Acupuncture and How to Become an Acupuncturist

Acupuncture and How to Become an Acupuncturist

Acupuncture is a key component of integrative medicine. It is an ancient Chinese medical technique that involves the insertion of very thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body. The practice helps stimulate the Central Nervous System and create vital energy flow (or Qi) that aids in relieving pain, managing stress, and improving one’s overall health.

Why Choose Acupuncture As Treatment?

Acupuncture is commonly used to relieve pain and discomfort associated with different diseases and conditions. Here is a brief list of some of the common ailments it can address:

  • Chemotherapy-induced pain and discomfort
  • Postoperative nausea and vomiting
  • Dental pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Allergies
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Insomnia
An image of needles being inserted during acupuncture treatment

What Does an Acupuncturist Do?

A licensed acupuncturist may practice in a variety of settings, from independent clinics to large medical centers. Patients typically see an acupuncturist for different health problems. For some patients, they may be seeking an alternative to Western medical practices, while others use acupuncture as a complement to their existing treatments.

An acupuncturist takes a holistic approach when examining and assessing the patient’s condition. They will look at the mind, body, and spirit (or Shen) to make diagnosis and recommend treatments. Typically, the acupuncturist will perform the insertion of one or more thin, sterile needles, at strategic points on the patient’s body to treat the issue. Depending on their practice, they might incorporate other treatments in integrative medicine, such as herbal medicine and moxibustion, to help achieve the desired outcome.

What are Some Requirements to Become a Licensed Acupuncturist?

The requirements to become an acupuncturist are different for each state. Depending on where you live and where you plan to practice, you will need either a certificate of having received formal training in the profession or a graduate degree in the field, or both. It is recommended to look up the requirements to become a licensed acupuncturist in your state, and also look at accredited colleges and universities in your state that offer the formal training to become one.

At the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine (VUIM), students can choose to pursue either of the entry level degrees into the field, a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (MAcHM) or a Master of Science in Acupuncture. In Virginia, after graduating from an accredited program in the acupuncture field, students may begin pursuing licensure by taking the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exams. The NCCAOM exam is a national exam, adopted by nearly every US state to validate the skill set and knowledge required for licensure. In most states, after graduating with an accredited degree and passing the NCCAOM exams, a graduate can start applying for licensure and begin practicing as a licensed acupuncturist.

A headshot photo of a VUIM student

Sample Program Learning Outcomes

In these Master’s programs, students will learn and defend an etiology of disease from an acupuncture perspective, utilize the knowledge to recommend disease prevention strategies, have the ability to formulate a logical treatment principle from an oriental medical diagnosis, and put it into action utilizing acupuncture modalities. On top of that, students will also have the opportunity to obtain work experience with the clinical internship provided at VUIM. Please visit the website for the complete list of objectives and outcomes.

Interested in starting your education at VUIM? Contact our Admissions Officer today at to learn about the requirements and application process, or sign up to one of our upcoming Admissions Information Sessions webinar here.

About The Author:

A headshot of the author, Sydney Holsipple

Sydney Morgan Holsipple

Sydney Morgan Holsipple is currently a student in the Master of Acupuncture program at VUIM. Sydney is a Virginia native, who originally grew up in Virginia Beach and moved to the Northern region before starting her academic journey at VUIM. With her experience working as a pharmaceutical technician, Sydney always felt that there was a better way to help people, which led her to discover integrative medicine and its holistic approach to healing. Outside of her time at VUIM, Sydney loves being with her family and friends, enjoying outdoor activities, being close to nature, learning and practicing yoga, and reading her favorite books.