Ultimate Guide for Choosing an Acupuncture School

If you’re reading this, then you’ve likely had acupuncture treatments in the past, realized how great Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is, and are now thinking about studying acupuncture.

You’ve probably also started to research acupuncture career information and know that the first step to becoming an acupuncturist is to apply, enroll, and graduate from an acupuncture school.However, every Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) school and degree program is unique, and knowing if a particular AOM college is a good fit for you may be more complex, and important than you think. 

acupuncture-school-merdian-diagramActually, everything about acupuncture seems complex...at first.

For example, should you enroll in a Master’s Program or Doctoral Program? Should you choose a program that emphasizes integrating acupuncture with Western Medicine, or should you choose one that’s rooted in a particular cultural tradition?

We obviously can’t answer those questions for you, but the point I want to emphasize is that deciding which acupuncture school to enroll at is something to take very seriously.

acupuncture-school-is-fun

I say this not because acupuncture school isn’t fun (it’s very fun), but because acupuncture school tuition is expensive and will require a minimum time commitment of 3-4 years of study that may not necessarily lead to the career that you were originally expecting.

Not to mention, that even after graduating from acupuncture school, (like the 3-year Master’s Program offered at our Florida Acupuncture School in Miami, FL), you will still need to take and pass a one or more national board exams before you can even legally apply for a job as an acupuncturist.

florida-acupuncture-schools-guideImagine, you'll know what this means in just 3 years!

If you’re going to spend tons of money on school and time in the classroom, you at least want to make sure that you’re getting the best educational experience you can, at an institution that will help you meet your professional aspirations.

With that said, there are two necessary things that every Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program should have: ACAOM-accreditation and a state-approved curriculum. The reason these two criteria are necessary is that every state that issues a license to practice acupuncture requires them, and we discuss more later on.

choosing-acupuncture-school-florida

Beyond that, finding an acupuncture school that’s a good fit for you will require you to evaluate your interests and career goals. While we can’t do that for you, what we can do is make your school research phase easier.

That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to choosing an acupuncture school.

In it, you'll learn how to choose the right acupuncture school for you, which starts by evaluating your interests in Oriental Medicine and career aspirations as an acupuncturist. After evaluating yourself and your goals, you can start to look for an acupuncture school with a good environment for you, which begins by researching different acupuncture schools online and knowing whether to choose a Master's or Doctoral Program in Oriental Medicine.

After you've researched various Oriental Medicine programs online, you'll need to visit different acupuncture schools to really know if one is a good fit for you. Your visit will begin with a campus tour of the acupuncture school, where you'll experience the school's culture and atmosphere first hand. Ideally, you should sit in an Oriental Medicine class to see what learning is like at the school, and also get an acupuncture treatment at the student clinic. Afterwards, you'll get a chance to speak with an admissions rep and ask him/her any questions you may have.

Regardless of which program or college you're interested in, there are some important details to know about any acupuncture school, including its ACAOM-accreditation status, program approval for state-licensing, job-placement rate, and graduation rate for the program.

By the end of all of this, you will have a good idea of what to look for in an acupuncture school, and you'll be ready to take the next step towards in your career journey by getting a free copy of our acupuncture career guide to learn more about this wonderful profession.

How to Choose The Right Acupuncture School For You

Explore Your Personal Interests in Oriental Medicine and Acupuncturist Career Aspirations

Finding and selecting the right acupuncture school for you will require that you evaluate your career interests and aspirations.

What is it that interests you about acupuncture? Is there a specific application or area of Oriental Medicine that excites you? For example, are you interested in exploring the science of how acupuncture affects grey matter in the brain, or are you more interested in exploring safe alternatives to conventional medicine?

Which kind of environment would you like to work in? Can you see yourself working in an integrative medical setting alongside MDs, or would you rather run your very own acupuncture clinic?

acupuncture-career-aspirations-floridaShe's very happy with her career choice. Are you? 

While these are big questions to ask anyone who’s just beginning to look into acupuncture school, something you can and should do is ask acupuncturists in different job fields for their opinion.

For example, if you’re interested in how acupuncture can aid Western medicine, find an integrative medical clinic, such as the Integrative Medicine Clinic at the University of Florida, and shoot an email to an Acupuncturist there. I bet you that most will be willing to help you out, or point you in a better direction.

Additionally, most acupuncture schools keep up with their alumni, and most admissions representatives can put you in contact with an alumnus that’s working in a field that you’re interested in.

Finding a Good Acupuncture School Environment

School environments can vary greatly. Whereas some schools come off as supportive and professional, others can be unwelcoming and unprofessional.

Keep in mind that it takes 3-4 years to complete an Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree program. That means that you will end up spending several hundred hours at a particular school, interacting with the same people.

happy-acupuncture-school-students-miami-floridaAcupuncture and Massage College Students Love Their Classmates and Professors! 

As such, it’s important to evaluate whether a particular acupuncture school and its environment is a good fit.

An acupuncture school is good fit for you if it has the education and curriculum approach that fits your personal interests in Oriental Medicine, provides you with the resources needed to match your career goals, and has the right environment and school culture to matches your personality.

Not only will choosing the right school for you make your time in school more enjoyable, but ultimately, your career can only be more successful if you find an environment that is conducive to your personality, satisfies your learning interests and is supportive of your professional goals and aspirations.

Research Different Acupuncture Schools and Programs Online

Evaluating whether an acupuncture school or program is a good fit for you begins by gathering information online.

Start by visiting the college’s website. Here, you’ll learn important information about the school, such as campus location, class schedules, accreditation status, job-placement, and tuition costs.

florida-acupuncture-massage-college-review-awesomeYou can learn a lot about a school by how happy it's students are - check out ours!

Additionally, take a look at the school’s social media profiles. What kind of content does that school post? Is it content that promotes the particular culture of the school, or is it mainly random fluff? A good sign to look for on social media is the type of content that makes you think “I can see myself going there.”

Similarly, be sure to read online reviews about any school that interests you. What are people saying about that school? Is it mostly negative or positive? While the occasional bad review is expected, what you want to look out for are trends that indicate something about the culture of the school.

acupuncture-massage-college-review-miami-florida

However, there’s only so much you can find out about an acupuncture school online. To get a true idea as to what a particular school like, you’re going to have to visit them in person. 

But first, you may be uncertain about whether you should enroll a Master's or Doctoral program in Oriental Medicine, so, let's look at that. 

Choose Between a Master’s Degree or Doctorate Program in Oriental Medicine

Early in your acupuncture school research, you should choose between getting a Master’s or Doctorate Program in Oriental Medicine.

Currently, a Master’s degree is the entry-level requirement to become an acupuncturist.

The specific degree title will vary based on the particular school that is issuing it. Some common titles for the Master’s degree include, Master’s of Oriental Medicine, Master’s of Science in Oriental Medicine, and Master’s of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

acupuncture-school-florida-master-phd-degreeHow long do you wish to be in school for?

Some schools also offer doctoral-level programs in Oriental Medicine.

Master’s programs require less total class time to complete and are a good choice for those who want to enter the workforce as practicing acupuncturists as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, doctoral programs are designed to teach Oriental Medicine at a very high-level and focus on advanced academic research and specialization (i.e. Oriental Medicine for Gynecology).

If you’re unsure as to which kind of program is best for you, it is generally recommended that you start with a Master’s program, as you can always transition to a doctoral program later.

Visit Acupuncture Schools of Interest

Unless you find something online that automatically ends your interest in a particular program, it is highly recommended that you visit your acupuncture school(s) of interest prior to applying.

Checking out a school in person will give you a more complete idea of what it’s like; you will get to experience the general vibe of the school, including the campus environment, staff/teacher/student professionalism, teaching style, and curriculum focus.

In fact, visiting an acupuncture school in person is the easiest way to know if it's a good fit for you.

Tour The Acupuncture School Campus

Your college visit will likely begin with a tour of the campus.

Most acupuncture schools are small enough that they allow walk-ins to tour the campus and meet with an admissions representative. However, I recommend that you call ahead of time to schedule your visit. That way, you can ensure that you’re able to sit in on a class and book a treatment at the student clinic.

acupuncture-massage-college-tour-lobbyAcupuncture and Massage College The Coolest Lobby 

Keep in mind that you will be spending a significant portion of your life for the next 3-4 years here, so be sure to pay close attention and be mindful of the school’s environment and campus facilities during your tour.

What are your initial thoughts about the school’s culture? Do the staff and students seem welcoming and friendly, or do they seem disinterested and unprofessional?

acupuncture-massage-college-herb-clinicWe not only have the largest Chinese herbal clinic in Florida, but the friendliest students, too.

How would you describe the school’s environment? Would you say that it’s conducive to learning or are there distractions everywhere?

Sit in on an Oriental Medicine Class

It is highly-recommended that you sit in on a class during your campus visit.

This will give you an idea as to what the learning style and professors are like at that particular school.

amc-college-classroomGreat Class, Great Teacher (Reene), Terrible Photo

Don’t worry if the information is complex (it will be), focus more on the presentation and the student’s engagement. Although, do keep in mind that it’s a college learning environment, so there will always be a level of seriousness there.

When it’s time for a break, feel free to introduce yourself to the professor and ask for any tips or advice about succeeding as a student.

Get an Acupuncture Treatment at the Student Clinic

Since acupuncture school is split between time in the classroom and time in the clinic, it is recommended that you get an acupuncture treatment at the student clinic during your campus visit. This way, you can gauge the culture of the school, as well as see how learning gets applied.

acupuncture-massage-college-clinicWe have the best professors, students, and patients. Don't believe me? Come see for yourself.

For example, does the student intern seem focused and caring or is she apathetic? Feel free to ask the students about her experience at the school.

Also, take note of the clinic rooms. Are they sterile and organized, or do they seem messy? Can you see yourself practicing acupuncture in this environment?

Talking to an Admissions Rep

At some point before or after your campus tour, you’ll get a chance to sit and chat with your admissions rep.

The representative’s main job to provide you with the information you need to help you make an informed and confident decision about enrolling in that particular school or program.

acupuncture-school-admissions

As such, you should feel free to ask any lingering questions you may have about the career field or program. Additionally, the rep is a good person to ask if you wish to contact a current student or recent graduate to get their opinion about the school.

While you undoubtedly have many of your questions to ask, at some point during your talks with admissions, be sure to inquire about the ACAOM-Accreditation, State-Approval, job placement rate, and graduation rate of that particular acupuncture program.

Most Important Information To Know About Any Acupuncture School

ACAOM-Accreditation: The Most Important Thing For An Acupuncture School To Have

The most important factor that any AOM program in the US should have is ACAOM accreditation.

ACAOM, which stands for the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, is the official accreditation body recognized by the US Department of Education for the education and training of acupuncturists in the US.

ACAOM-accreditation is the most important factor to look for in any acupuncture school because it is a legal requirement for licensing in 47 states (and Washington, DC).

ACAOM-Accreditation-Oriental-Medicine-Schools

Additionally, nearly all states require that you pass one or more national board exams given by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) for licensing. To even sit for the exam(s), NCCAOM requires that you’ve completed an ACAOM-accredited program.

Beyond legal requirements, graduating from an ACAOM-accredited program is important because it demonstrates that your education and career training have met high professional standards.

Additionally, the ACAOM-accreditation requirement narrows the schools and programs for you to consider.

Currently, there are 56 ACAOM-accredited Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine programs in the United States. Over half (30) of them are located on the West Coast, including 14 in California. About a third (19) are located on East Coast, with a majority (6) of these being acupuncture schools in Florida (including Acupuncture and Massage College in Miami, FL). The remaining schools are located Midwest (7), or in Hawaii (1).

Program Approved For State Licensing

Knowing which state you want to practice acupuncture in will make selecting a program much easier. Since there are only 56-ACAOM accredited Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Colleges to choose from, your choices for schools is well-defined.

However, it is important to note that every state that regulates acupuncture sets its own educational requirements as part of licensing. For example, in Florida, the education requirements are set by the Florida Board of Acupuncture.

florida-acupuncture-board

This means that it’s possible for particular a program to be ACAOM-accredited, but not meet the educational requirements set by a particular state.

As such, you will need to select a degree program that is ACAOM-accredited and meets the curriculum requirements set by the state in which you will want to eventually practice acupuncture.

Luckily though, most acupuncture schools base their curriculums on the local state requirements for licensing, but there can always be exceptions.

If there isn’t an ACAOM-accredited program offered in the state you wish to practice acupuncture, you will need to find out what the acupuncture laws are in that state, and make sure that your program of interest meets those specific requirements.

Graduation Rate of Acupuncture Program

Another factor to look at when evaluating acupuncture schools is its graduation rate.

The graduation rate measures the rate of students that start and complete a particular program within an expected timeframe.

I want to be clear and stress that several factors contribute to a program’s graduation rate, only some of which may reflect an issue with a program’s quality of education. It also should not imply that students are necessarily dropping out of the program either.

acupuncture-graduation-rate

That’s why it’s important to ask for context when asking about a program’s graduation rate. Keep in mind that a lot of personal changes can arise in the 3-4 years it takes to complete acupuncture school, such as marriage, pregnancy, or job changes – all of which contribute to a program’s graduation rate.

Your goal when asking about graduation rates is to see if any reasons are related directly to academics. For example, do most students stick around until it’s time to pass a certain class? If so, what can be done about this class? These are the kinds of questions you’ll need to think about and can discuss with an admissions counselor.

A good admissions counselor will be open and upfront about these issues, and can even put you in touch with an alumnus or current student so that you can get their opinion on it.

Job Placement Rate for Acupuncture Degree Program

It is important to select an acupuncture school with a good job placement rate.

As the name implies, the job placement rate reflects the percentage of graduates of a particular program who found gainful employment in their field of study (during a defined period following graduation).

As it applies to the topic of this article, the job placement rate for an acupuncture and/or oriental medicine program would be the percentage of grads who found jobs as professional acupuncturists after graduation.

The best acupuncture programs have job placement rates of 70% or higher.

acupuncture-job-placement-rates

While no school can guarantee you a job after graduation, the higher the job placement rate, the better your odds maybe when it comes to finding gainful employment after graduation.

When chatting with an admissions representative, be sure you ask an admissions counselor what the official job placement rate for the program has been for the past few years. This should give you some idea as to the strength of a program’s education and the institution’s career resources.

Take the Next Step: Download Acupuncture Career Guide

If you've made it this far, then you're obviously serious about enrolling in acupuncture school. Now it's time to learn more about the career itself by downloading your free acupuncture career guide below.

If you've ever in Miami, FL please stop by Acupuncture and Massage College. We're the oldest acupuncture school in Florida and have the largest Chinese Herbal Clinic in the state. We're located at 10506 North Kendall Drive, Miami, FL 33176.

Acupuncture-Career-Guide

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign Up for the AMC Newsletter

Recent Posts