Licensed Vs. Certified Acupuncturists


·         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”.

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

•    Neuromodulation

•    Meridian Balancing/Therapy

•    Chiropractic Acupuncture

•    Naturopathic Acupuncture

100 hours or less

•    Medical Acupuncture

•    Chiropractic Acupuncture

•    Detox Tech


Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc
Asheville Center for Chinese Medicine