Acupuncture is a holistic treatment based on traditional and ancient Chinese medicine and practices. It involves inserting very thin, sterile needles through the skin at strategic points on the body. Acupuncture is based on the concept of “qi,” which is an energy used to address pain and mobility problems. The practice is used to relieve pain, but more recently it has found a place in overall wellness promotion – including stress management.

A career in acupuncture can be extremely rewarding. If you’re exploring how to get an acupuncture license, you’ll want to know all the facts. Below, you will find everything you need:

What is Acupuncture Used For?

Increasingly, acupuncturists are being incorporated into multidisciplinary care teams and working alongside traditional medical practitioners to deliver care.

Acupuncture can relieve discomfort associated with a myriad of diseases and conditions, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
  • Dental pain
  • Labor pain
  • Headaches, including migraines and tension headaches
  • Lower back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Respiratory conditions, such as allergic rhinitis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Neck pain

How to Become an Acupuncturist

Becoming an acupuncturist requires intensive higher education and practical experience. For most schools, you can expect to spend about three years studying to earn your acupuncture accreditation.

A professional acupuncture curriculum typically consists of:

  • At least 47 semester credits in Oriental medical theory, diagnosis and treatment techniques in acupuncture and related studies
  • 22 semester credits (660 hours) in clinical training
  • 30 semester credits (450 hours) in biomedical clinical sciences
  • 6 semester credits (90 hours) in counseling, communication, ethics, and practice management

You will need to inquire directly with your program of interest, as schools are beginning to require more than these minimum requirements. It is important to keep in mind that schools requiring the minimum in education tend to be of lower quality, so you’ll need to consider the cost and benefit of each program individually.

Study Abroad Component of an Acupuncture Curriculum

As a future acupuncturist, studying abroad in China in conjunction with the best Chinese medicine hospitals can help bring you closer to the roots of acupuncture. You can gain a more in-depth understanding and learn techniques and principles from the top experts in the field. The opportunity for exposure is unmatched, and in many cases studying abroad can fulfill a student’s clinical hour requirements.

Choosing the Right School of Acupuncture

Choosing the right school of acupuncture is a critical first step in building your career. The American Institute of Alternative Medicine (AIAM) is the premier choice for people looking to further their education and become an acupuncturist. The program is one of only a few programs available in the Midwest, and it is one of the most respected programs in the U.S. AIAM gives students the skills needed for success – they are able to apply what they learn in the classroom to the real world through the on-site clinic.

You can expect to learn skills applicable to all aspects of your career, including:

  • Business management
  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Problem-solving

Admission Requirements for AIAM

Requirements of AIAM’s Acupuncture program include:

  • The time needed to earn the Master’s Degree in Acupuncture is 27 months; 9 quarters
  • Applicants must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university to enroll
  • The program focuses on traditional Chinese medicine and biomedical science
  • Graduates of the program receive a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture and are qualified to sit for the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exam

As a prospective acupuncture student, you are always expected to complete the following as part of your application:

  • Personal tour and interview with an admissions representative
  • Complete application form with $100 enrollment fee (can be paid at enrollment)
  • Complete Physical Health Exam Form
  • Meet with Financial Aid office to discuss payment options, if applicable
  • Complete enrollment agreement and accompanying paperwork
  • Acupuncture students will need the Hepatitis B Vaccine (series of 3) or refusal on physical form
  • Proof of English language competency. Having English as your first language, completing at least two-year (60 semester credits or 90 quarter credits) of English language classes, or getting a score of at least 61 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) internet-based test (iBT) which also requires a minimum speaking exam score of 26 and a minimum listening exam score of 22, or a level 6 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam are all ways of proving English proficiency.

Is Acupuncture the Right Career For Me

Determining if acupuncture is the right career for you involves carefully examining your interests, values, and skills. Consider your fascination with holistic approaches to health and wellness, as acupuncture is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine’s holistic principles. Reflect on your interpersonal skills, as building rapport with clients and understanding their health needs is crucial in this field. Assess your ability to handle fine motor skills, as precision is essential when inserting acupuncture needles. 

Moreover, a genuine curiosity about anatomy, physiology, and Eastern medicine philosophies will contribute to your success. Exploring the field through informational interviews, shadowing practitioners, or gaining hands-on experience can provide valuable insights into whether the art and science of acupuncture align with your passion for promoting well-being through alternative healing methods.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering a career in acupuncture, it’s important to know that it requires a lot of dedication, a passion for holistic healing, and a commitment to rigorous education and practical training. Typically, becoming an acupuncturist involves a comprehensive curriculum that integrates traditional Chinese medicine principles with biomedical sciences.

Aspiring acupuncturists should carefully assess their interests to confirm if this field aligns with their passion for holistic wellness and alternative healing modalities. If you have a genuine curiosity and a profound commitment to promoting well-being, you can find immense fulfillment in the art and science of acupuncture, contributing meaningfully to the health and wellness of others.

Finding a school and program that resonates with your interests, skills, and values is pivotal to your success. Consider exploring options like the American Institute of Alternative Medicine, a place where your potential can thrive and your passion for holistic healing can flourish. Take the first step towards your rewarding journey in acupuncture by choosing the right educational path that aligns with your aspirations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to become an acupuncturist?

The time it takes to become an acupuncturist can vary, but it typically requires completing a master’s degree program in acupuncture, which takes approximately three to four years of full-time study. Part-time options may take longer.

What are the educational requirements to become an acupuncturist?

To become an acupuncturist, you must earn a Master of Science in Acupuncture or a related field from an accredited acupuncture school. Some programs may also offer a Doctor of Acupuncture degree. A bachelor’s degree is often a prerequisite for admission.

What is the structure of an acupuncture education program?

Acupuncture programs typically include classroom instruction, clinical training, and hands-on practice. Students study traditional Chinese medicine principles, acupuncture techniques, and herbal medicine and gain practical experience through supervised clinical rotations.

Are there any prerequisites for entering an acupuncture program?

While requirements vary by program, many acupuncture schools require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field. Some programs may also have specific coursework prerequisites in areas such as biology, anatomy, or psychology.

Is there a licensing process for acupuncturists?

Yes, most jurisdictions require acupuncturists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state or country but often include completing an accredited acupuncture program, passing national board exams, and fulfilling clinical experience hours. Be sure to check the specific licensing requirements in the area where you plan to practice.

Can I pursue acupuncture education on a part-time basis?

Yes, many acupuncture programs offer part-time options to accommodate students who may be working or have other commitments. Part-time programs may take longer to complete, often extending the duration to five or more years.

Are there any additional certifications or specializations in acupuncture?

Yes, after becoming a licensed acupuncturist, some professionals choose to pursue additional certifications or specializations in areas such as sports acupuncture, pediatric acupuncture, or Chinese herbal medicine. These postgraduate studies can vary in duration depending on the specific focus.

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