Choosing which school to attend for your acupuncture training is a big decision. Here are the top ten questions to consider when choosing an acupuncture school:
1. What tradition of acupuncture is taught at the school?
There are many traditions of acupuncture and different thought systems surrounding the art. There is Japanese acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture, 5 Element acupuncture, Oriental Medicine acupuncture, facial or cosmetic acupuncture, medical acupuncture etc. Do a little research on the kind of acupuncture you wish to learn as they are not all the same.
2. What kind of program are you interested in?
It is important to be clear about what kind of acupuncture program you are interested in.
Do you wish to start a practice and see clients once you are trained? Do you just want to add the tools of acupuncture to other healing work you are already doing? Or, do you want to learn about acupuncture for your own health and to understand what your acupuncturist is doing with you during your treatments?
There are programs at various acupuncture schools to suit all interests. There are three, four and five-year programs training acupuncture professionals. There are weekend courses for doctors and nurses or physiotherapists who wish to add acupuncture to their existing practice. And there are seminars, workshops and websites for those people just wanting to learn a bit about acupuncture or Chinese medicine for their own knowledge.
Most schools will offer a variety of programs to fit your needs. There are two or three-year, fast tracked, acupuncture or herbology programs, four-year Practitioner of Chinese Medicine program including acupuncture and herbal medicine, as well as a five-year Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine Programs covering acupuncture, herbal medicine and all the tools of Chinese medicine.
3. What is the language of instruction at the school?
There are acupuncture schools all over the world teaching in virtually every language.
Being a science of the Orient, many of the ancient writings about acupuncture are in the Mandarin language and Chinese characters. At some schools students are taught in English and Mandarin with Mandarin language taken the first two years of school and many notes and teacher’s instructions in both English and written characters. Look into schools that offer a Mandarin language component as it deepens the study and understanding of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Many students tell us that the language component is one of the things that helps set one acupuncture school apart from another.
4. Who are the teachers at the school?
The instructors at the acupuncture school that you choose to attend will make all the difference. Choose a school that has instructors who have worked in the field, see clients in a clinical setting, and can comment on the practice of acupuncture. Many people may understand acupuncture theory but the art and skill that comes from seeing clients daily in a clinical setting cannot be learned from a book. Choose a school that has instructors who are experts in their field and who have real life experience in the courses they are teaching.
5. How much does the program cost?
Program costs are as variable as the students wanting to study acupuncture. In Canada most tuition starts around $200 a credit with the average year having 50 credits.
There are usually different program rates depending on the program you are interested in.
Remember, you get what you pay for!
6. What kind of learning environment do you desire?
Just as it is important to know what kind of learner you are, it is also important to know what kind of learning environment you do best in. Do you prefer small classes, quiet study areas and green space to relax in? Or, do you prefer group learning, music and social interactions, games and challenges to help you remember information?
Some campuses are in busy downtown locations and high-rise office spaces; others are in rural settings or deep in the mountains. Our favorite schools offer a variety of study areas to suit the needs of the students. Research if the school you are thinking about attending has a school library for quiet study, a student lounge for more lively discussions over lunch, or spacious classrooms for you to stretch out and make yourself at home in. Some of the best schools have a school bookstore and herbal dispensary on campus and are close to a plethora of restaurants and healthy food options nearby for re-fueling.
7. What kind of learning do you do best?
It is important to know what kind of learner you are and in what kind of environment you learn the best. Do you prefer to work at home, from books or online? Do you prefer to be in a classroom, guided by an expert teacher and joined by classmates? Do you prefer to go to school at night and on weekends so you can still work during the day?
Most schools will offer components of your acupuncture training that can be done online or through self-study but the majority of programs are delivered in person, on-campus, with teachers to answer your questions and classmates to study along with. The nature of learning a healing art like acupuncture requires a teacher on hand to guide a student.
At most schools there are lectures in class, classroom clinics, needling labs and time spent in clinical observation with Doctors of Chinese Medicine. This experiential and hands-on learning environment sets up graduates to go into clinical practice with the experience and knowledge to treat clients effectively right out of school.
8. When do students get to start needling and working with patients?
Students studying acupuncture are always very keen to begin practice needling and are anxious to get started seeing clients in the clinic. All acupuncture schools understand this desire to get started, but, like the Karate Kid movies, there is much work to be done, “Daniel Son”. There are skills to be developed and techniques to be perfected before jumping into needling a patient, or in the case of the Karate Kid, before actually fighting in a karate match.
Most students begin practicing their needle technique on paper towel rolls or oranges in their first semester at school. Students needle each other in second year needling labs and perfect their needling techniques for student clinic the following year. Although this sometimes creates frustration for students wishing to get started needling earlier, it is a grave error to jump into the powerful practice of acupuncture without a solid foundation of point location and needling skills.
9. Where do you want to go to school?
The good news is that there are schools that teach Chinese Medicine and acupuncture all over the world. The only bad news is that it is up to you to decide where in this big world you want to spend time while you study. Do your research well and check out schools in all different countries.
10. What is required in your home country, state or province to practice acupuncture after graduation?
There are different requirements for licensing of acupuncturists in every country, state and province. Please research the rules in the area in which you wish to practice upon graduation.
In British Columbia, graduates of acupuncture schools must write and pass licensing exams overseen by the CTCMA of BC. Students wishing to practice acupuncture in the U.S. should check with the NCCAOM about licensing requirements.