Different health issues such as headaches, anxiety, depression, addiction, fertility, and back pain have been treated for hundreds of years through acupuncture, which involves the use of sterile needles in various pressure points on the body. Acupuncture treatments are only allowed to be performed by licensed healthcare professionals that have an in depth understanding of anatomy and bodily systems. State licensing and a graduate degree in acupuncture are needed to secure an entry level job in this field.
Recommendations and Training Requirements
Students applying for admission to an acupuncture program need to have a background in neurobiology, psychology, biology or medicine. This requirement is due to the fact that aspiring acupuncturists need an in-depth understanding of the human body and the physiological effects of the treatment that the alternative medicine can have on the body. An undergraduate degree is the minimum requirement for admission to an acupuncture program; however, as bachelor degrees are not commonly offered, most applicants admitted possess a master degree. CPR certification, current hepatitis B tests and tuberculosis skin tests are also required as enrolled candidates are expected to take part in internships, in clinical settings. Other general admission requirements include GRE scores, a letter of recommendation and an essay. Acupuncture training program ideal candidate is required to demonstrate exceptional motor, communication, and observation skills, have compassion for others and be comfortable working independently.
An acupuncturist’s training begins with a master degree that typically takes three to four years to complete. State licensure usually depends on the completion of an acupuncture training program that carries accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).
Master of Science – Acupuncture
Students enrolled in a master degree program learn how to use acupuncture instruments and apply various treatment methods such as moxibustion, gua sha, needles and cupping. For instance, students are taught how to relax a muscle through a muscle spasm produced by inserting a needle into the correct nerve pathway. This and other techniques are practiced by students during clinical internships under the supervision of licensed professionals. Coursework in the Master of Science in Acupuncture program includes comprehensive coverage of subject areas such as treatments, diagnosis, nutrition, different therapies, western medicine, biochemistry, pathology, herbal medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine.
Work experience garnered by future acupuncturists are mainly through clinical internships in which they are taught by licensed professionals on how to come up with a treatment plan, perform physical examinations, and consult with patients. Interns in the Master of Science in Acupuncture program gain problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills through clinical rotations in areas such as chronic pain, stress and immune disorders. Veterinary offices, private practices, medical centers, hospitals, and health clinics are among the common employers of acupuncturists.
Licenses and Certifications
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certifies acupuncturists and administers licensure examinations. States administer acupuncturist licenses though a majority of states rely on the NCCAOM exams; many states also insist on NCCAOM certification from acupuncturists seeking licensure. Minimum experience requirements are also required to be fulfilled by applicants who seek licensure. NCCAOM certification requirements include an examination, transcripts and completion of an ACAOM-accredited graduation program. Completion of an official clean needle technique certification program is required once a candidate has taken the exam. Once the documents are received and certified, the student is certified as a Diplomate in Acupuncture. Every ten years, students need to be recertified and requirements are a current license in good standing, continuing education courses, recertification examination, and pay a fee.
Seminars and Workshops
An annual conference is hosted by the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.aaaomonline.org) that acupuncture professionals can attend to access networking opportunities with other professionals, lectures from physicians and live demonstrations. A research conference for practitioners is hosted by the Society for Acupuncture Research (www.acupunctureresearch.org) where they educated students on new research findings, effective techniques and strategies for care. Keynote lectures, symposiums and interactive demonstrations are included in the conference.
Other Professional Development
The Acupuncture Today website (www.acupuncturetoday.com) offers an online forum that acupuncture students can use to interact with professionals and other students. Another online resource for discussion and industry news is the Acupuncture Network (www.acupuncturenetwork.org).