Prospective acupuncturists can pursue master's and doctoral degrees in majors such as acupuncture and oriental medicine. Because acupuncture is generally a graduate degree program, students will need to have attained undergraduate degrees in order to gain admittance. While every state administers its own acupuncturist licensure requirements, a common standard is a certification issued via the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Prerequisites include a bachelor's degree in a wellness-related field and online courses are available. Most programs require clinical or internship experiences, as well as a licensing exam and some also require transcripts highlighting specific coursework.
Master's Degree Programs in Acupuncture
There are two common master's degree programs developed for aspiring acupuncturists: the Master of Science in Acupuncture (MSA) and the Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MSAOM). In addition to courses in acupuncture techniques, students in MSAOM degree programs are usually taught theoretical, physiological, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
These programs can take about three to six years to complete. After graduation, students should be prepared and eligible to take the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exam. The results of this test provide the foundation for most states' licensing requirements.
Acupuncture master's degree programs generally seek candidates who hold a bachelor's degree in a wellness-related field. Some may accept applicants who have completed a specified minimum amount of credits from an accredited institute of higher learning.
The coursework in most master's degree programs in acupuncture usually includes anatomy and nutrition courses along with TCM focused classes like herbology and massage. As students' progress toward graduation, they are traditionally required to fulfill a specified amount time in clinical assistantships and internships. These opportunities provide students with hands-on, supervised training opportunities in the application of the theories and methods learned in the classroom. Examples of classes commonly found in these master's degree programs include:
- Introduction to TCM practices and procedures, including herbal therapeutics
- Fundamentals of Western nutrition and clinical sciences
- Herbal therapeutics found in TCM
- Introductory courses in biophysics, physiology and organic chemistry
- Principles of counseling and practice management
- Acupuncture techniques, therapeutics and practices
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Doctoral Degree Programs in Acupuncture
Acupuncturists who are searching for ways to increase their knowledge and develop further TCM and Western medicine practices can apply for admittance to a doctoral degree program. Licensed acupuncturists who earn a doctoral degree are generally qualified for researching and teaching positions.
Prospective students seeking admittance to a doctoral degree program in acupuncture degree program are normally required to hold a master's degree in acupuncture and TCM or its equivalent prior to applying to the program. Official transcripts that show the applicant's credentials and formal training history in Oriental and herbal medicine are also potential program prerequisites.
Doctoral degree programs in acupuncture normally take about two years to complete and tend to be composed of nearly equal amounts of clinical and didactic training. Common classes in these programs can include:
- Research practices in acupuncture and TCM
- TCM and Western reproductive medicine practices
- Diagnosis and pathophysiology of pain and pain management
- Advanced Oriental medicine and herbal prescription coursework
- Acupuncture therapeutics and management of herbs and formulas
The majority of graduates from doctoral-level acupuncture degree programs become acupuncturists, TCM practitioners, or educators of TCM. Some of the other occupations that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states are similar to this field, (but require additional training and certification), include the following:
- Massage therapist
- Physical therapist
- Athletic trainer
- Occupational therapist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not publish statistics specifically on acupuncturists, but projects job growth of 17%, faster than the average for all occupations, for health diagnosing and treating practitioners in general from 2014-2024. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $74,710 for health diagnosing and treating practitioners in general as of May 2015.
The Master of Science in Acupuncture (MSA), Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MSAOM), and the Ph.D. program in acupuncture all provide a foundation for aspiring acupuncturists through coursework and hands-on training. Licensure and professional certification may be required.