How are acupuncture practitioners trained and licensed in the US?

In the United States, the regulation of health care practice differs from state to state. Most practitioners of Chinese medicine are licensed or certified as acupuncturists by their state Department of Regulatory Agencies. Standards to practice acupuncture safely and effectively have been established by The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Practitioners who follow their names with the abbreviations Dipl. Ac., Dipl. C.H., or Dipl. O.M. are nationally board certified in acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and Oriental medicine respectively.

To receive a Diplomate of Acupuncture from the NCCAOM, the practitioner must undergo extensive training. The completion of the degree requires between three and four years of graduate-level education in programs which have been approved by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). Following their training, they must pass certification examinations which focus on Acupuncture, Biomedicine, and the Foundations of Oriental Medicine. This training is what sets them apart from medical doctors, nurses, or chiropractors who might also practice acupuncture. Additionally, those holding Dipl. Ac. also have training in standard medical practice, including ethics, safety, communication with other medical professionals, and the gathering of a standard medical history.

Further, 43 state regulatory agencies, to include the District of Columbia, award the licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) designation. To receive this designation, a practitioner must have an NCCAOM certification and have passed their NCCAOM examinations. The states also have additional requirements which are unique from state to state.