Acupuncture Master's and Training: Degrees at a Glance
You can train for a career as an acupuncturist and prepare for state licensing (where required) through a master's degree program, and you may further your training through continuing education options. Acupuncture programs feature coursework and clinical training in the principles of acupuncture, Oriental medicine (like herbology), anatomy and physiology.
Employment options include private practice or collaborative work with physicians, chiropractors or mental health professionals. Some states require acupuncturists to be licensed; some states require National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certification as part of the licensing qualifications. Voluntary NCCAOM certification requires graduation from an Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM)-accredited program to qualify for the certification exam.
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals who want a career working as an acupuncturist||People who want to develop more advanced skills in acupuncture|
|Common Career Paths (with approx. median annual salary)*|| - Licensed acupuncturist ($36,000)*|
- Chiropractor ($47,500)*
-Credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselor ($43,500)*
|- Career paths are typically the same|
|Time to Completion||3-4 years||Varies from a day to several weeks or months|
|Common Graduation Requirements|| -Approximately 2,200-3,000 contact hours of instruction |
|Prerequisites||Associate's or bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree or master's degree, depending on the course; state license may be required|
|Online Availability||Some courses are available||Yes|
Source: *PayScale.com (September 2012).
Master's Degree in Acupuncture
The curriculum of a Master of Science in Acupuncture, Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine or Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine degree program is typically characterized by a combination of classroom and clinical learning. While the program generally takes 3-4 years to complete, if you are already a practicing Western medicine professional, like a physician, nurse or chiropractor, you may be able to enter with advanced standing and graduate in three years or fewer. Some programs are offered part-time to accommodate working professionals; you might be able to take classes during the evening or on weekends. Acupuncture programs may be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).
Pros and Cons of a Master's Degree in Acupuncture
- You will be able to develop treatment plans for patients who have a variety of medical conditions.
- You'll be able to treat patients with a holistic approach that cares for the whole patient.
- You will be able to practice in a variety of health care settings, including hospitals and clinics.
- Working with patients who have serious or chronic conditions could be stressful.
- If you work independently as an acupuncturist, you will need to do all of your administrative work in addition to treating patients.
- You may need to work evenings or weekends to accommodate clients' schedules.
You'll study traditional Oriental philosophies of health and healing, such as yin and yang, qi, acupuncture meridians, acupuncture points, Eastern dietary therapy and herbal medicine, as well as general principles of chemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, pathologies, nutrition and medical terminology. Herbal medicine and cadaver labs may be required. After passing an exam, supervised clinical training is typically undertaken. You may earn clinical experience through your school's clinical site and a formal internship. Programs also generally prepare students for licensing exams. You may study:
- Chinese herbology
- Human physiology
- Clinical skills
- Acupuncture energetics
- Asian bodywork basics
- Basics of Qi Gong
Online Course Info
Online master's degree programs in acupuncture are not very common because so much of the learning comes through observation and hands-on practice, but you can find a wide range of acupuncture courses online on a variety of related topics, such as nutrition or health and wellness coaching. Some programs may be intended for working healthcare professionals able to arrange for their own physician supervision. Currently, there are no ACAOM-accredited online or distance learning acupuncture programs.
Getting Ahead with this Degree
Some acupuncture programs offer business classes. If you intend to open your own practice or perform acupuncture independently, you may benefit from these courses in record keeping, business ethics, marketing, practice management and legal aspects of operating an acupuncture practice.
Training in Acupuncture
Acupuncturists seeking additional training may enroll in continuing education programs, some of which may be approved by NCCAOM. These training opportunities may be provided by acupuncture and Oriental medicine schools, continuing education providers or professional organizations or associations.
You can enroll in continuing education courses to enhance your knowledge and acupuncture skills in a variety of subjects such as nutrition, fertility and medicinal herbs or health and safety topics like blood-borne pathogens and clean needle techniques or how to avoid inadvertently collapsing a patient's lung through acupuncture. Continuing education units may be required for you to maintain state licensing.
Course requirements can vary widely depending on the training provider and how the course is offered. You may listen to lectures, participate in hands-on learning or class discussions or complete coursework independently. You may have to take a quiz or exam at the end of the training. Some common continuing education course topics include:
- Medicinal herbs
- Treatment strategies
- Women's health
Pros and Cons of Training in Acupuncture
- Continuing education courses may accommodate acupuncturists' work schedules and often take place on the weekend.
- You can study specific topics in acupuncture that were not covered in a master's degree program.
- Developing your expertise in specialties in acupuncture can help grow your acupuncture practice.
- Classes may only last a day or a weekend, so you might not go in-depth into a topic.
- Continuing education courses may not have the same quality as a master's degree program.
- It may be difficult to afford to pay for additional training after completing a master's degree program.
- Some programs are only available online or only available in-person.
Online Course Info
Online courses in acupuncture are available in a wide range of topics, including herbal medicine, ethics and treatment of the immune system. Online classes, which enable students to complete all coursework at home, provide flexibility for students with work and family commitments. Technology requirements may vary.
Getting Ahead with this Training
If you hold voluntary NCCAOM certification, you'll need to regularly complete professional development activities to maintain your credential; these continuing education options may fulfill that obligation. Professional associations that confer specialized acupuncture certifications also typically require continued training to maintain the credential.