Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.
The intent of acupuncture therapy is to promote health and alleviate pain and suffering. The method by which this is accomplished, though it may seem strange and mysterious to many, has been time tested over thousands of years and continues to be validated today.
The perspective from which an acupuncturist views health and sickness hinges on concepts of "vital energy," "energetic balance" and "energetic imbalance." Just as the Western medical doctor monitors the blood flowing through blood vessels and the messages traveling via the nervous system, the acupuncturist assesses the flow and distribution of this "vital energy" within its pathways, known as "meridians and channels".
About 40 states have established training standards for acupuncture certification, but states have varied requirements for obtaining a license to practice acupuncture. The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine accredits acupuncture schools in the United States. The accredited programs confer primarily master’s-level certificates, diplomas, or degrees. Some schools offer programs that grant a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree. Programs vary in length and specialty, but most take 3 or 4 years, including summers, of study and clinical experience.
Coursework include both commonly taught subjects—such as anatomy, biophysics, and nutrition—and those exclusive to instruction in traditional Oriental medicine—such as acupuncture, herbology, and needle technique. Clinical experience comprises observation, assistantships, and internships. Each State has its own licensing standards. As a basis for their licensure rules, 40 States and the District of Columbia use an exam administered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Applicants for Commission certification must be at least 18 years old and have fulfilled formal training and experience requirements, agreed to a code of ethics, passed the Commission’s comprehensive written and point-location exams, and completed a course in clean-needle technique.
Tips on How to Become an Acupuncturist:
Tip #1: Receive Acupuncture Treatments. Seeing might be believing, but when it comes to acupuncture, experiencing is knowing. You do not have to be sick to benefit from acupuncture. Many people receive regular treatments to maintain overall health and as preventive medicine. Others use acupuncture for pain, insomnia, stress, allergies, headaches, and a variety of other conditions. Tell your acupuncturist you are interested in becoming an Acupuncturist and he or she can provide a treatment and information to help you make your decision. Plus then you can brag to your friends that you got Acupuncture!
Tip #2: Talk to Acupuncture Students, Graduates, and Professional Acupuncturists. All of these people will give you a different perspective on the process of becoming an acupuncturist. Students will inform you about the academic, clinical, and financial work load. Graduates will tell you about the challenges of starting your own practice. Professional Acupuncturists will share their humble and joyful experiences with helping patients achieve health and wellness, even when all western medical treatments had been tried first. Helping someone get well is the greatest feeling in the world!
Tip #3: Graduate from an undergraduate college. You do not necessarily have to major in biology or any of the hardcore sciences. Many acupuncture students were psychology, English, computer science, or sociology majors. Although an undergraduate degree is not absolutely required to attend many Acupuncture Colleges, it is still highly recommended. Get a copy of your undergraduate transcript so you know exactly how many credits you have in each class you completed.
Tip #4: Think seriously about where you want to set up your acupuncture practice. As unbelievable as it sounds, Acupuncture is not legal in every state. Currently there are about 8 states that either have pending legislation or none at all. Every state has different licensing requirements. If you are flexible then this is not really an issue, but if you have your heart set on living in Delaware (for instance), where acupuncturists do not have any legal protection, other than to practice with a "supervising" MD, then you may want to rethink your strategy.
Tip #5: Attend an Accredited Acupuncture College. There are approximately 50 Accredited Acupuncture Colleges in the US offering certification in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AOM), also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). AOM and TCM include the practice of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, and Asian Bodywork, but colleges will differ on their emphasis and course requirements. Most Acupuncture Colleges are 3 or 4 years in length and offer a Masters Degree in Acupuncture and/or Oriental Medicine.
Tip #6: Get Board Certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). After you graduate from an accredited Acupuncture College you can take a test through the NCCAOM to get Board Certified. This test is recognized as the certification requirement for most states that have legal practice guidelines for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. The exception is the state of California, which has it's own state Board Certification exam and requirements to practice. If you are thinking of establishing your acupuncture practice in California, be sure to look up their specific requirements, including which Acupuncture Schools offer acceptable degrees.
Tip #7: Study Acupuncture Practice Management, Marketing, and Business Success Principles. As an Acupuncturist you have the opportunity to be a Business Owner, Solo-Practitioner, and Entrepreneur. In other words, you get to be your own boss! Where many Acupuncturists fail, however, is in rejecting the business opportunities and focusing entirely on the healing principles and techniques. These are important, but if you do not have a successful acupuncture practice you can not provide Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to people who need and want it.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Office (BLS Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, stated that in 2008 there were approximately 65,000 health diagnosing and treating practitioners with an expected job growth of 12 percent. According to the BLS, there is an increasing demand for alternative health care practitioners, such as acupuncturists. Acupuncture treatments are increasingly covered by insurance. As with doctors, advancement comes with building a practice. Acupuncturists work in comfortable offices that must be kept quiet and clean. They can usually set their own hours. Some work late on certain evenings for the convenience of their patients. A few work in hospitals or clinics.
Duties and Tasks Include: