'Tell Me More About Acupuncture School' – MAS Responds
Our front desk workers and acu-punks in Manchester and Nashua field their share of acupuncture-related questions on any given day, as you might imagine. Many questions about acupuncture school have been posed to us throughout the years. We thought we'd give an attempt at a semi-comprehensive answer in writing for those who are curious. Just like we have attempted to do in the little Q & A book, 'Why Did You Put That Needle There?', we promise to be casual and direct with our answers here.
Let's offer up general information about acupuncture training programs and acupuncture licensing, in order to set the table. Specific questions follow, down below.
Requirements for accredited school of acupuncture training programs are set forth by a regulatory body who oversees secondary education for acupuncture and Chinese medicine in the United States. This body is called ACAOM (Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine)
All acupuncture training programs take place within accredited schools of learning, or schools that are in the process of gaining accreditation.
Programs are 3 to 4 years in length.
Prerequisites for most acupuncture training programs include, anatomy and physiology, general and abnormal psychology and biology, among others.
Most acupuncture training programs require completion of at least two years of baccalaureate level classes. The state of NH, it may be worth mentioning, requires a full bachelor's degree, in addition to the Master's in Acupuncture and passing of the Boards (more on that below).
All acupuncture training programs consist of two main parts: classroom learning and clinical observation/practice.
Upon graduation from an accredited program, students earn a 'Masters' in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
Like the Bar exam for lawyers or the Boards for doctors, acupuncturists must pass a comprehensive multi-day examination upon graduation. This exam is proctored by the NCCAOM. Once the exam is passed, the graduate is free to apply for licensure in whichever state one hopes to practice within.
Licensing for acupuncture is legislated state to state. Requirements can differ widely between states. The title given to licensed acupuncturists can also differ state to state. For example, those licensed to practice acupuncture in Florida or Rhode Island are given the designation of 'Dr. of Acupuncture'. Most states who licensed acupuncturists offer the designation of 'Licensed acupuncturist' (L.Ac.). This is the case in New Hampshire.
Licenses will normally expire in two years and require multiple hours of continuing education in order to keep up to date. Some states, including New Hampshire, also require continued affiliation with NCCAOM.
Okay, now on to specific questions.
Where are the acupuncture training programs located?
Answer: Schools of acupuncture and Oriental medicine exist around the country. The closest to New Hampshire at this point is the New England School of Acupuncture which is now part of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Studiesprogram located in Worcester, Massachusetts. Others in the Northeast are located in New York State. Many more still operate in various states outside of New England.
How much do the programs cost?
Answer: A whole lot of money at this point. Costs for these programs have risen dramatically over the last 20 years mirroring the increase in cost for higher education in general. One can expect to spend at least $80-$100,000 for a complete 3-4 year program.
Take note, prospects for work after graduation remaining limited for licensed acupuncturists. We will say more on this topic below.
Are there any programs you would recommend?
Answer: MAS has a close affiliation with an accredited school of acupuncture training called POCA Tech, which is located in Portland, Oregon. POCA Tech (pocatech.org) is the training program for POCA, The People's Organization of Community Acupuncture – a cooperate we helped found. A strong piece of the program is dedicated to teaching the socio-economic factors that inform the philosophical bedrock for clinics like MAS. The POCA Tech program also maintains a fundamental promise to its students to provide comprehensive training at a fraction of the cost that other acupuncture training programs do. The cost for the POCA Tech 3-4 year training is currently $25,000.
All in all, we do recommend training at POCATech.
So what happens after graduation and licensing is complete? Where would one find jobs as a licensed acupuncturist?
Answer: This is a great question that has been shrouded in mystery for far too long within the acupuncture profession and world of Chinese medical education. It is a poorly kept secret within the acupuncture profession that many recently-graduated students of acupuncture are completely out of the business within as little as five years of graduation. The reasons for this are multi-faceted, but big pieces involve the following, from our point of view:
1) The majority of available work for acupuncturists involves becoming self-employed and running one's own practice. As you may imagine, managing the birth of a small business while navigating the obligations of considerable student loans can be a difficult road. We can tell you from personal experiences that finding financial stabilization as small business owners is a challenge.
2) Positions that are available to licensed acupuncturists that make us legitimate W-2 employees (vs. independant contractors) are limited in number. Thankfully, a large percentage of these positions are currently being offered through community acupuncture clinics like MAS. Scant others are available in a few, but a slowly growing number of health care institutions around the country. The Veterans Administration and select hospital programs, among them.
The reality of the newly graduated licensed acupuncturist is a field of limited opportunities. One does not simply open the want ads to look for work as a licensed acupuncturist!
Now, having offered this information and our honest opinions on the state of education and potential employment for licensed acupuncturists, we would also like to encourage anyone interested in pursuing education for acupuncture and Chinese medicine to do so. We would only like for you to have your eyes wide open while you do.
The world of work using acupuncture and Chinese medicine is humbling, quite deep and wide, endlessly fascinating and satisfying.
Anyone who has gotten the call to study should seriously consider the vocation. And, three cheers for more people getting access to acupuncture!
Please feel free to speak with any of our acupuncturists as part of your initial investigation, if you are inclined. We'd be happy to continue this honest exchange of information.
- Andy Wegman and the MAS Staff
For a bit more information on the greater topic of acupuncture education, please consider the following websites:
If you are still interested in practicing acupuncture, but not quite sure you are ready to devote 4 years of your life, there is another option to consider. In the state of New Hampshire qualified individuals including peer counselors, recovery coaches, and other health professionals can be trained as "Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists" under RSA 328 Section G9a.
An Acupuncture Detoxification Specialist is trained in Acupuncture Detox, a standardized 5 point ear acupuncture protocol known as the NADA protocol. NADA is used for the purposes of treating all stages of recovery from substance use disorder, stress, anxiety, trauma, anything related to behavioral health. Training is roughly 70 hours. For more information about training you can contact The National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA).
In addition, POCA has initiated a training program for the NADA protocol as well. For more information, please visit this page on the POCA site.
Posted in Acupuncture Blog