How to Get an Acupuncture License (Best Way, Tips & Guide)

There are about 104 types of traditional medicines recognized by the WHO. Among them, acupuncture has been recognized popularly around the world due to its safe diagnosis and treatment method.

Acupuncture is a safe alternative medicine and doesn’t have any side effects or issues. The philosophy and the concept of acupuncture give a unique perspective of the human body and mind.

Aspirants of Acupuncture and other alternative medicine have a bright future because of their healing ability.

So let us look at how to get an Acupuncture license and how long it will take to become an acupuncturist.

How to Get an Acupuncture License (Best Way, Tips & Guide)

How Many Years does it Take to Become an Acupuncturist?

Becoming an acupuncturist is a quite tedious task. It involves studying an accredited Master’s program in a recognized institute, passing an exam with the national board, and getting a license from the states we are going to practice.

The minimum educational requirement to practice acupuncture is a master’s degree from an accredited institution.

Any institute with the ACAOM (Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) accreditation can be chosen to complete the degree.

Generally, it takes about three years to complete the course along with four years to complete a course in herbal medicine. Then the hours of clinical practice are also considered.

Choosing an ACAOM school is important because the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) looks for accreditation from the school you have obtained the degree. Only then you are eligible to write the exams conducted by NCCAOM.

Once you have passed the exams and obtained the license to practice, then becoming a true acupuncturist lies in your hand.

With years of experience and the diversity of patients you face, it will build your confidence in medicine. This confidence builds your career. So, to fulfill the requirements to get the license and certification may take about 7 years.

How to Get an Acupuncture license?

The first step in obtaining an acupuncture license is to complete a master’s degree in an ACAOM accredited school or to complete the certification course provided by the NCCAOM.

If you have attended the school and obtained the degree, then you must clear the exam conducted by the NCCAOM separately. If you have attended the NCCAOM certification, then no need to attend the exams separately.

After completing the degree, you have to submit an online application with the NCCAOM and the final graduation transcript.

Then you must have completed the CNT (Clean Needle Technique) exam and should submit the certificate. After doing this step you will receive an authorization to test letter to take up the exams.

The next step is to obtain licensure. Every state in the US requires licensing except South Dakota, Oklahoma and Alabama. Apart from these states, others require passing NCCAOM exams.

Those who like to practice in California need to clear CALE (California Acupuncture License Exam). Once the exam has been cleared, then you will be provided with the License to practice.

Another important thing in licensure is that each state defines the scope of practice for acupuncturists.

Unlike the Allopathy doctors, acupuncturists do not have the freedom to do all kinds of practice. Also, the licensure of one state cannot be used to practice in other states.

So, how to get an Acupuncture license depends on the state you are going to practice. The aspirants of acupuncture must keep these things in mind.

Is an Acupuncturist Considered a Doctor?

In most countries including the US, Acupuncture is considered as an alternative therapy or complementary medicine. So, they are not considered as a Doctor of Allopathic Medicine.

According to the state you practice, acupuncturists are called Doctor of Acupuncture or Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac.,).

Mostly in the US, acupuncture is practiced by medical doctors as a complementary therapy. Only a few opt for pure traditional medicine practice such as acupuncture.

Here is a list of health care providers that are allowed to practice acupuncture:

  1. Licensed Acupuncturists
  2. Naturopaths
  3. Nurse practitioners
  4. Physical therapists
  5. Chiropractors
  6. Medical Doctors

In the above-mentioned list, only the medical doctors are considered to be “Doctors” and apart from that, others are considered to be therapists. Acupuncturists are also considered to be therapists only.

Does Insurance Cover Acupuncture?

The answer depends on the insurance company you have enrolled with.

In general, only a few companies provide insurance coverage for acupuncture and only for certain complaints you are getting treated with.

But every one of them requires you to visit only a licensed acupuncturist if you would like to get insurance coverage.

The list of companies in the US that cover insurance for Acupuncture treatment include:

  1. Aetna
  2. Blue Cross
  3. Medicare
  4. Veteran’s Administration
  5. Cigna
  6. United Healthcare
  7. Banner Health

The US government aided Medicare insurance has limited coverage for Acupuncture treatment. It allows a limited total of 12 visits over a period of 90 days for treating chronic low back pain.

To summarize, only a few companies allow coverage for acupuncture that too with certain restrictions.

Sometimes you have to personally file for reimbursement after paying for the treatment. Contact your insurance provider and consult with your health care provider before opting for acupuncture treatment.

Also Read our Acupuncture Treatments Guide:


Acupuncture has certainly grown popular in many developed countries such as the US because of its potential to treat chronic pains.

Opting for a career in Acupuncture is one of the best decisions if you would like to practice medicine apart from Allopathy.

Among many oriental medicines, Acupuncture is truly a great therapeutic medicine that can provide cure for many chronic complaints in the body.

Those who have already got a medical degree can easily do a certification course and get permission to practice it as a complementary therapy.

Those who would like to pursue a distinct career in oriental medicine can join a school that has accreditation for acupuncture and oriental medicine. Even there are doctoral programs offered by certain schools.

With this guide on how to get an Acupuncture license, you can obtain licensure in the US to practice acupuncture.

About The Author

Scroll to Top