What does it Take to become an Acupuncturist?
An acupuncturist performs therapy with tiny needles to relieve pain and stress. Acupuncture is applied to different parts of the body and is believed to remedy certain areas. It is commonly used for weight loss and as a treatment for allergies, migraines, and back pain. Acupuncture is also sometimes recommended as a part of treatment plans to provide pain relief among cancer patients.
Before they carry out their services, acupuncturists evaluate the needs and preferences of their patients to develop treatment plans which adhere to company policies and applicable laws and regulations. They need to be confident in creating unique plans for each patient. It is also important for acupuncturists to have strong people skills in order to communicate well with patients and resolve all concerns.
What Type of Training is Required to become an Acupuncturist?
In order to become an acupuncturist in the United States, you can study acupuncture at any institute that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which is recognized and certified by the US Department of Education as an authority in the field.
To apply to an accredited acupuncture school, you must complete a minimum of two years of study at the baccalaureate level. A bachelor’s degree is required in many schools. Students from all educational backgrounds are often welcomed at acupuncture schools, which means that even if you have not studied medicine, you can still pursue a career in acupuncture.
As a student in an acupuncture program, you will take courses in Oriental medical theory, Oriental herbal studies, diagnosis and treatment techniques, integrated acupuncture and holistic herbal clinical training apart from biomedical clinical sciences. You will also be taught how to successfully manage and run an acupuncture practice and also communicate with different types of clients.
If you successfully complete your acupuncture program, you will graduate with a master’s degree which is the minimum educational qualification that is required to practice in most states.
Are there Licensure or Certification Requirements?
In the United States, with the exception of 6 states, acupuncturists need to obtain a license to practice. The state of California has its own acupuncture licensing examination, but in the remaining states, acupuncturists are required to either complete the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certification program or pass certain NCCAOM examinations.
To get certification from the NCCAOM, you need to graduate from an ACAOM-accredited program, complete a clean needle technique course that is offered by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCOAM) and pass certification examinations in the foundations of acupuncture, Oriental medicine, and biomedicine. Candidates who complete the certification become known by the term ‘NCCAOM Diplomates.’
In each state, the scope of what Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac.) may do in their practice is clearly defined. You should also note that an acupuncturist who is licensed to practice in one state may not be able to do so in other states.
What is the Duration of an Acupuncture Program?
A master’s degree program in acupuncture takes 3 years to complete. You can begin the process of getting certification from the NCCAOM in the final year of your program.
How much does an Acupuncturist Earn?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data on acupuncturists’ employment and earnings, making it difficult to determine what the average practitioner earns each year. According to the CCAOM, certified acupuncturists earn between $30,000 and $60,000 each year. However, this data is challenged by the National Guild of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NGAOM) and it suggests that a large number of acupuncturists are underemployed.
When it comes to an acupuncturists’ salary, experience and geography play an important role, with geography having the largest influence. Nearly 1 in 3 acupuncturist report receiving medical coverage from their employers and nearly 1 in 5 collect dental insurance.
What are the Job Prospects?
According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), more people are turning to acupuncture to treat a variety of ailments and diseases. NCCAM’s 2007 National Health Interview Survey showed that an additional 1 million people reported using acupuncture treatment as compared to the survey in 2002.
This data suggests that employment prospects for acupuncturists should be on the rise. However, the NGAOM argues that opportunities for acupuncturists are limited as the majority of them work independently in private practice.
Prospects for career advancement in the field of acupuncture are unclear as the role of acupuncturists in mainstream medicine is still evolving. Some may be successful in private practice and seek additional education and training at the doctorate level.
A promising career path for acupuncturists is to offer their services as a part of an integrative medical team and provide assistance in treating diseases such as cancer. While evidence for this type of practice is limited, many healthcare providers are making a transition toward the integrative model in order to provide holistic support to their patients.
If you are interested in providing treatment for various diseases and conditions and are cordial and personable, a career in acupuncture may be the right path to take. It is an interesting field that comes with many rewards, including helping people deal with pain and discomfort that makes their lives difficult. And it is rewarding to help people put that behind them.