Having a career as an acupuncturist can be very rewarding. With more people back to nature now and choose traditional medical treatment, a job as an acupuncturist is quite promising in the future. However, becoming a professional acupuncturist needs you to have proper training and education. You also need to hold licenses as required by most states in the US. This process will take years to complete and many things to learn. So, how long does it take to become an acupuncturist? And what degree program to take? Below is everything you need to know.
Degree Levels Available
There are some options for degree levels that you can choose to be an acupuncturist. You can select between the master’s degree, doctorate’s degree, or post-graduate certificates. All of those degree programs are available in the schools in the US. Most of the time, master’s degree programs do not require a full bachelor’s degree. A-two years of undergraduate study is what most needed to complete the master’s degree program. This is because many schools in the United States combine both the master’s degree and bachelor’s degree into one program. However, every school comes with different policies and educational programs. So, it is important to check the requirements of admissions first before enrolling in the school. This is to find out whether a bachelor’s degree from a university or a four-year college is required or not. As for the topics you should learn in class, they include Asian bodywork, needle technique, Western medicine, nutrition, acupuncture points, ethics, and practice management. To get hands-on experience, you will also need to work in clinical settings.
How to Become an Acupuncturist
So, how long does it take to become an acupuncturist? Well, you need to keep in mind that becoming a professional acupuncturist will need higher education that is combined with practical experience. Most of the time, it takes about 3 years for students to complete the educational program. However, it can take four years if you join additional classes for herbology and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Since most of the programs are designed for working adults, the classes are usually conducted on Saturday and two evenings a week. The curriculum that students must complete usually consists of:
- 47-semester credits at a minimum in Oriental medical theory, treatment techniques, diagnosis as well as other related studies.
- 660 hours or 22-semester credits in clinical training.
- 450 hours or 30-semester credits in biomedical clinical sciences.
- 90 hours or 6 semester credit hours in practice management, ethics, communication skills, and counseling.
To have proper education and training to be a professional acupuncturist, you have to inquire about the program of your interest directly. This is because most schools in the United States start to require more than the minimum requirements stated above. You also need to know that schools with minimum requirements in education tend to offer a lower quality program for students. In this way, make sure to consider the benefits of each program as well as the cost needed.
Master’s Degree Program for Acupuncturists
Joining a master of science in an Acupuncture degree program, things you will learn include coursework and clinical experiences. The courses you might find in the coursework of Master of Science Degree and Bachelor of Professional Studies in Health Science/ Acupuncture include:
- Channel and Points I and II (year 1)
- Fundamental Theory of Oriental Medicine (year 1)
- Asian Bodywork-Amma/ Tui Na/ Shiatsu (year 1)
- Eastern and Western Nutrition (year 2)
- Medical Ethics (year 2)
- Acupuncture Techniques I and II (year 2)
- Internal Medicine I and II (year 3)
- Japanese Acupuncture Diagnostic Methods (year 3)
- Practice Management (year 3)
Doctoral Degree Program for Acupuncturists
Unlike the master’s degree program, the Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degrees do not need to practice. However, if you want to better qualify as an acupuncturist and be the leader in the field, you should earn the doctorate program. It mainly focuses on advanced topics and critical thinking such as the Chinese medical language. Some schools in the United States even provide doctorate programs along with specializations such as family medicine and reproductive health. However, you need to keep in mind that those programs are relatively new. Additionally, many of them are still in the accreditation process.
Certifications Required as an Acupuncturist
Once you hold a degree in acupuncture, you need to continue it by pursuing certification programs. To be a qualified acupuncturist, you need to pass an exam held by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). There are 44 states in the US, including District of Columbia that require acupuncturists who want to practice in their regions to hold this NCCAOM certification. Some of the states will also ask you to have additional requirements. In the remaining states that do not require acupuncturists to have a license, there will be an osteopathic doctor or a medical that supervises you.