A 2010 telephone survey performed jointly by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the American Association of Retired Persons showed that over half of all people 50 years of age and older have used complementary and alternative medicine. Increasingly, people under the age of 50 are also turning to alternative treatments.
One of the most popular alternative treatments is acupuncture. Originating in China, acupuncture has a long history of helping people balance the body, improve health, and reduce pain.
Because of acupuncture’s increasing popularity, the number of acupuncture schools has grown over the years. With numerous institutions offering acupuncture programs, it’s not easy selecting a school.
Prospective students may begin their search with schools accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).
The Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as well as the American Association of Oriental Medicine established ACAOM in 1982 as a not-for-profit organization. ACAOM is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a “specialized and professional” accrediting agency.
ACAOM has more than 60 schools and colleges with accreditation or candidacy status. All of the schools we selected for our list have received accreditation from the ACAOM.
Below is our ranking of the 10 best acupuncture schools in the United States. Factors that influenced our choice of schools making this list as well as their relative order include the following:
- quality of faculty not only as practitioners of acupuncture but also as researchers advancing the field;
- success in training students who can lead the field;
- having not merely a masters but also a doctoral program in acupuncture;
- comprehensiveness of the training program;
- how long the school has been in existence and its reputation for excellence during that time.
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1. Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (Portland, OR)
Topping our list is the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, which offers both a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program and a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program.
The programs provide a solid foundation in acupuncture, therapeutic massage, Chinese herbal medicine, and Qi cultivation. The programs also focus on collaboration between Chinese medicine and Western biomedicine.
Students in the Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program receive thorough training and practical experience in all aspects of traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, nutrition, Qi cultivation, and therapeutic message. The program also covers Western medical approaches and other subjects.
Students obtain hands-on experience helping patients in the college’s community clinics.
The two-year Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program emphasizes proficiency and performance. The program covers the most advanced levels of theory and practice in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. The program includes five general competencies.
Admissions requirements: Applicants to the Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program are required to complete at least three years of college at an accredited institution (a minimum of 135 quarter credits, or 90 semester credits). However, the school recommends that incoming students complete four years of college. By the time they matriculate, candidates are required to have completed such college-level courses as general biology, chemistry, and psychology.
Applicants to the Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program are required to document a master’s level of training in acupuncture and Oriental medicine (or its equivalent). Formal training in herbal medicine is essential.
2. Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (San Diego, CA)
Campuses are located in San Diego, Chicago, and New York City.
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine reports it received research grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Students of the programs have opportunities to work in the campus clinic and take externships in local hospitals, clinics, and designated treatment sites. Students of the Doctorate in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program have opportunities to improve their skill-set and enhance their traditional Chinese medical training.
The curriculum integrates biomedicine with classical and modern application of Chinese medicine. The program includes research and advanced clinical training. It includes five tracks. The Doctorate of Acupuncture and oriental Medicine program has six semesters.
The Master of Science in Acupuncture program trains practitioners of acupuncture to perform as primary independent healthcare providers, focusing on acupuncture and related modalities of Oriental medicine. Students also receive a solid foundation in Western medicine. The program combines theory and practice. Students obtain their degree in three to four years. Graduates are eligible to take the national certification examinations.
The Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine degree program provides students the knowledge and skills to function as a primary, independent healthcare-provider, and to become a part of the modern healthcare system.
The program includes a solid foundation in Western medicine. The program includes theory and clinical practice. The program includes courses such as Acupuncture Points, Needle Techniques, Auricular Acupuncture, Diagnosis and Treatment of Disease, and Tui Na Hand and Structural Techniques. Students can complete the program in four years. Graduates are eligible to take the national certification examinations.
Admissions requirements: Applicants to the Master of Science (Traditional Oriental Medicine) degree program must have an associate’s degree, or its equivalent, or higher, as well as at least 60 semester credits/90 quarter credits. Applicants without an associate’s or bachelor’s degree must have completed 15 units of general education classes contained within the 60 semester/90 quarter credits required for admission. Students must complete an additional 15 units of general education before Term 5 of the master’s degree program.
3. New England School of Acupuncture (Watertown, MA)
The New England School of Acupuncture (NESA) offers a Master’s in Acupuncture degree program and a Master’s in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree program.
The school provides thorough training in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, grounded in biomedicine. The program includes a concentration in Japanese acupuncture styles, including Shakuju Therapy. The programs include hands-on practice.
Students in both master’s degree programs complete a core curriculum based on medical theory and diagnostic and treatment skills of traditional Chinese medicine.
NESA also provides a combined master’s degree with Tufts University School of Medicine. Students in the Pain Management track have an opportunity to obtain dual master’s degrees from NESA and Tufts University School of Medicine.
All students in the programs complete clinical components. Clinical internships are provided by biomedical partner facilities in the greater Boston areas and in NESA’s clinic.
Admissions requirements: Applicants are required to have completed science courses and to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
4. Bastyr University (Kenmore, WA)
Bastyr University provides undergraduate and graduate degrees with a multidisciplinary curriculum in science-based natural medicine. Students are prepared to work in collaboration with practitioners of conventional Western medicine.
Students learning acupuncture at the university’s School of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine train in co-management of patients with Western medicine providers. Students perform the majority of their clinical work in the university’s teaching clinic, the Bastyr Center for Natural Health.
The contacts/training hours for students are shown below:
- Minimum of 400 patient contacts with 100 different patients
- 44 preceptor hours shadowing and observing acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine professionals in their private practices
- The Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program includes 1,356 total clinical training hours; the Master of Science in Acupuncture includes 828 total clinical training hours
- Master’s degree students in their fourth year have the opportunity to learn about acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine at a sister school in Shanghai or Chengdu, China, under the leadership of Bastyr faculty members
The School of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine offers the following programs:
- Combined Bachelor/Master of Science in Acupuncture
- Combined Bachelor/Master of Science in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
- Master of Science in Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
- Master of Science in Acupuncture
- Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine
- Certificate in Chinese Herbal Medicine
Admissions requirements: The admissions requirements vary by the program.
5. American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (San Francisco, CA)
The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM), established in 1980, offers a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine program and a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program.
Students gain experience at the college’s community clinics. Students also have an optional internship in China and internship opportunities in specialized clinics throughout San Francisco.
The Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine program trains students to become an independent healthcare provider as an individual practitioner or as part of a medicine team. The program emphasizes hands-on clinical training and covers theoretical material.
The Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program offers two specialities: Traditional Chinese Medicine/Gynecology and Traditional Chinese Medicine/Pain Management. The capstone projects help students improve their knowledge and skills in these specialty areas. The program also provides additional skills and practical knowledge in other specific areas commonly found in practice.
Students complete their internships in the ACTCM community clinics, local hospitals, and outpatient clinics, as well as with private practitioners. Students have the opportunity to complete some of their externship at the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Admissions requirements: Applicants to the Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine program are required to have at least 90 semester or 135 quarter units from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education, or a foreign equivalent.
Applicants to the Doctorate in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine program are required to graduate from a candidate or an accredited program in Oriental Medicine or the foreign equivalent. Applicants who don’t have a master’s degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine or the foreign equivalent will be considered for admittance if they meet other requirements.
6. Southwest Acupuncture College (Santa Fe, NM)
Southwest Acupuncture College, a classical school of Oriental medicine established in 1980, provides a four-year, full-time Master of Science in Oriental Medicine program.
Students are prepared for licensing as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. The college reports to have a high passage rate on all national and state exams and a high level of graduate satisfaction and success.
The college has campuses in Sante Fe, NM, and Boulder, CO. The campuses include clinical facilities with numerous treatment rooms, herbal pharmacies, and consultation areas.
Students spend more than one-third of their hours of study in the college clinic treating people under the supervision of expert American and Asian practitioners. Students in the program learn about the uses of Oriental and Western medical models of the human body and clinical application of acupuncture and Chines herbal medicine.
The program covers subjects such as the Five Elements, Yin/Yang, Four Levels, Three Treasures, Qi and Blood, Six Stages, Zang Fu, Essential Substances, and Eight Principles. Students can select a limited concentration in any of these approaches. The program also includes a subspecialty in traditional and modern Japanese acupuncture and a broad spectrum of relevant Western sciences.
Admissions requirements: Applicants are required to have at least two years (60 semester credits, or 90 quarter credits) of general education (including three semester credits of biology) at the baccalaureate level from an accredited college.
The college reports most students have diverse degrees in liberal arts and many students have an advanced degree; however, no preference is provided to students with a major or concentration in any particular field.
7. American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (Houston, TX)
The American College of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), a post-baccalaureate institution, promotes the incorporation of Traditional Chinese Medicine into mainstream biomedicine.
The college seeks to strengthen the role of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in providing complementary healthcare in the United States. ACAOM was established in 1991.
ACAOM collaborates with the Methodist Hospital, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the University of Houston Clear Lake Health Center.
The Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program includes courses in acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Students have the opportunity to learn about specialized subjects, such as internal medicine, gynecology, dermatology, and pediatrics.
Students concentrate on didactic courses the first few years, then focus on practical training during their last year in the program. Students gain experience working with patients at the college’s acupuncture clinic in Houston.
Due to its sister status with the Taipei Medical University and its China Hospital agreements, students in the Master of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine program have the opportunity to study abroad.
Graduates of the program work in cooperative practice with healthcare professionals, in private practice, research, and academic and clinical teaching.
Admissions requirements: Applicants are required to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, to meet the basic science requirement, and to have a grade point average of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale, or a 3.0 on the last 60 semester hours. Applicants can be admitted with a master’s degree if they have at least a 3.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.
8. AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine (Austin, TX)
The AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, established in 1993, offers both master’s and doctoral degrees in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
The program includes classroom theory and more than 900 hours of hands-on clinical training. All of the core components emphasize mastering a vital element of Chinese medicine.
The degree program can be completed in 39 months.
AOMA reports to be one of the very few acupuncture schools which allow students to begin clinical education in their first term.
The program covers subjects such as:
- Biomedical sciences
- Chinese herbal medicine
- Mind-body medicine
- Asian bodywork
- Case management
- Practice management
- Clinical communications
Special seminars expand upon the core curriculum. After students complete core classes, clinical observation, and an exam, they become interns and treat patients under the direct supervision of acupuncturists.
Graduates of the program are eligible to take the national board examinations provided by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. AOMA students perform exceptionally well on the national board exams, consistently outperforming the national pass rates.
AOMA is also regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Admissions requirements: Applicants are required to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent from a regionally accredited institution with at least a 2.5 grade point average in the last 60 hours of study at the undergraduate level.
9. New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (New York, NY)
New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (NYCTCM) offers a three-year Bachelor of Professional Studies/Master of Science in Health Science/Acupuncture Program; a four-year Bachelor of Professional Studies/Master of Science in Health Science/Oriental Medicine Program; and an Herbal Certificate Program.
The three-year Bachelor of Professional Studies/Master of Science in Health Science/Acupuncture Program includes three strands of courses: Tradtional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, and Western Biomedical Sciences.
The program includes courses in energy work, Eastern nutrition, massage, herbology, professional ethics, and practice issues. The clinical part of the program includes four phases: observation, assistantship, junior internship, and senior internship.
As an adjunct to the clinical training part of the program, students are required every year to attend two Grand Rounds conducted by NYCTCM faculty members. During the sessions, faculty members review difficult or interesting cases and demonstrate treatment techniques.
Admissions requirements: Applicants are required to have 60 undergraduate credits from an accredited institution.
10. Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences (Oakland, CA)
The Academy of Chinese Culture and Health Sciences (ACCHS) offers a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine program.
The program has two portions: the pre-professional courses and the graduate courses. The pre-professional courses are regarded as equivalent to the upper division years of a baccalaureate program.
Students receive clinical training in traditional Chinese medical skills. Participants in the internship program advance from observer to pre-intern to intern. Graduates of the program are eligible to take the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exam.
Admissions requirements: Applicants to the Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine program are required to complete 60 semester credits/90 quarter credits in undergraduate studies, or tp have an AA, BA, or BS degree from an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. Students are also required to complete at least 10 units of the science course prerequisites.