Becoming an Acupuncturist

I’m confused about the process. Please explain the relationship of acupuncture school to credentialing (NCCAOM exams), to licensing, to the POCA Tech requirement to work in a POCA clinic for 3 years after graduation.

Yeah, it’s pretty confusing!

The first step is actually to begin with the end in mind and ask yourself, where do you want to work as an acupuncturist, which in almost all cases means, where do you want to get an acupuncture license? Different states and provinces have different requirements for education and credentialing. If you want to become an acupuncturist, you are going to have to do some research.

1. Education

In the majority of US states the education requirement for acupuncture licensure is pretty straightforward: to graduate from an ACAOM-approved program. If that’s your state requirement, POCA Tech is accredited by ACAOM so you’re OK there.

The second step is to ask yourself if POCA Tech is the right educational program for you personally; click here for a series of questions to help figure that out.

Is the certificate for POCA Tech different from the 3 year Masters’ degree requirement?

The POCA Tech Master’s Certificate in Acupuncture is for all intents and purposes, as far as we know, equivalent to a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture because it meets the same ACAOM standards.

Do I get a license from POCA Tech?

No, you don’t get a license from POCA Tech or any other acupuncture school. You get an acupuncture license from your state or province. Please keep reading!

2. Credentialing

In the majority of US states the credentialing requirement for licensure is: get certified by the NCCAOM, which means passing anywhere from two exams (Pennsylvania) to four (Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas). The NCCAOM has specific requirements about who can sit for their exams; you have to apply. One of those requirements is to graduate from an ACAOM- approved school, so again, since POCA Tech is accredited by ACAOM, you are qualified to apply.

If you have any kind of arrest record or criminal record, this could be an issue in applying to sit for the NCCAOM so you should do some research about that, before you apply to school.

Is the NCCAOM a government agency?

No, the NCCAOM is a credentialing organization (a 501c6 nonprofit) whose product (exams and certification) has been adopted by states as a requirement for licensure. The NCCAOM has no federal authority of any kind.

Do I get an acupuncture license from the NCCAOM?

No, you don’t get an acupuncture license from the NCCAOM. You can only get an acupuncture license from a state or province. You get certified by the NCCAOM as a result of passing their exams.

Will the POCA Tech program prepare me to pass the NCCAOM exams?

In our experience, yes (with the exception of the NCCAOM Chinese herbal exam; please see below for more information). However, passing the NCCAOM exams requires a serious time commitment of studying outside of school, and you will probably also need to enroll in a review course such as this one:

3. Licensure

If you have graduated from an ACAOM-approved acupuncture school, and you have received your credentials from the NCCAOM, you can work towards applying to your state for an acupuncture license. There is no such thing as a "limited acupuncture license from POCA Tech" or a requirement that graduates of POCA Tech practice under graduates of other acupuncture schools. There are only acupuncture licenses issued by states and the requirements are the same for all applicants from all acupuncture schools. Here’s an example of how state licensing works:

As you can see, the application may involve a not-insignificant amount of paperwork, time, energy, and money.

What about getting an acupuncture license in California?

At this point in time, a POCA Tech education will not qualify you for an acupuncture license in California. This is true of some other ACAOM-approved schools as well. California acupuncture licensing requirements are, let’s just say, unique and highly specific. If you want to practice in California, you should take a look at this list:

What about getting an acupuncture license in Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas?

In order to get an acupuncture license in these four states, you must have an additional NCCAOM certification in Chinese herbs. In order to sit for the NCCAOM Chinese herbal exam, you must have graduated from a program which provides a certain number of classroom and clinical hours in Chinese herbal training. POCA Tech does not provide enough classroom and clinical hours in Chinese herbal training to sit for the NCCAOM Chinese herbal exam.

IF you are determined to go to POCA Tech and then get a license in Florida, Nevada, New Mexico or Texas, one possible route would be to get a certificate in Chinese herbal medicine from an ACAOM-approved school, after you graduate from POCA Tech, in order to be able to apply to sit for the NCCAOM Chinese herbal exam. However, before you do this, you would need to check with the acupuncture licensing board of the state in question and make sure they would accept this route.

Some ACAOM-accredited institutions/programs that currently offer certificates in Chinese herbal medicine are: Academy for Five Element Acupuncture, American College of AOM, AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine, Bastyr University, Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Med. Arts, Eastern School of Acupuncture and Trad. Med., MCPHS (formerly NESA), Middle Way Acupuncture Institute, Maryland University of Integrative Health, Northwestern Health Sci. Univ., NY College of TCM, PCOM in NY and Chicago, Virginia Univ. of Integrative Medicine, and the Won Institute. These programs tend to cost upwards of $10,000 and require an additional year of study.

4. POCA and the POCA Tech Graduation Requirement

If you enroll in POCA Tech, you make a commitment to work in, or start up, a POCA clinic for three years after graduation. Student tuition at POCA Tech doesn’t actually cover the costs of providing your education; the school is heavily subsidized by the POCA Cooperative in various ways. In order to work as an acupuncturist, you will need a license, so this step requires completing all of the previous steps!

Do I get an acupuncture license from POCA?

No, you can only get an acupuncture license from your state or province. You join POCA as a member of the cooperative in order to receive member benefits and to support access to affordable group acupuncture. There is no such thing as “a POCA license”. There are only acupuncture licenses granted by states to people who meet their specific licensure requirements.

Will the POCA Tech program prepare me to work in settings other than a POCA clinic, for instance if I want to make a lot of money by billing insurance in a high-end private practice?

Because POCA Tech is an ACAOM-accredited school and meets ACAOM standards, you will learn what you need to know in order to be a competent acupuncturist, and technically speaking, you could apply those skills anywhere. Because POCA Tech is subsidized by the POCA Cooperative, however, every part of your training will be informed by co-op values and co-op needs. (And not infrequently, co-op snark; please be aware the POCA Cooperative has a high snark quotient about high end private practices.) It cannot be overstated that the POCA Tech program is designed to prepare you for a very specific job in a very specific context, and our goal is not to be everything to everybody. If you don’t actually want to practice in a POCA clinic, you are guaranteed to find our training program frustrating and unfulfilling, and there’s a very good chance you won’t pass -- because providing low-cost, high-volume acupuncture is actually really hard, even when you’re passionately devoted to it. Please be warned that POCA Tech is not an easier, cheaper way to get an acupuncture license. If you ultimately want to work in a setting other than a POCA clinic, there are fifty other acupuncture schools who would welcome your interest, and you should go to one of them.

But they’re so expensive!

No argument there. However, that’s not POCA Tech’s -- or POCA’s -- responsibility. Good luck and best wishes with your acupuncture school search!

And if this all sounds like way more than you bargained for, but you're still really interested in acupuncture, maybe you should check out the POCA Cooperative's Ear Acupuncture Training program!