Field of Study: Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine programs prepare people to practice oriental medicine. Students learn to balance the energy believed to flow through people's bodies. They study anatomy and medical ethics. For those who wish to focus on acupuncture, they learn how to identify and select specific points on the body where they insert special needles. These needles are used to relieve pain and restore health.
If you've ever been exposed to acupuncture - either from a picture or a description - it may seem like a medical form of torture: an acupuncturist pokes needles all over a patient's body. Although it may seem hard to believe, those needles can promote harmony and good health. How is this possible, you ask? Practitioners of oriental medicine believe that the human body is made up of specific points along a network of channels called "meridians." (Remember learning about the Prime Meridian in geography?) A source of vital energy called "Qi" flows through those channels and helps organs and other body systems to function.
As long as Qi is properly circulating, you should be in fine health. Acupuncture is one form of traditional oriental medicine that helps restore the flow of Qi in order to restore both physical and mental health. Believe it or not, then, those very thin and very sharp needles help to relieve rather than cause pain! In these programs, you also usually combine the study of acupuncture with other aspects of oriental medicine such as herbal medicine, Qi Gong (Chinese meditative therapy), and shiatsu (a form of massage).
As a student in this program, you learn how to identify the points and meridians along the human body. You learn how to diagnose health problems and decide what form of therapy to apply. You also study certain aspects of Western medicine, such as pathology, where you would learn to identify diseases by the standards of Western medicine.
About 40 schools in the United States offer accredited programs in acupuncture. Most of these programs require that you have a bachelor's degree to be admitted. These programs award a master's degree, a certificate, or a diploma. A few programs offer joint bachelor's-master's degree programs. These are programs where you can earn a bachelor's degree and then immediately go on to earn a master's degree.
All of the degree options take about six to seven years of full-time study after high school. Some master's level programs require applicants to complete only two years of baccalaureate level education. In those cases, you need about four to five years of full-time study after high school.