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Chinese medicine careers, degrees and education
November 17, 2022
What is Chinese medicine?
Chinese medicine, also referred to as eastern or oriental medicine, is a broad term for a spectrum of alternative medicinal techniques and studies. Some common forms include:
While western medical science focuses primarily on distinct systems within the body and how they function, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) focuses on the body more holistically—seeking to find imbalances and dissonance that could lead to disease. The primary ideology behind TCM is that when the body is in balance you tend to feel well, and when it isn’t you tend to feel ill.
For instance, a medical doctor might diagnose an illness in much the same way a mechanic might diagnose an issue with a car—by looking at the inputs and outputs of a particular system and systematically ruling out potential issues based on the expected operation of it. In contrast, a practitioner of Chinese medicine might use the concepts of yin, yang and Qi to find potential sources of imbalance and work to correct them using one or many of the techniques listed above.
What are Yin, Yang and Qi?
Earning a degree in Chinese medicine: What you’ll study, program length and specialization
The type and level of education you choose to pursue can have a large impact on your career prospects within the field of Chinese medicine.
…some programs focus primarily on specific techniques such as acupuncture or herbal medicine, while others focus more broadly on the philosophy of TCM…
For instance, some programs focus primarily on specific techniques such as acupuncture or herbal medicine, while others focus more broadly on the philosophy of TCM while introducing students to the full spectrum of TCM treatment options. Additionally, some schools now focus on how TCM can be used in tandem with other schools of thought such as western medicine, chiropractic medicine, and more.
Depending on your desired career, you should also consider the level of education you wish to pursue. There are a variety of associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees available in addition to trade-specific certificate programs for traditions like acupuncture and Tai Chi.
What you’ll study and how long it will take
Students pursuing an associate or bachelor’s degree in Chinese medicine should expect to spend between two years (for an associate degree) and four years (for a bachelor’s degree) completing their studies. In addition to the general education courses in areas like math and English, both associate and bachelor’s degree will give students foundational knowledge in the following areas:
Specializing within traditional Chinese medicine
Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree, you can choose to pursue more advanced study by way of earning a master’s degree or post-graduate certificate. These courses of study tend to take between one and two years, and generally focus on a particular aspect of TCM rather than the broad field.
Potential specializations include:
The importance of accreditation
Accreditation is essentially a stamp of approval that the education in a given area offered by a particular school meets specific standards of quality. In addition to offering some level of assurance that students will receive an education that can, in theory, prepare them for careers in a given field, attending accredited institutions allows students to utilize federal student aid and the potential to transfer credits they’ve earned from one accredited school to another.
Agencies responsible for accrediting TCM schools and programs include the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (ACAHM) and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
Chinese medicine salary
Salaries associated with other practices of Chinese medicine can vary greatly. However, higher earnings in this field depend on self-promotion and marketing and your private practice clientele, or whether you choose to seek employment in an established facility in your local alternative medicine community.
|Career||Median Annual Salary|
|Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other||$58,750|
It may be beneficial for someone interested in Chinese medicine as a career path to choose a field of focus.
“If I had to give personal advice to someone who wants to work within Chinese medicine, I might say to choose a specialization and stick to it. Having too broad of an approach can be overwhelming. Choosing a single specialty and becoming studied and good in that specialty is more important than having a small understanding of many different specialties,” said Marlon Bishop, a former Tai Chi practitioner and student of herbology based in Brooklyn, New York.
Critiques and evaluations of TCM
The National Institute of Health (NIH) published research regarding potential dangers that traditional Chinese medicine carries. Some of the critiques listed by the NIH include:
When considering a career in Chinese medicine it is important to read the evaluations that recognized and accredited organizations offer. Studying the critiques of Chinese medicine, herbology, Tai Chi and other associated practices can help you understand the efficacy and safe usage of TCM.
“If someone is unaware of the critiques of eastern practices, they are also unaware of how to combat them. A good practitioner of any art form or medicinal practice should recognize its weaknesses and strengths,” Bishop said.
With professional insight from:
Student of Herbology and Tai Chi