Education & Training for Acupuncturists

Acupuncturists are trained in anatomy, physiology, and many other areas of science and medicine. They have comprehensive knowledge about the nervous system (i.e., central nervous system and peripheral nervous system) and the vascular system (i.e., deep vascular system and superficial vascular system) and understand the mechanism of action between insertion of acupuncture needles and the reactions of body tissues and nerves.

Education and training in acupuncture takes several years. Acupuncturists undergo training in a number of different areas, including acupuncture treatment, clinical acupuncture, diagnosis and evaluation, needle placement, stimulation techniques, and sterilization procedures.

In the United States, there are a number of accredited schools that offer education and training programs in acupuncture. These programs usually take about 4 years to complete. After successful completion of an acupuncture program, students are awarded a Master of Science in Acupuncture. A few schools also offer advanced education and training, leading to a doctorate degree in acupuncture. To practice acupuncture in the United States, students must then take and pass a state licensing examination.

Medical doctors and other candidates for certification in medical acupuncture (e.g., osteopathic physicians, dentists) must meet specific requirements in education, training, and experience. They must hold a valid, unrestricted license to practice medicine; must complete at least 300 hours of education and clinical training in an acupuncture program approved by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM); and must have 2 years of experience in medical acupuncture.

Standards for medical acupuncturists are maintained by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture (ABMA). Once a physician has completed these requirements, he or she is considered "board eligible" in acupuncture. The doctor then has 2 years to successfully pass an examination administered by the ABMA to achieve acupuncture certification. Continuing medical education (CME) is strongly encouraged for medical acupuncturists.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 13 Sep 2009

Last Modified: 08 Oct 2015