmacists and for pharmacists, with ACPE CE credits! FMPhA Annual Members get discounted rates for these live and on demand CE’s; the coupon code is found int he Members Only section under the Membership page.
Business Focused Programs: There are more programs popping up out there every day, many being offered by functional medicine practitioners who have developed their own methods of teaching based on their experience. While we believe programs like IFM and A4M are the best clinical options given their long-standing reputations and world-renowned faculty, there are times when other programs can be a good fit if you enjoy learning from those particular practitioners and want help with practice implementation.
Kalish Institute: Founded in 2006, The Kalish Institute teaches clinical application and patient communication techniques through a hands-on, case-based approach. At The Kalish Institute, they offer a range of course offerings from Workshops and Bootcamps to a 12-month Mentorship.
Kresser Institute: The Kresser Institute (KI) was founded in 2015 by Chris Kresser, M.S., L.Ac., a renowned expert, clinician, and educator in the fields of Functional Medicine and ancestral health. KI offers two signature programs—The ADAPT Practitioner Training Program and The ADAPT Health Coach Training Program—both of which offer comprehensive education and training in Functional Medicine, ancestral nutrition and lifestyle, and practice management.
Bonus Option: PharmToTable Team: This isn’t really a standalone training program, but if you know that you want to offer consultations yet don’t want the overhead of becoming an entrepreneur, then the PharmToTable Team may be a good fit. This program is built on Azova, a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform. There is also a provider who can sign off on ordering labs. And perhaps best of all, you are part of a team of pharmacists who are all learning and growing together, sharing knowledge and resources from their own experiences. There are pharmacists who have done training from all of the above programs that are part of this team, so it is like “crowdsourced knowledge.”
▶️ Hopefully you found this post helpful! There are certainly additional programs out there, so feel free to comment below with questions. If you apply for any of these programs, I greatly appreciate you using our FMPhA links that are listed in this post, or listing FMPhA as your referral, as this helps support FMPhA and allows us track how many Pharmacists come from our group which then helps us advocate for more pharmacist content in these trainings!
Lauren Castle, PharmD, MS