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 acupuncture”.

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.




Certified/Physician Acupuncturist

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 certification.

Not required to complete the national certification examination to prove competency in acupuncture.

Not required to regularly complete continuing education courses 


Licensed Acupuncturist 

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 acupuncture.

Hundreds of hours of clinical experience and at least 250 actual patient treatments before licensure.

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 Acupuncture 


1905-2000 hours in Acupuncture 


2625-3500 hours in Oriental Medicine 


Licensed Acupuncturist 


Traditional Chinese Medicine Comprehensively-trained Acupuncturist 


Oriental Medicine Practitioner 


Oriental Medical Acupuncture 


Many Acupuncture and Oriental schools exceed 2000 hours.   


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 exercises. 


300 hours or less 

Medical Acupuncture 


Meridian Balancing/Therapy 

Chiropractic Acupuncture 

Naturopathic Acupuncture 


100 hours or less 

Medical Acupuncture 

Chiropractic Acupuncture
Clinical Acupuncture

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