Acupuncture Regulations in the United States

As the acceptance of acupuncture in the united states grows, the need for guidelines and regulations governing these practitioners becomes imperative. Two national organizations are responsible for certifying practitioners and ensuring that acupuncture training and practice meet minimum standards for safety.

The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) developed a national certification process to ensure safety and competency in practicing acupuncture. The following requirements must be met before non-physicians may become nationally board-certified in acupuncture:1

  • Graduation from a full-time acupuncture program (minimum 1,725 hours entry-level education, with at least 1,000 didactic hours and 500 clinical hours) or completion of an apprenticeship (4,000 contact hours over a three- to six-year period, five years’ experience prior to apprenticeship, and minimum of 500 acupuncture visits per year by no fewer than 100 different patients).
  • Successful completion of NCCAOM-approved clean needle technique course.
  • Passing score on both written and practical licensing exams.

The Accreditation Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation to accredit professional acupuncture programs.2 Thirty-four U.S. programs are accredited currently, and seven programs are candidates for accreditation.

In the United States, regulation of physician acupuncture practice varies among states. Although some states require certification or licensure, many states do not have such requirements for physicians.3 In most states, health care professionals holding a license in an established medical field may complete an acupuncture training course and apply to their professional board for recognition of this therapy within their scope of practice.


1. Eligibility. National Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine web site. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2002.

2. Accredited and candidate programs of the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). ACAOM web site. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2002.

3. Leake R, Broderick JE. Current licensure for acupuncture in the United States. Altern Ther Health Med 1999;5:94-96. Available at: Accessed March 12, 2002.