Choosing an acupuncture school can be a very important and confusing process. Based on my experience, here are some things to consider when choosing a school that is right for you.
- Is the school accredited? Acupuncture programs are through private schools that specialize in Oriental Medicine. Make sure that the schools you consider are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). This agency is the only agency that the DOE recognizes to accredit schools of Chinese medicine. Accreditation ensures that the schools program complies with national standard in the profession, and also that the school is eligible to do financial aid. The best accreditation is for 5 years. This means that the board will wait 5 years before checking in on the school. A school that has less than 5 years may have issues to work on. If a school has a less than 5-year accreditation, ask the school why (they should have a list of issues to work on from the ACAOM)
- Most programs are Masters programs. Usually students graduate with a Masters in Traditional Oriental Medicine, or perhaps a Masters of Science in Acupuncture. Often schools don’t require a Bachelor’s degree to apply. Some programs essentially have a Bachelors “built in” to the Masters program and require 4 years of study. This is a long time for a Masters degree, but a relatively short time for both a Bachelors and Masters degree. Doctorate programs are beginning to appear, but usually require a Masters in Acupuncture and some clinical experience.
- Take community college classes. Often schools will let you transfer in units for classes such as biochem, physics, biology, etc. This is a way to make school a little cheaper, as cost per unit at community college is less than at acupuncture school.
- Be prepared to study. Acupuncture school requires long hours of study and memorization of points, point functions, herbs , herbal names and functions, Latin and pin yin, western medicine. It may be a good idea to invest in some memorization strategies such as Herb Zoo cards or other mnemonics.
- Research school programs: Do you want to study both acupuncture and herbs or just acupuncture? Some schools offer one or both. What are the teachers like? Do you want to specialize in a particular area? Apply to school that have teachers specializing in a field that interests you, or a school that in a specific area (ex a children’s hospital shift)
- Research the cost of attending. The cost of acupuncture school varies by which school you attend. Some programs are longer and some are only focus on acupuncture rather than herbs. I would say that most are around $50,000 for tuition. With living expenses factored in, many end up in $100,000 or more in debt. Consider whether you want to work during the course of your schooling (many programs offer night classes), or what your living expenses will be. Its great if you have family to stay with so you don’t have to incur extra cost in rent and living expenses.
- Acupuncture schools are small communities. This makes teachers very accessible, as well as a very friendly and close school environment. Often you treat your classmates, and they treat you in class. Because of this, you get to know everyone on a very personal level. I would recommend keeping your personal life separate (ex: date people outside school), and to keep gossip to a minimum. Besides being a good idea in general, this helps to keep all of your bridges of communication open for after you graduate. You want to stay professional and not burn any bridges in your student years.
- Look up licensing exam pass rates. You should be able to obtain these numbers from the school’s website or by calling them directly. Ask what the passing rate for the last state board exam was. Schools should be concerned about this number, as it may indicate how well they prepare students to pass the licensing exam (and become great practitioners).