How Long Does It Take To Go To Acupuncture School?

Considered as an alternative form of medicine, acupuncture is an ancient form of treatment that has gained popularity in the United States only recently. Although it has been practiced for centuries in China and other parts of Asia, its practice was only legalized in the United States in the 1970s. Now, however, demand for acupuncture has burgeoned that among complementary and alternative medicine therapies, acupuncture is the most commonly requested.

According to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, there are now more than fifty colleges around the country that offers master’s level education in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine which is the entry point for those who wish to become acupuncturists.

Acupuncturists treat patients by correcting the energy imbalance that they experience. Although inserting needles at various points in the body is the most common depiction of acupuncture treatment, it is actually just one of the many remedies that acupuncturists use to normalize the flow of the body’s qi or energy and facilitate healing of a patient. Acupuncture treatment also includes cupping, taking of Chinese herbal infusions, acupressure and performing various Chinese exercises like qi gong or tai chi.

In the United States, aspiring acupuncturists need to undergo the necessary training and licensure so they can give the treatments correctly and safely. Acupuncture programs typically take anywhere from three to four years to finish for a fulltime student and longer for those who study part-time. Students are awarded a master’s degree after successfully finishing the course. As mentioned, the absolute minimum educational requirement for acupuncturists to enter the profession is a master’s degree.

Before anyone can enroll in an acupuncture program, they need to have already completed at least two academic years of college level education. This is equivalent to 60 semester credits or 90 quarter credits. Some acupuncture schools have more stringent requirements and require a bachelor’s degree which takes four years to finish before they are admitted to an acupuncture degree program. Those with equivalent work experience such as those who can present certification that they have obtained training that is the same as those of registered nurses or physician assistants may also be admitted to an acupuncture program.

The Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine revealed that the minimum training that is given to acupuncture students is as follows: Oriental medical theory, diagnosis and treatment techniques in acupuncture and related studies which comprises 47 semester credits; clinical training for 22 semester credits; biomedical clinical sciences which makes up 30 semester credits; and counseling, communication, ethics and practice management which comprises 6 semester credits. Take note that these reflect only the minimum training requirements in an acupuncture curriculum. More acupuncture schools require more training hours for each course.

Acupuncturists need to be licensed in order to practice their profession in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Although each state generally sets its own requirements for licensure, most of them accept the examinations administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) as a way for acupuncturists to obtain their license. The NCCAOM typically requires that acupuncturists obtain their degree from accredited acupuncture programs before they can take the licensure tests.

Career Spotlight: Acupuncturist

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