Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks









Find the Chinese Medicine School That's Right for You
By Brian Benjamin Carter, MSci, LAc

Dear Brian,

I may pursue training in Chinese medicine after my Ph.D. and I was wondering how one finds out what schools are strong academically (besides word of mouth).

Are there any rankings of the accredited schools? I notice that if you graduate from certain schools such as one in Houston you are licensed to practice in several states? How exactly does that work?

William A.


That's a great question for prospective students!

Education and licensing are separate. The latter depends on the state. Most states use the national exam to license their acupuncturists, but a few states (like California) have their own exams.

The California Acupuncture Board lists pass rates for its exam. When you look at these stats, make sure not to look just at the pass rates but also how many students they sent to the exam. Some schools have 100% pass rates, but only sent one student. I think a better question is, "Which schools that are educating a lot of students get the best pass rates?"

The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine doesn't appear to release those stats about their test, at least not on their website. You might try calling them at 703-548-9004.

In thinking about the best schools for you, I'd start with where you plan to practice, or what subjects you want to emphasize- if herbs are important, think California. The CA test is more difficult, and herbs are required (most states only require the national acupuncture license and ignore the national herb license - some practitioners who are qualified to do herbs do not get the herb license for that very reason).

Programs are pretty standard, but you can get more details about each school at the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Some questions you may want to ask prospective schools are:

  • How much do you teach about Chinese herbal medicine?
  • What styles of acupuncture do you teach?
  • What are the required classes?
  • What electives does financial aid not pay for?
  • How do you teach the classics (Do you teach the classics)?
  • What clinical and externship opportunities are available?
  • Are there OM conferences and events local to the college's area?
  • How long has the college been around?
  • What kind of experience and credentials does the faculty have?
  • What kind of English language and public speaking abilities do the faculty have?
  • Is the college involved in any scientific research, especially NIH funded?

These should get you a lot more information. You may want to prioritize the above list - figure out which of these questions is most important to you.

No school is perfect, and to some extent, your education is up to you. You'll find that when you graduate, your continuing education is somewhat legislated, but still essentially dependent on your own commitment and discipline.

All the best!

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About The PULSE
All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.

Copyright 1999-2074, Pulse Media International, Brian Carter, MSci, LAc, Editor