Acupuncture involves much more than just sticking needles into a patient’s skin. It’s a field rooted in thousands of years of study and practice that also takes into account other holistic treatments.
Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) is the oldest written type of medical therapy and involves practitioners sticking extremely thin needles into the skin at important locations, usually as a form of pain management.
While tradition embraced this as a way to manipulate energy flow, modern health care providers see acupuncture as places to stimulate nerves and tissues.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has evolved to include elements of Western medicine, so acupuncture students can expect to learn not only about needlework, herbal medicine, and diet but also biological science.
This practice has grown in popularity outside of its native Asia as well, with millions of people around the world taking advantage of acupuncture as they seek healing.
Acupuncturists earned a median annual wage of $82,420 as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The bureau, which considers acupuncturists and healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners as one group in its statistics, noted that more than 36,000 people worked in that field in May 2020, with the most working in Maryland (5,440 people) and California (5,430 people). Practitioners in Maryland also earned the nation’s highest mean annual wage, at $139,530.
People must pass a licensing exam through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) in order to practice acupuncture or Oriental medicine.
Here, we’ll look closer at 10 of the best acupuncture schools in the US. All schools on this list are recognized by ACAOM, the Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Bastyr University (Kenmore, WA)
Students learn from practitioners of Eastern and Western medicine in the acupuncture program at Bastyr University.
This approach is based on how people learn about and practice health care in China today. Students learn from top Chinese medicine teachers, with lessons including how to handle patient care alongside Western health care providers.
Students also have a chance to train at community care clinics that serve diverse populations elsewhere in the area. This gives them a chance to not only practice general acupuncture but also more specific skills, such as integrative pain management.
The university offers a certificate in Chinese Herbal Medicine as well as graduate programs. These include master’s degrees and doctorates in Acupuncture as well as master’s and doctorates in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Students graduate with the skills needed to pursue acupuncture licenses in 47 states and Washington, D.C.
New England School of Acupuncture at MCPHS (Boston, MA)
This program, part of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, has several acupuncture degree programs.
Students can choose from two master’s degree programs (Master of Acupuncture or Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) and two doctorate programs (Doctor of Acupuncture or Doctor of Acupuncture and Integrative Health).
Undergraduates can take advantage of combined degree programs in which they can earn a bachelor’s in public health/master’s in acupuncture or a bachelor’s in health science/master’s in acupuncture.
Students attend lessons both in person and through a distance education platform, and they can pursue specialties, including orthopedic, Chinese, and Japanese acupuncture. Licensed acupuncturists teach small groups of students during clinical lessons, which start during the first week of classes and take students to different health care settings.
Maryland University of Integrative Health (Laurel, MD)
Students in the acupuncture program at the Maryland University of Integrative Health can choose to add on a Chinese Herbal Medicine Specialization to their master’s degree or doctorate.
In this flexible program, full-time students take classes online and in person two days per week. They learn in small groups as part of a cohort and even get one-on-one mentorship during their clinical training.
This is the only accredited graduate program whose curriculum includes National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) training and clinical practice.
Students who want to pursue the additional herbal medicine specialization learn how to incorporate herbs in their practice and are prepared to take the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s (NCCAOM) certification exam.
The program also instructs them about managing a Chinese herbal dispensary and prescribing the items.
University of Bridgeport (Bridgeport, CT)
The University of Bridgeport teaches both classic and modern acupuncture techniques in its graduate program.
Lessons focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine and its connection with today’s Western medicine practices.
Students learn about how to evaluate patients not only from an Asian-medicine perspective but also from pharmacological and biomedical standpoints to help determine the right course of treatment.
Students gain hands-on experience at the university’s Health Sciences Center, where they work with patients of all kinds alongside health care providers. They also give back to the community by participating in outreach clinics. All of this teaches them not only how to care for patients but also how to collaborate with others in the medical field.
Northwestern Health Sciences University (Bloomington, MN)
Students complete hundreds of hours of clinical training to earn a graduate degree in acupuncture at Northwestern Health Sciences University.
The school offers a Master of Acupuncture and a Doctor of Acupuncture with Chinese Herbal Medicine. Students interested in pursuing a career in acupuncture who need to finish their undergraduate degree can enroll in the university’s Bachelor of Science in Human Biology Degree Completion Program.
To receive their master’s degree, students must finish at least 150 hours of observation or an assistantship plus 525 hours of supervised clinical practice.
Doctoral candidates have to complete this clinical requirement plus three more shifts. Courses, meanwhile, teach students about the history and concepts of Chinese medicine plus nutrition and practical acupuncture techniques.
Texas Health and Science University (Austin, TX)
Students learn the four ancient Chinese classics while studying for the Master of Acupuncture with a Chinese Herbal Medicine Specialization.
Texas Health and Science University’s program aligns with 95% of the Chinese acupuncture curriculum. In addition to learning about concepts such as the Golden Chamber and the Four Streams of Scholars, students come away from the program with knowledge of herbal medicine.
The curriculum also includes plenty of lessons about Western medicine to help students better understand modern-day health care and how acupuncturists work with other practitioners.
Before beginning their clinical internship, students must pass a five-part exam. This clinical experience gives them a chance to work with real patients, develop a treatment plan, and then put it into practice.
Virginia University of Integrative Medicine (Fairfax, VA)
The Virginia University of Integrative Medicine has a low student-faculty ratio of 14:1 and delivers a more affordable education compared to the national average.
All programs involve a mix of classroom lessons and clinical training, with students required to complete hundreds of hours of hands-on experience. Doctoral candidates also must complete lab training, ranging from 600 to 1,752 hours, depending on the program.
The average VUIM student pays $41,000 to attend, compared to $63,000 nationally.
National University of Health Sciences (Lombard, IL)
Students can earn a Master of Science in Acupuncture in just seven trimesters at the National University of Health Sciences’ Illinois campus.
In this 121-credit program, students learn about the background of acupuncture, including its theory and philosophy.
The curriculum looks at these Eastern practices and also gives students a background in Western medical science.
This aims to prepare them to practice these ancient techniques as part of a team health care effort with medical doctors and other providers at various medical facilities.
Students learn in an apprentice-style format and can take advantage of the university’s herbal dispensary during their clinical training. They also can intern at locations such as the John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County and community clinics.
All of the program’s full-time faculty members have PhDs and backgrounds in research.
New York College of Health Professions (Syosset, NY)
The acupuncture program at the New York College of Health Professions includes both bachelor’s and master’s degrees that students can pursue both full- and part-time.
This flexible program offers classes in the day and evening as well as on weekends, and students can take classes at the Long Island or New York City sites.
The school also is one of the more affordable options in the tri-state area, with the lowest undergraduate and graduate tuition of any of the region’s private, non-profit, and accredited colleges of its type.
Students learn both Chinese and Japanese acupuncture skills alongside herbology and Asian bodywork. And while they undertake a clinical internship like most acupuncture students, they also learn the health and wellbeing practices of yoga, t’ai chi and qigong.
Pacific College of Health Science (Multiple Locations)
The Chicago campus offers the most acupuncture degrees, with the Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Doctor of Acupuncture, and the Master of Science in Acupuncture programs available.
In San Diego, students can earn the Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and the Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine. New York has a Master of Science in Acupuncture program.
At all three campuses, students can enter the Transitional Doctorate for Master’s Graduates program, in which those who already have a master’s degree in acupuncture can move on to earn either a Doctor of Acupuncture or Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, depending on their previous degree.
Pacific College also is branching out and will start offering a Cosmetic Acupuncture Certificate
starting in January 2022.