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How becoming a Doctor of Acupuncture can benefit your career

by Nov 1, 2023

Home » NUHS Blog » How becoming a Doctor of Acupuncture can benefit your career

In recent years, acupuncture has become increasingly well-accepted within the medical community. Many hospitals, clinics, and healthcare providers offer acupuncture as a complementary or alternative treatment option alongside conventional medical treatments. This is due to a growing body of scientific research on acupuncture’s effectiveness. Many studies have shown positive outcomes for pain management, stress reduction, nausea, and other conditions. 

As acupuncturists make their way into more mainstream medical environments like hospitals and fertility clinics, a more advanced, doctoral level of training in acupuncture is quickly becoming necessary. 

While some jurisdictions allow acupuncturists to practice with a master’s level of training, there are several advantages to gaining a doctorate’s degree in the field, no matter where you reside. Here are six reasons why you might want to consider obtaining a more advanced level of training in the field of acupuncture. 

You’ll have the advanced diagnostic skills needed in an integrative setting 

Doctoral-level training typically offers more extensive education in traditional Chinese medicine diagnostics, including pulse reading and tongue diagnosis, along with Western diagnostic methods. You’ll be exposed to coursework in physiology, neurology, and pathology. Few schools even offer anatomy education through full cadaver dissection in a gross anatomy lab. This deeper understanding can lead to more accurate diagnoses. 

This skill is particularly important when working in an integrated setting. Advanced diagnosis skills will help you understand when it’s appropriate to refer patients to other specialties. Even in private practice, it’s important to build relationships with other practitioners in your area, who can in turn refer patients to you. 

In a medical or integrated setting, many of your colleagues may have a doctorate level of training. It’s important that you’re able to speak the same language. This goes far beyond just understanding medical terminology. Having a doctorate level of training means you’ll be able to better discuss all aspects of your patient’s case. This includes diagnosis, treatment options along with care they’ve already received. 

You may have an expanded scope of practice 

Educational level can directly influence the scope of practice acupuncturists are able to perform, particularly within a hospital setting. Acupuncturists performing basic treatments may not require doctorate-level training, while those involved in complex cases, research, and interdisciplinary collaboration are more likely to have an advanced education. 

If you’re interested in working on more complex cases or a larger variety of cases as an acupuncturist, you may want to consider obtaining a doctorate in acupuncture. Doctoral-level programs typically provide more in-depth and advanced training in acupuncture techniques, diagnosis, and treatment strategies. This higher level of expertise can enhance your ability to effectively address complex cases and offer more specialized treatments. 

You’ll have a higher level of professional recognition within the medical community and among your patients 

To many, a doctorate degree demonstrates that you have met certain standards of education, training, and ethics. As a result, a doctorate will provide you with increased recognition within the healthcare community and among patients. It can also convey a higher level of commitment to the field. 

When patients seek acupuncture treatments, they want assurance that they are receiving care from a qualified and competent practitioner. With a doctorate level of training, patients may be more confident that you have the necessary skills to provide safe and effective treatments, reducing the risk of harm. 

Increased recognition within the field is likely to attract more patients and potentially lead to higher income opportunities. Pursuing a doctorate in acupuncture might also provide acupuncturists with opportunities for career advancement, specialization, and leadership roles within hospital or other integrated environments. 

Hospitals may prefer a doctorate level of training 

If you plan on practicing in a hospital, a doctorate can help you get your foot in the door. Some of America’s top hospitals offer acupuncture treatments including Mayo Clinic, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Duke University Medical Center and Yale New Haven Hospital. These hospitals may prefer acupuncturists with advanced training to ensure a high level of expertise. Acupuncturists with a doctorate level of training can also help establish the credibility of acupuncture as a complementary therapy within a medical setting. 

The qualifications for acupuncturists to work in hospitals varies. One day, a hospitals’ preference for advanced degrees may become a requirement. 

More jurisdictions may require a doctorate level of training in the near future 

The educational requirements to legally practice acupuncture vary widely in the United States. Some states already require a higher level of training as a licensed doctor of acupuncture or physician in order to practice, such as Arkansas, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Rhode Island. 

As the acupuncture profession evolves and becomes more commonplace within medical settings, a doctorate might become required for licensure in certain jurisdictions. 

Since a doctorate degree is the highest level of training you can achieve within the acupuncture field, you won’t need to worry about obtaining additional education. You’ll be able to practice in a wider range of jurisdictions. 

You may be able to add to acupuncture’s growing body of research 

Obtaining a Doctor of Acupuncture degree can open up opportunities for you to get involved with research in the field. Doctorate programs often include coursework in research methodology, helping practitioners critically evaluate acupuncture research and apply evidence-based practices in their clinical work. This emphasis on research can lead to better patient outcomes and help contribute to the overall credibility of acupuncture as a medical modality and to your practice. 

Research involvement can range from conducting clinical studies to contributing to the growing body of knowledge on acupuncture’s effectiveness and mechanisms of action. In your private acupuncture practice, you can conduct case studies or small research projects to evaluate the effectiveness of specific treatment approaches for your patients. While these might not be large-scale studies, they can still contribute valuable insights. 

A doctorate is the highest degree you can attain in the promising field of acupuncture. As more practitioners attain this advanced level of education, it is likely to benefit the field overall. 

Professional recognition not only helps individual practitioners but also contributes to the overall growth, credibility, and integration of acupuncture within the broader healthcare landscape. It fosters patient safety, quality care, collaboration, and the advancement of acupuncture as a respected healthcare modality. 

If you’re interested in becoming a Doctor of Acupuncture, it’s essential to carefully research and consider the specific doctorate programs available in your region, as program quality can vary widely. Just be sure to evaluate the curriculum, faculty qualifications, clinical opportunities, and the program’s reputation within the acupuncture community before making a decision about pursuing a particular institution. 

Take the next step toward becoming a Doctor of Acupuncture at National University of Health Sciences. If you already have a master’s degree in acupuncture or oriental medicine, our Doctor of Acupuncture Completion Program (DAc-C) is perfect for you! The DAc-C program can be completed in as few as three trimesters or one year of study and is completely online, so you can finish each term from the comfort of your own home. 


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