The ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture is more popular than ever. It’s now being used as part of holistic approaches to pain and immobility management. Now is a great time to begin a career in the industry — but only if you’re fully committed to what lies ahead.
As an acupuncturist, you will help people manage the symptoms of conditions such as asthma, headaches, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, back problems and many other ailments involving chronic pain.
Changing your career is something you should never take lightly. You need to be sure acupuncture is right for you, as the costs of training are considerable. With this in mind, here is a breakdown of the pathway into a career as an acupuncturist.
Do Your Homework
Before you take the first step toward a career in acupuncture, you need to be sure it’s right for you — and for your future. It’s also worth bearing in mind that not everyone has the skills required to be a successful acupuncturist. In addition to strong communication skills, you need steady hands and good hand-eye coordination.
Call into your local clinic and book a session. This is the best way to fully understand the practice and the benefits it delivers. Speak to the practitioner about everything from the training to the day-to-day challenges involved. You need to go into this new career with your eyes wide open — and who better to open your eyes than someone who has traveled that path?
Research Licensing Requirements Where You Want to Work
The certifications required to practice acupuncture vary from state to state. Before you can choose the best course in the best college, you need to know that your qualifications will earn you a license in your home state. For example, each state has its own rules on “scope of practice.” Exactly what services you can offer with a license depends on which state you’ll be practicing in.
There are also different rules to consider if you want to work in two or more states. Your certification will be issued in your home state, and may not satisfy the criteria in a neighboring state. Imagine you live on the border of California and Nevada. The chances are you’ll be providing services in both states. You’ll need to contact the licensing boards of each to find out what certifications and qualifications you’re going to need.
Ensure You Meet the Educational Requirements
Check out the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) for details of colleges offering courses in your area. Each course provider has its own admission rules, but most insist on a college degree. Although the degree can usually be in any subject, you may need to take some classes in medical subjects such as physiology and biology.
You’ll also need to demonstrate some knowledge of acupuncture, along with a passion for the practice. As long as you can talk about the subject in an informed and enthusiastic manner, your degree should be enough to secure your place on a degree course.
Enroll on a Course at an Accredited College
Take a close look at all of the courses on offer in your area, as they will differ in terms of emphasis. As well as covering acupuncture, many will include other aspects of Chinese medicine. Depending on the course you decide on, expect to be at college for three to four years. Just make sure the school you choose is certified by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Apply for Your License
Once you’ve graduated from college, you’re one step closer to becoming a professional acupuncturist. But before you can start charging for your services, you need to demonstrate to the state government that you’re a fit and proper person. After all, you’ll be administering medical treatments to relieve a number of conditions.
The first thing to do is apply for a license from the NCCAOM. This is the general certification that demonstrates you possess the necessary skills and knowledge. You can apply online, but you’ll need to pay a fee and provide transcripts from your AOM program. A lot of colleges will help you with the application process during your final year.
You must take and pass the NCCAOM exam before you can apply for state licensure. Only then will you be recognized as a professional acupuncturist. But there’s usually one more hurdle to pass. As part of the state license application process, you may need to sit more exams. There’s also a chance you’ll need to provide evidence of your credentials.
Start Job Hunting
While it’s possible to start out on your own from day one, working for an established medical practice is usually the best course of action. Not only will you be able to perfect your techniques and bedside manner during this time, you’ll learn a lot from more experienced acupuncturists.
But be under no illusions: The marketplace for acupuncturist jobs in the big cities is fiercely competitive. There is a strong chance you’ll need to serve an apprenticeship or internship before finding a salaried position. Therefore, it’s a good idea to budget for this before you start training.
Acupuncture is a fascinating, rewarding and potentially lucrative field to work in. If you’re fully committed, determined to succeed and passionate about this ancient Chinese tradition, contact the American Institute of Alternative Medicine. We’ll talk you through your options, and help you on your way to a successful career in acupuncture.