There are so many misconceptions about the studies and requirements to become an Acupuncturist. Many people are amazed when I tell them the educational requirements, the time commitment, and the financial obligations of Chinese medicine school. I have been receiving a lot of inquiries regarding my Acupuncture school and education via Instagram, Facebook, and in person, so I thought I would post an article on exactly what it takes to become an Acupuncturist and try to answer as many questions as possible.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
Firstly are the prerequisites. Most Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine schools are classified as graduate degree programs and require a certain amount of undergraduate studies. In North America, it is typically 60 credits worth, or equivalent to two years of undergraduate school.
Although I admit I had next to none of this when I began TCM school, I gradually developed the techniques and characteristics of a healer through massive self reflection, humbleness, guidance by amazing mentors, meditation, healthy relationships, a healthy lifestyle, and TONS AND TONS OF ACUPUNCTURE AND HERBS.
The length of education itself can vary greatly depending on the school's regulations, but to become a licensed Acupuncturist, you are most likely looking at three years of schooling. If you want to prescribe Chinese herbal formulas you are looking at roughly an additional one year of education. If you are working part time along with full time school, you might be looking at a longer duration.
Contrary to popular belief, TCM school does have a significant amount of Western medicine courses, and these courses are intense in content. They are required because you have to memorize the anatomical location of every single Acupuncture point on the body (for example, LU 7 location: On the radial margin of the forearm, superior to the styloid process of the radius, 1.5 cun above the transverse crease of the wrist).
The schools I attended: Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (New York and Chicago Campuses) (1.5 yrs), The International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine of Vancouver (2 yrs and counting)
TO WORK PART TIME OR NOT TO WORK PART TIME?
Many people ask me this question, if it is possible to work part time along with going to school full time. Personally, I did this for two semesters of school and made it work. I worked about 14 hours per week along with about 20 credits of school. It wasn't easy and it did drain my energy and take my focus away from my studies a bit. I personally studied about 4-12 hours per week, give or take a couple hours. It really depended on my course load. A handy trick to see how long you think you will have to study is to take the total number of hours you are in class per week, and that will typically be the amount of time you will need to study and review the material.
Essentially, school is always what you make of it. The amount of effort you are willing to put in will be equivalent to the knowledge and experience you receive in return. If you are only going to put a small part of yourself into school, you will take away the bare minimum as well. And this rings true for any school you go to.
School is expensive. Especially here in North America. Part of the reason I transferred schools was due financial reasons. Chinese medicine school can cost anywhere from $30,000 for a 3 year program, to $60,000. Including Herbology this can range from $40,000-$80,000. It is definitely not something to take lightly. It is a HUGE time and financial commitment that requires a lot of patience, passion, and determination.
But have no fear! This is where being your own boss gets fun! You have an unlimited amount of job possibilities. Open your own clinic? Work in a community Acupuncture clinic? Work in a hospital setting? Work in a spa? A cruise ship? Open up your own multidisciplinary clinic? Teach at a college? Work in other health care settings such as addictions counseling, mental health, or rehabilitation? The options are virtually endless! Not many other careers have this much flexibility, and that's what is beautiful about it. However I HIGHLY recommend taking some online business classes or reading some blogs about business management and marketing just in case you find yourself ready to start your own practice upon graduation.
To conclude this exceptionally wordy blog post, traditional Chinese medicine school has been the biggest and most rewarding endeavor I have ever undertook. It has opened my mind up to a whole new universe and way of thinking. Every aspect of my life has been touched by this beautiful medicine and culture. It is the healthiest, most productive, and satisfying years of my life, and I wake up every day eager to learn more and more. I absolutely cannot wait to graduate and put all of the magical wisdom I have learned into practice!
If you have any questions or comments about anything related to TCM or Acupuncture school, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.