Licensed Vs. Certified Acupuncturists
Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc
Your doctor, chiropractor, physician’s assistant or even physical
therapist may say to you, “I do acupuncture”.
What they really mean is that they do neuromodulation (referring to the technique’s reputed
ability to modulate, enhance or diminish, the effect of neurotransmitters)
or trigger point needling (needling local points of nerve pain in muscles).
Often these practitioners will call what they do “medical acupuncture or clinical
These practitioners have between 100-300 hours of training in acupuncture (often completed
at UCLA seminar). They get a brief overview about acupuncture meridians, learn a few acupuncture
points, and receive instruction about how to insert an acupuncture needle.
While trigger point needling may have some benefit in pain relief, these practitioners have
no training in, nor are they practicing Oriental medicine.
They are using neuromodulation as an adjunctive therapy to their primary practice.
Licensed Acupuncturists (LAc), whose educational focus is in Acupuncture and Oriental
Medicine, receive approximately 80% of their training exclusively in this field, and undergo an extensive
clinical internship in Oriental medicine averaging three years.
COMPARISON OF LICENSED VS. CERTIFIED
Certified physician, chiropractor or dentist [medical] acupuncturists (CAc) with
100 – 300 hours of training.
Training which is often comprised of home study and video-taped lectures.
Minimal clinical experience in acupuncture or no actual patient treatments before
Not required to complete the national certification examination to prove competency in
Not required to regularly complete continuing education
Licensed acupuncturists (LAc) with an average of 2,700 hours
of master’s-level training.
Master’s level, on-site training at a nationally accredited school or college of
Hundreds of hours of clinical experience and at least 250 actual patient treatments before
Required to pass the national certification exam in acupuncture in order to become licensed
(NCCAOM board certification).
Required to do regular continuing education to maintain national certification.
Amount of Training in
1905-2000 hours in
2625-3500 hours in Oriental
Traditional Chinese Medicine Comprehensively-trained
Many Acupuncture and Oriental schools exceed 2000
Colleges in California must meet a minimum required 3,000
hours in Oriental Medicine.
Oriental medicine includes acupuncture, Chinese
herbology and dietary therapy,
tui na massage, tai qi and qi gong meditative
300 hours or
100 hours or