Educational requirements for acupuncturists

In order to be eligible for licensure, an acupuncturist must complete an accredited graduate-level degree program in Acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine, pass three rigorous national certification examinations administered by the National Certification Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), pass written and practical portions of the Clean Needle Technique examination administered by the Council on Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, submit proof of malpractice insurance, and be approved for licensure by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.

Graduate-level degree programs in Acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine entail 2800-3400 hours of specialized instruction and extensive supervised clinical practice (3-4 years of full-time study).  A practitioner who has passed the NCCAOM acupuncture examination is entitled to add Dipl. Ac. (Diplomate of Acupuncture) after their name and a practitioner who has passed the NCCAOM herbal examination is entitled to add Dipl. CH (Diplomate of Chinese Herbology) after their name. The highest level of board certification is the Dipl. OM (Diplomate of Oriental Medicine) — practitioners with this designation have passed written and practical examinations on acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and Western biomedicine.

Although some other healthcare professionals (such as medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and chiropractors) have the legal ability to practice acupuncture, it is important to recognize the vast discrepancy between the acupuncture training required of Licensed Acupuncturists versus other health professionals.  In most states, medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy are allowed to practice acupuncture without any training whatsoever in Traditional Chinese Medicine, while chiropractors are required to complete only 100 hours of training (usually completed over the course of several weekends).  Unfortunately, the limited training of other healthcare professionals in acupuncture often leads to a “cookbook” approach to treatment.  Although this approach may bring about some benefits, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine only reaches its fullest degree of effectiveness when it is practiced by an individual with extensive training in the detailed and subtle system of TCM diagnosis and treatment.

For more on this topic, please read this article (written by a physician) — Abbreviated Courses in Acupuncture for Physicians Pose a Serious Problem.