How to Choose An Acupuncture School

What do you look for when selecting an acupuncture program? You want to become an acupuncturist or a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (TCM) and have looked at the various schools in your province. Now you need to decide on how to choose an acupuncture school.

In Ontario, to become an acupuncturist or a TCM practitioner you must apply to, attend and graduate from a TCM acupuncture school. There are many things to consider; you don’t know where to start or you may feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we have broken everything down for you, so you can find an acupuncture school that meets all of your needs.

How to choose an acupuncture school

Research Before Selecting an Acupuncture School

Every Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture school is unique. You want to know if a particular acupuncture program is a good fit for you and there is a lot to consider. Deciding on an acupuncture school is one of the most important decisions to make when considering a career as a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (TCMP) or Acupuncturist.

How to choose an acupuncture school will require a considerable investment of time and money. Research the acupuncture school and speak to as many different schools and graduates as possible. You want to ensure that the acupuncture school will provide you with the tools to pass the Pan-Canadian examinations, become a registered member of the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO) and become successful in your future TCM career.

Become a Registered Member of the CTCMPAO

To practice acupuncture legally, you must be a member of the CTCMPAO. To do so, you must complete a TCM program with clinical experience that is structured, comprehensive, supervised and evaluated. It must consist of at least 45 weeks of clinical experience with at least 500 hours of direct patient contact. Does the acupuncture school of your choice provide this?

Acupuncture Schools in Ontario that meet the requirements of the CTCMPAO can be found here!

What Is the Difference between R.TCMP and R.Ac?

A big question to first ask yourself is, “do I want to practice acupuncture and/ or incorporate Chinese herbs into my practice?” Not every TCM acupuncture school offers both; when determining, how to choose an acupuncture school, decide if you want to practice as an R.TCMP or an R.Ac.

When you choose an acupuncture school decide if you want to incorporate Chinese herbs into your practice or that you solely want to practice acupuncture. Here is the difference.

Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP)

Chinese Herbs
Chinese Herbs

R.TCMP is a protected title in Ontario and some provinces in Canada. This title lets the public know as a practitioner, you are proficient in Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese herbal medicine is primarily plant-based (using leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds), or minerals and animal products.

R.TCMP’s can also use the title R.Ac and practice acupuncture.

The program can take up to 4 years to complete.

Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac)

Acupuncture in practice
Acupuncture in practice

R.Ac is a protected title in Ontario and some provinces in Canada. Acupuncturists perform acupuncture which is the insertion of thin, metal needles to stimulate specific points of the body that reach meridians.

R.Ac cannot offer Chinese herbs in their practice and cannot use the title R.TCMP.

The program can take up to 3 years to complete.

Pan-Canadian Examinations

Important details to know on how to choose an acupuncture school. You want to be prepared to pass the Pan-Canadian Examinations. Know the passing rate of the students of the TCM program when selecting an acupuncture school.

Passing the Pan-Canadian Examinations will allow you to become a registered member of the CTCMPAO and can practice TCM acupuncture legally in Ontario (or the college in your province).

You can check out the passing rate on the CTCMPAO’s website.

Entry Level Occupational Competencies

The Entry-Level Occupational Competencies for the Practice of Traditional
Chinese Medicine in Canada is intended to identify the job tasks in which entry-level TCM practitioners and acupuncturists should be proficient, in order
to provide safe, effective and ethical practice. When selecting an acupuncture school you want to ensure that they meet these Entry Level Occupational Competencies.

Occupational Competencies Practice Areas

Ask the representative of your preferred acupuncture school how they cover these practice areas in their program.

  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Professionalism
  • Practice Management
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine Foundations
  • Fundamentals of Biomedicine
  • Diagnostics and Treatment
  • Acupuncture Techniques
  • Herbal Dispensary Management
  • Safety

Note: Within each Practice Area, the Occupational Competencies are identified as:

  • Common (applicable to both Acupuncture and Herbology)
  • Acupuncture (unique to the practice of Acupuncture)
  • Herbology (unique to the practice of Herbology)

Visit the Acupucture Schools

After you’ve researched various approved acupuncture schools online, you should visit them (in-person or virtually) to know which ones would be a good fit for you. Most acupuncture schools will hold an open house so you can see the school, meet some instructors and even some students.

  • Ask for a campus tour, where you’ll experience the school’s culture and atmosphere firsthand.
  • Sit in a class to see what learning is like at the school, and also get an acupuncture treatment at the student clinic.
  • Speak with an admissions rep and ask them any questions you may have.

Because of COVID-19, many acupuncture schools have altered the way they hold tours to keep everyone safe. Be sure to check with them and see where they stand in regards to your and the public’s safety.

School Environment

When selecting an acupuncture school, evaluate each based on your personal interests and career goals. You will be spending much of your time at school you want an environment that will best support you and is a good fit. Remember that it takes 3-5 years to complete your Diploma. You will be spending a great deal of time interacting with the same people at that school.

How to choose an acupuncture school should be based on fit for you. You want to ensure that their education and curriculum approach suits your interests in TCM, provides you with the resources needed to fulfill your career goals, and has the right environment and culture to complement your personality.
Choosing the right school will make your time more enjoyable, and it will ultimately lead to a more successful career. Find a school that suits your personality, satisfies your interests and supports your professional goals and aspirations.

Audit A Class

It is highly recommended that you sit in on a class during your visit to the school. Take at least two, one in Eastern medicine theory and a Western course. It will provide you with a better sense of the school’s learning style, professors, and student body.

Note the teaching style and presentation as well as the student’s engagement. Do not worry about whether the information is complicated. Do keep in mind that it is a learning environment, so there will always be a level of seriousness involved.

Which Diploma Do I Choose?

As mentioned you should choose between becoming a Registered Acupuncturist (R.Ac.) or a Registered TCM practitioner (R.TCMP). To become an R.Ac you will need at least 3-4 full-time and add another 2 years to become an R.TCMP depending on school and previous education.
Audit some classes – (this will depend on Public health in each city in regards to COVID)

Note: You can become an R.Ac then decide to pick up course and hours to become an R.TCMP, but you will have to write the Pan-Examinations again which includes all the fees involved in that process.

It is not a bad idea to introduce yourself to your professor or some of the students during the break period. Ask for any tips about how to succeed as a student.

Visit the Acupuncture Student Clinic

I recommend that you get an acupuncture treatment at the student clinic during your visit or schedule one. You will get an idea of how learning gets applied, as well as gauge the school’s culture. You could even get treatment from a recent graduate, see how far they have come and ask a few questions about their experience.
Don’t forget to look at the clinic rooms, too. Is it organized and sterile, or do you find them to be messy? Would you be comfortable learning and practicing acupuncture here?

Speak to an Admissions Rep

While you are in the process of selecting an acupuncture school you should definitely speak with the admissions rep. They will provide you with any information regarding their school’s program. If you still have questions about how to choose an acupucnture school, now is the time to ask. The representative can provide you with information on

  • opinions – by contacting a current student or their alumnus
  • school’s professional affiliations – indicates that their is an interest to keep abreast of the latest knowledge and practices.
  • graduate’s job placement rate – high job placement rate indicates the quality and strength ofthe curriculum and preparing their students for success in their career
  • graduate rate – a measure of the percent of students who started and completed a program on time. Asking about graduation rates gives you insight into how many students are finished the program in a timely manner. It is a metric that holds a school accountable, measures the quality of the school.
  • Pan-Canadian Exam Passing Rate – a high passing rate indicates the school’s ability to prepare students with the knowledge and clinical experience as set out by the CTCMPAO

Other Considerations When Selecting An Acupuncture School

After your intital research you may have discovered that there are several acupuncture schools that you are interested in. How to choose which acupuncture school to attend from your options?

At this point to may come down to what is personal and to be pragmatic.

It will depend on location, what are your finances and budget? You want to think about how they are dealing with COVID, the varients and vaccinations (and all the protocols regarding this).

Below you will have more considerations. Knowledge will help you make the right decision.

General Questions When Selecting An Acupuncture School

  • Is the location of the school right for you?
  • What are the application and admissions requirements?
    • What are there fees?
    • Is a deposit required?
  • How long is the program?
    • Do they have a part-time schedule?
  • Is there support for students?
  • Do you have to drive to school?
    • Is there parking?
    • What are the parking cost?
    • Will you take public transit?
  • Cost of rent in the city?
  • What are the costs of living?
    • Can you afford it?
  • Can I work and attend school full-time or part-time?
  • What is the size of the classes?
    • What is the student to instructor ratio?
  • What are the school academic policies?
  • How are they keeping students, teachers and patients safe from COVID-19?
  • Is there a student library for resources and to study?
  • Are the rooms in the school well-lit and ventilated?
  • Do you prefer a public or private college?

Financial Questions

  • How much is tuition
    • Does tuition cover the cost of textbooks and materials?
  • Do they have a payment plan?
  • Can I reduce my tuition with scholarships or OSAP?
  • Are the fees refundable?
  • What if I have to drop out? What are the policies for refunds?

Curriculum Considerations

  • Do they have both Registered Acupuncture and TCM practitioner programs?
  • Are there virtual classes?
  • Do they have a graduate program?
  • Does acupuncture school offer a trip to study in China as part of its academic program?
  • Do they offer specific TCM courses outside the R.Ac. and TCMP programs?

Questions About Student Clinic

  • Where will my clinical hours be completed?
  • Will I have a variety of conditions and patients to treat?
  • Who are the instructors at the clinic? Are they fully supervised and registered with the CTCMPAO?
  • Will I have a variety of instructors so I may learn from their particular expertise?
  • Do they provide an internship program?

Questions about Acupuncture School ‘s Reputation & Performance

  • Are there preparatory classes for Pan-Canadian Examinations?
  • What is the success/passing rate for Pan-Canadian Exam Results?
  • How successful are the graduates of the program?
  • Who are the instructors?
  • What are their reputations?
  • Do they have their own practice?
  • How long have they been teaching?
  • Does the school have a code of ethics and support the principles of professionalism?
  • Do they have policies on Sexual Harassment and Diversity & Inclusion?
  • Do they provide services for those with special needs?
  • Is the school affiliated with professional associations such as Council Of Traditional Chinese Medicine And Acupuncture Schools Of Ontario

Good luck! I hope this has helped better prepare you on how to choose an acupuncture school that best suits you and your future career.