Researching how to become an acupuncturist in Ontario can be a time-consuming task, so the Acupuncture Info Centre has aggregated everything you need to know about the process.
How To Become An Acupuncturist In Ontario
Along with the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland, Ontario protect the title of “Acupuncturist” while in the remaining provinces without regulation, it is the consumers’ responsibility to inform themselves of the practitioner’s level of training. The overall process of how to become an acupuncturist in Ontario requires obtaining your R.TCMP and/or R.Ac designation which involves the following steps
- Complete your TCM education and clinical experience
- Study for the Pan-Canadian Examinations
- Apply for the Pan-Canadian Examinations
- Complete and pass the Safety Program and Jurisprudence Course
- Register with the CTCMPAO
- Fill out the application form
- Your application is reviewed by the College
- Obtain Professional Liability Insurance
- Become registered by the College
This process takes 2 to 5 years depending on your previous education and experience as well as if you take part-time or full-time classes at a post-secondary program in traditional Chinese medicine.
In order to help you better understand the process, we’ve broken it down into two stages:
- Completing your acupuncture/TCM education and clinical experience
- Legally qualifying to practice acupuncture in the province of Ontario
Completing Your Acupuncture Education
Before diving into the educational requirements of how to become an acupuncturist in Ontario, it’s worth understanding why you might want to become an acupuncturist as well as some history in order to make sure the profession is something you really want to pursue.
Why Become An Acupuncturist
When it comes to acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are many compelling reasons to consider it as a path to further education or a way to start a career. If you are looking for a rewarding and attainable second career or a well-respected profession, you will find much to enjoy in this field. From helping others, meeting like-minded people, continuing education and flexible degree programs.
History of Acupuncture and TCM
The history of TCM and acupuncture dates back over 2000 years. The theory of TCM is based on the belief that a healthy body is a balanced one, and that illness and pain are signals of a body that has gone out of balance. Acupuncture, then, seeks to restore the body’s balance.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese medical practitioners and acupuncturists use subtle diagnostic techniques that they have developed over the centuries. There is a focus on the individual, not their illness, and all symptoms are considered together. It is possible for two patients who share the same western diagnosis to receive different acupuncture treatments.
In TCM, Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), or vital energy, is believed to be involved in the causes of illness and pain. The most common cause of these factors are:
- emotional and physical stress
- inadequate nutrition
- infection or injury
Traditional Chinese medical practitioners and acupuncturists seek to restore balance and trigger the body’s natural healing process by inserting ultra-fine, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points.
Acupuncture Training in Ontario
To become an acupuncturist in Ontario you must first complete a full-time post-secondary program at a traditional Chinese medicine school. Read our article, Acupuncture Schools in Ontario to get a list of TCM schools in Ontario and review their admission requirements.
The full-time post-secondary program must be of at least four years, or a full-time post-secondary program in acupuncture of at least three years, or equivalent education.
Additionally, you must complete a structured, comprehensive, supervised, and evaluated program of clinical experience in TCM that consists of at least 500 direct patient contact hours during 45 weeks of clinical practice.
All requirements must be met for applicants to complete their education either in Ontario or internationally. Here is information on the Education Equivalency Guideline and Entry Level Occupational Competencies for the Practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ontario.
The next step after graduating from an approved Traditional Chinese medicine and/or acupuncture school is to qualify to practice acupuncture in the province of Ontario.
How to Legally Practice Acupuncture in the Province of Ontario
Understanding the Regulation of Acupuncture in Ontario
As acupuncture is a regulated health care profession, there are few steps to become an acupuncturist in Ontario after graduating from a training program. As a regulated profession, acupuncture is “governed under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) and health profession Acts (i.e., Medicine Act, 1991). This legislative framework establishes health regulatory colleges, which regulate the professions in the public interest. Health regulatory colleges are responsible for ensuring that regulated health professionals provide health services in a safe, professional and ethical manner. This includes, among other things, setting standards of practice for the profession and investigating complaints about members of the profession and, where appropriate, disciplining them.
As both acupuncturist and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners fall into this categorization, they fall under the jurisdiction of The College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO); this is the governing body established by the government of Ontario, under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 and the Traditional Chinese Medicine Act, 2006. The duty is to safeguard the public by making sure TCM and other healthcare professionals are competent, ethical, and safe.
A health regulatory college is not an educational institution. Regulation of Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) is the law that governs colleges in Ontario for regulated health professions. According to Ontario law, anyone who performs any of the following is required to be a member of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO):
- Performs these authorized controlled acts:
- Performs acupuncture on the tissue underneath the dermis and mucous membranes.
- Provides a diagnosis using TCM techniques that identifies the cause of the symptoms of an individual.
- Using the protected title(s) and designations(s) of
- Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (TCMP)
- and/or Acupuncturist (R.Ac.)
- Holds themselves out as a member of the CTCMPAO.
What Are The Acupuncture Titles and Designations in Ontario
The College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO) grants use of the protected title and designation of both:
Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP)
Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners are only able to practice traditional Chinese medicine, including TCM herbal medicine and acupuncture within the scope of traditional Chinese medicine practice. They are authorized to use the designation R.TCMP and may use the title Acupuncturist and the designation R. Ac, including tuina, cupping and moxibustion.
Acupuncturists may only use the designation R.Ac and are authorized to practice traditional Chinese medicine using acupuncture, including tuina, cupping and moxibustion, excluding TCM herbal medicine. To practice Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP) or Acupuncturist (R.Ac.), in Ontario, you must become a General Member of the CTCMPAO. In order to become a member of the College, you need to obtain a general certificate of registration. As a general member, you are qualified to practice in Ontario and can perform any controlled act authorized to your profession under the Traditional Chinese Medical Act, 2006.
Acquiring Your Professional Acupuncture Designation in Ontario
To become a General Class member of the CTCMPAO’s and earn the R.TCMP and/or R.Ac title(s), follow each step listed below.
1. Complete your TCM education
You must graduate from an acupuncture or TCMP program recognized by the CTCMPAO.
2. Complete the Pan-Canadian Examinations
There are two examinations offered each year, April and October. Check the CTCMPAO’s website for the next exam date. You will be evaluated on three non-exemptible requirements for the registration examinations:
- education program
- supervised clinical experience
- a competency assessment.
You must also provide the following documents in support of your eligibility:
- A copy of your diploma, certificate, or degree from a TCM and/or TCM acupuncture program or a letter from your educational institution verifying that you successfully completed of the program
- Academic transcripts of marks
- Course descriptions for your program, including course names, hours, and descriptions
- A letter from educational institution/supervisor attesting to successful completion of at least 45 weeks of clinical experience in TCM involving at least 500 hours of direct patient contact
All documents must either be an original copy issued by the educational institution or a notarized copy. Visit the Pan-Canadian Examinations webpage for more information.
3. Complete and pass both the Safety Program and Jurisprudence Course
In Ontario, you are required to complete the Safety and Jurisprudence Test to ensure that registered members engage in safe practices and understand the expectations of the ethical and legal framework. It is possible to complete the Safety and Jurisprudence Test within three years of submitting your application for registration or at a later date following the submission. Instructions for applying for the Safety and Jurisprudence Program are found on the CTCMPAO’s website.
4. Get your supporting documents in order
Before you submit your General Class application form to the CTCMPAO you must have all your supporting documents ready. Follow the guide for completing the General Class application form.
You will need the following documentation with your application:
- Notarized copy of your identification
- Proof of name change (if applicable)
- Criminal Background Check using the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database
5. Fill out the application form.
Complete the General Application form. You may submit your application before or after attempting the Registration Examinations to meet the currency requirement. Be aware that your application is valid for only 12 months from the date of signing the declaration contained on the application form.
The Currency Requirement (O. Reg. 27/13, ss. 9 (2)), is intended to ensure that applicants have the current skill, knowledge and judgment before they begin their practice in the profession. This requirement can be met in one of three ways:
- Apply for registration within 12 months of completing a TCM education program;
- Completed 500 TCM patient visits within three years prior to applying for registration (these visits do not include the patient visits obtained during your clinical experience from your TCM program); or
- Previously completed a refresher program that was approved by the Registration Committee within 12 months of application.
Mail and attach all completed relevant documents and application fee ($250) with your General Class application form and mail it to:
CTCMPAO – Registration
55 Commerce Valley Drive West, Suite 705
Thornhill, ON, Canada L3T 7V9
6. Your application is reviewed by the College
Once you have submitted your application and met all registration requirements, you can move on to the next step.
If you do NOT meet all the registration requirements your application will be reviewed by a panel of the Registration Committee. The review process usually takes approximately one to two weeks to complete. If a review process is required it takes between two and six months
7. Obtain Professional Liability Insurance Coverage
You are required to submit a declaration that you are eligible for professional liability insurance coverage and that you will provide proof of insurance coverage in the form of a Certificate of Insurance issued by the insurer within thirty (30) days after the registration has been approved.
Without proof, the college will not issue a certificate of registration.
There are many Professional Liability Insurance companies for Acupuncturists in Ontario to choose from. Contact them and ensure that they follow strict policies required by the CTCMPAO.
Once the process is successfully completed, a confirmation email with your registration number will be sent to you and You may now begin to legally practise Traditional Chinese Medicine and/or Acupuncture in Ontario.
What if I am qualified to practice acupuncture in another province?
If you are currently a registered TCM practitioner or Acupuncturist from one of the other four regulated provinces, (British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and Newfoundland), you could legally practice TCM and/or acupuncture in Ontario through Labour Mobility.
Applicants must provide a letter of good standing from the Canadian Alliance of Regulatory Bodies of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists (CARB-TCMPA). CARB-TCMPA is the national forum and voice of provincial regulatory authorities that are established by their respective provincial legislation. This letter must establish, to the satisfaction of the CTCMPAO that you are in good standing as an active/practising member.
To be eligible for the General Class through Labour Mobility applicants must meet the requirements listed below. For more information on how to become an R.TCMP and/or R.Ac in Ontario go to the CTCMPAO’s website.