Although online degree programs in Oriental medicine are unavailable, a small number of colleges offer online graduate certificate programs in herbal medicine. Students can also find distance learning degree programs in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Those interested in pursuing oriental medicine careers may consider an on-campus Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program instead. Oriental medicine programs include clinical rotations and laboratory work. Important prerequisites include a bachelor's degree and coursework in biology, chemistry, psychology, anatomy, and physiology. Other majors that have oriental medicine courses include alternative medicine, alternative and complementary health, and nutrition and integrative health.
According to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM), professional licensure or certification is required in 42 states, and graduation from an ACAOM-accredited program is typically required to earn a certificate or license.
Master's Degree in Oriental Medicine
Master's degree programs are generally available as a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (MSAOM). These programs provide students with the historical foundations of traditional Chinese medicine. Students learn the theories and techniques necessary to assess and diagnose patients. They explore the clinical approaches used in oriental medicine to treat illnesses and maintain patient health. They utilize herbal medicine and acupuncture as treatment modalities.
Information and Requirements
Applicants typically must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Most institutions require students to have completed prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, psychology, anatomy and physiology. A typical curriculum requires intensive, hands-on participation in the classroom and in a laboratory or clinical setting; therefore, these programs are not available online. A master's degree program generally can be completed in three years.
Common Courses in Oriental Medicine
Master's students examine traditional Chinese medicine practices and applications. Additionally, they investigate the legal and ethical requirements of oriental medicine and acupuncture.
Fundamentals of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Students are introduced to the basic theories and applications of traditional Chinese medicine and its relationship with modern American medical practice. Areas of study include an examination of acupuncture, tuina, qi gong and Chinese herbs.
Counseling Patients with Chronic and Terminal Pain
Techniques and skills used by oriental medicine clinicians to counsel patients is the focus of this course. Particular emphasis is placed on offering emotional, social and behavioral assistance to patients and their families. Students develop an understanding of the role of counseling in an overall treatment program.
Acupuncture Techniques for Pain Management
In this course, students examine and hone the needling techniques commonly used for pain management. They learn techniques such as penetrated and therapeutic acupuncture.
Certificate in Herbal Medicine
Certificate programs in herbal medicine and traditional Chinese nutrition are available through distance learning, although they are extremely rare. Working professionals in the Oriental medicine field, as well as interested students, can receive specialized education in the application of herbal medicine. Areas of study include the toxic profiles and mechanisms of herb-herb and herb-drug interactions, basic concepts of Chinese nutrition and the practical use of medicinal plants.
Information and Requirements
Applicants are generally required to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Institutions award students a certificate upon completion of a program; others will provide Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to licensed professionals in order to maintain their license. Students typically can complete a certificate programs in one year or less.
A computer and Internet connection are required to access online learning platforms. Students may need access to a headset or audio equipment for online lectures and communication. Additionally, a printer may be required to create hard copies of assignments and exams.
Common Courses in a Herbal Medicine
Students examine the use of herbs in the treatment of illnesses and the promotion of wellness. They gain knowledge of the philosophies and theories that guide the administration of herbal medicine.
Fundamentals of Herbal Medicine
In this course, students develop an understanding of the use of herbs in medicinal therapy. They examine the basic therapeutic actions of a variety of common botanicals.
Use of Herbs in Daily Life
The examination of how herbs are integrated into a daily lifestyle is covered in this course. Areas of study include the use of herbs in cooking, growing herbs in a garden and the storage of herbs for future use.
Plant Identification and Functionality
This course provides an overview of the anatomy, physiology and ecology of medicinal plants. Topics of discussion include plant classification, functions of cells and the biological processes that result in the production of medicinal compounds.
Career Information for Graduates
Graduates of a master's degree program are generally qualified to pursue opportunities such as a licensed acupuncturist or Chinese medicine clinician. As of 2019, the median annual salary for a licensed acupuncturist was $54,051, as reported by PayScale.com. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not publish job growth projections specifically for licensed acupuncturists or Chinese medicine clinicians as of 2019, the BLS did project job growth for health diagnosing and treating practitioners in general of 13%, much faster than the average for all occupations, from 2018-2028.
Certificate holders typically have the qualifications necessary to become an herbalist. According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary of an herbalist was nearly $36,000 in 2019.
Courses in topics relative to oriental medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine are available as Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for health care professionals to maintain their licenses. Most states require licensees to complete 15 CEUs per year. Online courses are available at some universities; however, they are rare.
Although a degree in oriental medicine is not available online, students can obtain graduate certificates in this discipline, or degrees in Traditional Chinese Medicine, in online and distance learning settings. Students who specifically want degrees in oriental medicine should seek on-campus master's degrees or majors that include oriental medicine as part of the coursework.