Home / Acupuncture / Licensure and Certification

Getting Licensed and Certified to Practice Acupuncture

This master’s-level healing profession requires credentials in order to practice, but requirements aren’t the same everywhere.

acupuncture needles lay on stone plate near herbs
acupuncture needles lay on stone plate near herbs

Acupuncturists are currently required to have some sort of licensure in 47 states and in the District of Columbia. However, licensure requirements are not the same in all states. In some, you’ll need to take a series of exams. In others, you’ll need to maintain a national certification along with your state license. In still others, you’ll only need to submit proof of your education to your state board.

No matter your state’s rules, getting licensed is incredibly important. It can allow you to practice and to work in certain facilities. You’ll also need a license to accept insurance payments at your own clinic. In fact, even if you live in a state where licensure isn’t required, earning a national certification can be a big career boost, because it will show your knowledge and professional dedication to clients.

However, your first priority should be making sure you’re all set to practice in your state. Here’s what you need to know, whom you need to contact, what tests you’ll need to take, and more.

State Licensing and Certification Requirements

Licensure rules can vary from state to state, but there are a few things you’ll find just about everywhere. First of all, you’ll need an education. Acupuncturists need at least a master’s degree to practice. While this isn’t spelled out by states that don’t require licensure, it’s still best practice.

Beyond your degree, you’ll normally need to take exams to prove your knowledge. As a rule, you’ll need to take exams from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), although there are exceptions. You don’t need to take NCCAOM exams in:

Alabama

The state doesn’t license acupuncturists, however, medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, and physician assistants can perform acupuncture in the state of Alabama with no additional training required. There is a push for change and efforts might result in Alabama requiring acupuncture licensure in the near future.

California

Has its own acupuncture licensing exam

Maryland

Requires licensure, but not NCCAOM exams

North Dakota

Requires licensure, but not NCCAOM exams

Oklahoma

The state does not have a licensing certification for acupuncturists. Currently, Oklahoma considers acupuncture to be within a medical doctor’s scope of practice. Chiropractors are also permitted to practice acupuncture. This might change in the future as professional organizations continue to advocate for licensure.

South Dakota

The state does not offer acupuncture licensure, although medical doctors, osteopaths, and chiropractors are able to practice acupuncture with additional training, testing, or certification. As with Alabama and Oklahoma, this might change down the road.

The exams you’ll need to take will depend on your state. NCCAOM offers four:

Acupuncture with Point Location

Foundations of Oriental Medicine

Biomedicine

Chinese Herbology

To earn licensure in all states that require NCCAOM certification, you’ll need to take the following exams:

  • Acupuncture with Point Location
  • Biomedicine
  • Foundations of Oriental Medicine    

These are the standard exams required for licensure and certification. However, some states also require that you take the Chinese Herbology exam, especially if you want to practice herbs.

Even if your state doesn’t require you to earn NCCAOM certification, you’ll need to take NCCAOM exams in all states but the ones listed above. This often includes at least the Acupuncture and Biomedicine exams. Requirements for the Oriental Medicine or Chinese Herbology exam vary by state.

You’ll need to take any required exams before you can earn licensure and practice acupuncture. In order to take an NCCAOM exam, you’ll need to have graduated from a school that’s been accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). You’ll need to submit proof of your education, along with proof you’ve completed a course in Submit Clean Needle Technique (CNT) to NCCAOM. Once the board approves your application, you’ll be able to take the exams your state requires.

Once you pass your exams, you can submit your results to your state board. You’ll then be eligible for licensure. In some states, you’ll have to renew your license every few years. Depending on your state, this could mean proof you’ve kept your NCCAOM certification current, or you might need complete state-approved continuing education hours.

Beyond Certification:
More Ways to Up Your Acupuncture Game

In most states, you’ll be ready to practice once you earn certification and licensure, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. Acupuncturists can take a few routes to boost their career and widen their scope of practice. They include:

  • Earning a doctorate in acupuncture to advance your education
  • Earning a post-master certification in Chinese Herbology
  • Adding another holistic specialty to your resume by earning a degree in naturopathic medicine, massage therapy, or nutrition
  • Earning a certification in Chinese Herbology or Chinese Medicine, even if they’re not required by your state

What Can I Earn?

acupuncture needles stick out of ancient chinese coin

Acupuncture salaries depend on several factors. Just like many professions, your education, credentials, experience, and place of work matter.

In acupuncture, there’s another element. Many acupuncturists run their own clinics. So instead of a consistent salary, their earnings depend on the clients they bring in and the business expenses they incur.

That’s why many acupuncture programs include some coursework in business management. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t worry. Many acupuncturists also find work in settings like medical centers or the offices of other providers.

Licensing and Certification Requirements by State

Jump to your state:

A to G | H to M | N to S | T to W

Since where you live can make a big impact on the steps you need to take to get your license, we’ve broken it down for you. Check out our state-by-state guide.

Alabama

An acupuncture license isn’t offered in Alabama, although licensed medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, and physician assistants can offer it.

Alaska

Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Arizona

Arizona Board of Acupuncture Examiners

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Arkansas

Arkansas State Board of Acupuncture & Related Techniques

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 24 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

California

Department of Consumer Affairs Acupuncture Board

Training: A master’s degree or approved training program from a California Acupuncture Board-approved school
Exam: The California Acupuncture Licensing Examination
Continuing Education Requirements: 50 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: None

Colorado

Colorado Office of Acupuncture Licensure

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Connecticut

Department of Public Health, Acupuncturist Licensure

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Delaware

Acupuncture Advisory Council

Training: NCCAOM certification exams; Chinese Herbology exam required to practice herbs
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

District of Columbia

D.C. Board of Health

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school. Degree must include Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine training.
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification. Must maintain Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine to practice herbs.

Florida

Board of Acupuncture

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams, including Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine
Continuing Education Requirements: 30 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: None

Georgia

Georgia Composite Medical Board

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Hawaii

Board of Acupuncture

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM exam in acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Idaho

Idaho Board of Acupuncture

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Illinois

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams except Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Indiana

Indiana Professional Licensing Agency

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Iowa

Iowa Board of Medicine

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 30 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Kansas

Kansas State Board of Healing Arts

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams including Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Kentucky

Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams except Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: None

Louisiana

Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Maine

Board of Complementary Health Care Providers

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Maryland

State Board of Acupuncture

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: Not required
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Massachusetts

Board of Registration in Medicine

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school. Degree should include Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine.
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams. Chinese Herbology exam required to practice herbs.
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification. Must maintain Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine certification to practice herbs.

Michigan

Michigan Board of Acupuncture

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Minnesota

Minnesota Board of Medical Practice

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Mississippi

Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure

Training: A master’s degree from am ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Missouri

Missouri Division of Professional Registration

Training: A master’s degree from am ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Montana

Montana Board of Medical Examiners

Training: A master’s degree from am ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Nebraska

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

Training: A master’s degree from am ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 50 hours every two years or 60 hours every four years to maintain NCCAOM certification if you have one
Certification Requirements: None

Nevada

Nevada State Board of Oriental Medicine

Training: A master’s degree from am ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams. Chinese Herbology exam required to practice herbs
Continuing Education Requirements: 15 hours every two years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

New Hampshire

Board of Acupuncture Licensing

Training: A master’s degree from am ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

New Jersey

Acupuncture Examining Board

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school. Must include Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine.
Exam: All NCCAOM exams including Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None for acupuncture but must maintain Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine certificate to practice herbs.

New Mexico

New Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department, Board of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams including Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

New York

NY State Education Department Office of the Professions

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

North Carolina

North Carolina Acupuncture Licensing Board

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams except Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

North Dakota

North Dakota Board of Integrative Health Care

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: Not required
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Ohio

State Medical Board of Ohio

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school. Degree must include Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine.
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification. Must maintain Chinese Herbology or Oriental Medicine certification to practice herbs.

Oklahoma

The state does not have a licensing certification for acupuncturists, although a licensed chiropractor or medical doctor can practice.

Oregon

Oregon Medical Board

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Pennsylvania

State Board of Medicine

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exams. Must pass Chinese Herbology exam to practice herbs.
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Department of Health

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams except Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

South Carolina

South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

South Dakota

The state does not offer acupuncture licensure, although it does consider acupuncture to fall within the range of treatments it allows from licensed chiropractors, medical doctors, and osteopaths.

Tennessee

Tennessee Department of Health

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Texas

Texas State Board of Acupuncture Examiners

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams including Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Utah

Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Vermont

Office of Professional Regulation

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exams. Must pass Chinese Herbology exam to practice herbs.
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Virginia

Virginia Office of Professional Regulation

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM certification exams
Continuing Education Requirements: 60 hours every four years
Certification Requirements: Must maintain NCCAOM certification

Washington

Washington State Department of Health

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams except Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

West Virginia

West Virginia Board of Acupuncture

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Wisconsin

State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: NCCAOM Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exams
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None

Wyoming

Wyoming Board of Acupuncture

Training: A master’s degree from an ACAOM-accredited school
Exam: All NCCAOM exams except Chinese Herbology
Continuing Education Requirements: None
Certification Requirements: None


stephanie behring

Written and Reported by:
Stephanie Behring
Contributing Writer


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