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What is an acupuncturist?

Dr. Daniel Hsu, DAOM
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

An acupuncturist is a person who practices acupuncture. Acupuncture is a respected field of medicine, and most states, provinces and countries require formal training and certification. In particular the U.S. has rigorous training standards for acupuncturists.

Most states require a 4-year Master's degree in Acupuncture (MSAC) or Traditional Oriental Medicine (MSTOM) from an accredited acupuncture school. In addition, an acupuncturist must pass written and practical state and/or national board exams in order to become licensed. Training includes all aspects of Western medicine as well as Traditional Oriental Medicine.

If you live in a state that does not require licensing, choose an acupuncturist certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Its members are required to have a degree in Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine (Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine) from an accredited school, or have worked as an apprentice acupuncturist for at least four years, and passed both written and practical national board exams. Those who have passed the acupuncture portion of the exam are entitled to add "Dipl.Ac." (Diplomate of Acupuncture) to their names. Practitioners of Traditional Oriental Medicine have passed the exams required for the Dipl.Ac. and the Herbal Medicine exam.

There is also an advanced doctoral degree: the Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (D.A.O.M.). The highest degree available in the U.S., it requires an additional two and a half years of schooling beyond the 4-year Master's degree. Research studies, a dissertation, advanced clinical training, and advanced classes are also requirements. 

An acupuncturist is a person trained in acupuncture (therapy that uses thin needles inserted through the skin at specific points on the body to control pain and other symptoms). Acupuncture is a type of complementary and alternative medicine.

This answer is based on source information from the National Cancer Institute.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.