Acupuncture Schools, Certifications, and Regulations
As the popularity of alternative medicine grows, larger numbers of people are choosing to start their careers in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. As the number of practitioners has expanded each year, regulation of the field has increased to protect the public and benefit the profession.
Acupuncture Training and Schools
Acupuncture is practiced by individuals who have completed a 3000-hour, four-year Masters Degree in Acupuncture and/or Oriental Medicine. Most programs offer either full-time or part-time study, and include training in Oriental Medicine fundamentals, Acupuncture, Western Medicine, and Clinical training. Many of the programs also include courses in Chinese language and Chinese Herbal Medicine as part of their curriculum. The Masters Degrees include various titles such as Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, Traditional Oriental Medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine from these programs.
There are more than 45 schools in the United States that have been accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). In addition, there are several more schools which are candidates for accreditation. Acupuncture schools are also regulated by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM). CCAOM works to maintain the standard of quality of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine education.
The creation of a Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) was approved by ACAOM in 2004. These programs are offered to working, Masters-level graduates who have earned a license to practice acupuncture, and can be completed in two years. The 1,200 hours of additional training advances the student to over 4,000 hours, on par with Medical Doctor Degrees. Each of these programs offers different specialties, which may include Pain Management, Woman’s Care, and Oncology (Cancer). It is expected that regulations will increase the entry-level practitioner to the Doctorate level in the near future.
Many American acupuncturists augment their training with hospital experience completed in China and other Asian countries. In China, Traditional Chinese Medicine hospitals are focused on providing medical care with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine. These hospitals are fully integrated medical facilities and also contain most of the modern western diagnostic abilities. Experience in China is considered valuable as practitioners commonly treat 40-80 patients per day.
Acupuncture is a regulated profession and each State requires every Acupuncturist to be licensed in the State that they practice. Certification exams are given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and accepted in all states with acupuncture legislation, except California which maintains its
own exam. California currently maintains the highest requirements of training to sit for their board exam, and has the largest number of licensed acupuncturists in their state. Each state requires Continuing Education Units to maintain licensure.
Acupuncturist titles are state-regulated. Common titles include:
- Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.)
- Acupuncture Physician (AP)
- Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM)
- Oriental Medicine Doctor (OMD)
- Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM)
Maryland, Nevada and Oregon were the first states to pass laws regulating Acupuncture in 1973, with many other states
following shortly after. These laws have advanced the level of the practice and improved public safety by licensing practitioners. Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming still have no acupuncture regulation; and only physicians are legally allowed to practice acupuncture in these states.
Some states allow an apprenticeship style of training. Apprenticeship requires that a student has studied under a licensed acupuncturist for a regulated number of hours. The student then becomes eligible to take the board exams. While the law does not require the completion of an internship or residency after the formal schooling and exams, the mentoring of newly licensed acupuncturists by more experienced practitioners is common.
Some acupuncturists have immigrated to the United States from other Asian countries, such as China, Japan, and Korea. These Acupuncturists may have been trained by schools in their own country and therefore may be eligible to be licensed in
the United States after passing the required board examinations. Both the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and the California Acupuncture Board offer their exams in English, Chinese, and Korean languages.
Other professions that are allowed to practice acupuncture, such as veterinary practitioners, have varying levels of training. In order to be certified by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture, a physician must complete 300 hours of training, including 100 clinic hours on the practice of acupuncture.
National Acupuncture Organizations
There are many organizations that exist to promote, educate, and expand the field of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. We have listed several of them below:
State Acupuncture Boards
Each State with acupuncture legislation maintains its own specific laws and regulation on the practice of acupuncture. The links below will connect you to each State’s website.
Acupuncture Schools Listed by State
The following chart lists most of the acupuncture schools in the United States. Each school offers variations in their training programs to fit their own philosophy. This list is comprised of schools with accreditation, candidate programs awaiting accreditation, and non-accredited schools.