Acupuncture Licensure

There are, in essence, two different sets of regulations for those in the acupuncture profession. Thirty nine of the forty states that license acupuncturists follow one set of regulations, while one state, California, follows another.

The California Acupuncture Board establishes education requirements, accredits schools, and oversees a licensing examination process for schools and practitioners in California. Practitioners completing this process are designated a Licensed Acupuncturist with the initials L.Ac. To become a licensed acupuncturist in California, one must graduate from a state-approved instruction program of at least 3,000 hours and pass the state board’s examination. The training for California licensed acupuncturists includes basic Western sciences and Western medicine training as well as acupuncture, herbal medicine and oriental medical theory. The two other routes of eligibility to take the California acupuncture exams are completing an approved tutorial program or an approved foreign training program. Both the tutorial and foreign training programs must meet or surpass the requirements of the state approved schools.

View Curriculum Requirements of the California Acupuncture Board.

Almost all other states require acupuncture specialists to have taken the exams of and/or obtained certification from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Practitioners with this certification are granted the title of Diplomate in Acupuncture (Dipl. Ac.), Herbology (Dipl. C.H.), or Oriental Medicine (Dipl. OM). While the NCCAOM develops and administers the exam, the standards of training and approval of schools is done by another organization, the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), an organization approved by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit acupuncture training programs. The NCCAOM follows the curriculum requirements set by ACAOM when developing its exams and determining eligibility for applicants. Even with an NCCAOM certification and initials, different states then grant titles such as Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac. or Lic.Ac.), Certified Acupuncturist (C.A.), or Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.). Four states grant titles with wording including the term "doctor" or "physician," as in "doctor of oriental medicine" or "acupuncture physician."

View Curriculum Requirements of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

In addition, some states require little or no formal training for the certain licensed healthcare professionals to practice acupuncture, including medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, dentists, podiatrists, and nurses.

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