How to become an acupuncturist | AANMC

How to Become Certified in Acupuncture and Why

Acupuncture is a growing field of therapeutic treatment that many people seek out for a variety of health issues, including both physical ailments and to improve mental wellness. If you are interested in a career in integrative medicine and want a rewarding career where you can directly help people every day, becoming certified in acupuncture may be for you. Here are the basics that you need to know about why and how to become an acupuncturist. In some jurisdictions, naturopathic doctors can provide acupuncture under their ND license, and in other areas, they may choose to receive additional training to provide this service.

Many students choose dual ND (naturopathic doctor)/LAc (licensed acupuncturist) programs so that they can practice both naturopathic medicine and acupuncture after graduating.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Many people know a little about acupuncture but do not understand exactly how it works. Acupuncture is one component of the robust Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system. It is an ancient practice that is based on the concept of balancing Qi or life energy by stimulating certain meridians through points on the body that are thought to be connected to the internal organs. Acupuncture has been practiced for over 3000 years, but in recent years, modern science has uncovered the mechanism behind acupuncture, and why it works as a treatment.

During a session, needles are inserted into specific points in the body and manipulated. When a needle is inserted into the skin, the surrounding flesh constricts around the needle and “grasps” it. This response produces a mechanical signal that triggers a biochemical signal which is capable of causing a number of effects, including gene expression changes, nervous system pathway activation, modification of extracellular matrix composition, and protein synthesis.

How Can Acupuncture Treatment Help People?

The effects of acupuncture have been demonstrated, through extensive research, to be beneficial in a broad range of health concerns. Acupuncture is commonly used to address addiction, pain management, and gastrointestinal diseases such as IBS, IBD, dyspepsia, and gastroesophageal reflux. Some people also seek out acupuncture to help with asthma, anxiety and depression, endometriosis, and a myriad of other medical issues. Acupuncture is rapidly becoming a more widely used wellness practice and many people have integrated it into part of their regular self-care routine in the same way that they might go to regular massage appointments or physiotherapy.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Acupuncturist?

In order to become a licensed acupuncturist, you need to complete a certified program that includes coursework and practical experience. The length of time will depend on the specific school and program you choose as well as your own personal pace of study, but generally you can expect to spend at least two-three years going to school in order to become licensed to practice acupuncture. Some schools offer only a Master’s degree in acupuncture, while others also have Doctorate programs in acupuncture available, which take more time than a Master’s alone. Many naturopathic doctors study both methods of healing to provide their patients with comprehensive care.

Studying Acupuncture Alongside Naturopathic Medicine

Some schools offer dual acupuncture/naturopathic medicine programs which allow students to study both fields simultaneously and graduate with the ability to practice both acupuncture and naturopathic medicine. Many people choose this route because it allows them to provide patients with two separate but complementary treatment options.

Educational Institutions with Certified Acupuncture Programs

The following AANMC schools offer accredited acupuncture programs either alongside or as part of a naturopathic medicine program. Note that acupuncture can be practiced as a naturopathic doctor in a number of jurisdictions. When choosing which school to attend, look into the specifics of each program offered and consider how each one would fit in with your particular lifestyle, timeline, location, and preferences.