What Do You Learn In Acupuncture School?

What do you learn in an acupuncture school? If you are considering becoming an acupuncturist this is a valid question.

You will be spending lots of time and money in acupuncture school and you want to make sure these courses are interesting.

what do you learn in acupuncture school

Acupuncture Is A Regulated Health Care Profession

What do you learn in an acupuncture school? One of the first things you will learn is that acupuncture is a regulated health care profession.

TCM is a regulated health care profession. In order to practise as a TCM Practitioner and/or Acupuncturist, in Ontario, you must meet the registration requirements as set in the Ontario Regulation 27/13, Registration Regulation. This is set out by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO) and requires that your post-secondary full-time education program must:

  • consist of at least 480 hours per year of classroom theoretical instruction;
  • or at least 620 hours per year of practical instruction;
  • or some combination of the two where, for every hour of classroom theoretical instruction that is less than 480 hours, there must be a corresponding increase of 1.3 hours in the number of hours of practical instruction.

The first requirement includes completing a full-time post-secondary program in traditional Chinese medicine.

The courses listed below are specific to becoming an acupuncturist or a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner. TCM and acupuncture is a regulated health care profession and to practise legally you must meet the registration requirements as set out by the province that you will be practicing in.

Post-Secondary Acupuncture Program

The course name at your chosen full-time post-secondary acupuncture school may vary from what is listed below. Within each approved school will learn and practice each of these competencies to qualify your to register with the CTCMPAO.

If you are undecided about which acupuncture school to attend go to this article.

How long is Acupuncture School?

It takes at least three years to become an Acupuncturist and four years to become a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (TCMP). If you have previous education it may take less time (and potentially less tuition). Advanced standing will be determined by the school of your choice.

You must also complete a structured, comprehensive, supervised, and evaluated program of clinical experience and this involves at least 500 direct patient contact hours over 45 weeks.

Once all the requirements are met, you may complete your education in Ontario or internationally.

For more information about the Practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ontario.
Education Equivalency Guideline
Entry-Level Occupational Competencies

Courses Taught In Acupuncture School

What do you learn in an acupuncture school?

Assuming you have no educational background in TCM or any previous background in sciences or therapeutic training you will learn both Eastern and Western Medical theory as well as gain practical clinical experience.

Each school may name each course slightly differently or overlap course materials. This is general information.

In your first year, you will build your TCM foundation and Western biomedical concepts and slowly begin to integrate them into practice. One of the goals of your TCM education will enable you to relate biomedical information concerning a patient’s condition and treatment into a TCM diagnosis.

Throughout your TCM education, you will continually build on these courses. Some of the courses require over 100 hours of theory and clinical practice is over 500 hours.

Traditional Chinese Medical Theory

Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory

In this introductory course, you will learn the historical and philosophical contexts, upon which TCM is based and learn the fundamental theories of TCM and understand the concepts and physiology of:

  • Qi
  • Blood and Body Fluids
  • Essence
  • Shen
  • Mingmen
  • Yin and Yang
  • Five Elements
  • Eight Principles
  • Six Pathogenic Factors
  • Seven emotions
  • Zhang-Fu Organs

Eastern Nutrition

Traditional eastern philosophy believes that ‘food is medicine. Learn the basic Chinese dietary principles in order to be able to advise patients accordingly based on patterns, seasons, and age.

The Jing-Luo (Meridians and Collaterals) System

This is the study of the complex network of meridians and collaterals that integrate the body’s energy and functions into a unified organism. Learn the classification, location and pathology of the 12 master channels, 8 extraordinary channels, luo-connecting channels, divergent channels and the superficial collaterals. Discover the anatomical locations and the classical text interpretation.

The Treatment of Disease

This course of study will focus on the most commonly seen diseases in internal medicine, including gynecology, dermatology and common complaints seen in clinical practice. The student will learn how to identify and treat them using the ancient theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Diagnosis

Learn the standard TCM components of diagnosis using the traditional four diagnostic methods: inspection, auscultation/olfaction, inquiry and palpation.

You will gain hands-on practice, pulse patterns and tongue diagnosis and learn to distinguish syndromes according to:

  • the Zang-Fu organs
  • Extraordinary Organs
  • syndromes according to Qi, Blood and Body Fluids
  • differentiate syndromes according to the 4-Levels, 6-Stages and Three Burners
  • Eight Principles of TCM.

Acupuncture Theory and Techniques

Introduction to Acupuncture Points

Locate important points along the meridians of the body. Learn the commonly used methods of locating the points using anatomical landmarks, proportional measurements, and finger and thumb measurements.

Discover the differential functions and clinical significance of each point and learn to compare other points on the same or different meridians.

Acupoint Theory and Location

Learn the different types of needles and methods. Locate acupuncture points on the body including the body, including the scalp, feet and hands. Determine the contraindications and management of accidents.

Acupuncture Technique

Learn the TCM method of treating disease through the use of needles inserted into particular points accompanied by specific manipulations. Be introduced to the different types of needles, methods and techniques; the contraindications and management of accidents.

Clean Needle Technique

Gain an understanding of the transmission of disease and how to protect yourself and your patients. Learn clean needle practice, theory and technique, proper handling and disposal of needles and the proper sterilization of all materials used in practice.


Microsystems are self-contained subsystems located within a larger system.

Acu-Microsystems are used to treat the entire body through the ears (auricular acupuncture), hand, foot, scalp and eyes.

External Modalities

TCM external modalities or techniques are methods of giving physical therapy through the human body surface, pores, and acupoints.

Tai Chi

Learn and practice this internal Chinese martial art and form of stylized, meditative exercise, characterized by methodically slow circular and stretching movements and positions of bodily balance.

Tai Chi can have a positive effect on elderly patients, aid in balance and flexibility, promote cardiovascular fitness and treat chronic conditions. It is a low-impact activity that has been known to contribute to greater mental and physical health.


Learn this Chinese manual therapy, which uses the TCM theory of the flow of Qi through the channels as its basic therapeutic orientation. Through the application of massage and manipulation techniques, Tuina establishes a harmonious flow of Qi through the system of channels and collaterals, allowing the body to heal itself naturally.

Medical Qi-Gong

Qi-Gong means the practice of working with one’s ‘life force’. It is an exercise that regulates Qi through meditative movement, breath control, intent and awareness training. It has been successful in treating various chronic diseases.
Learn basic movements to practice on a daily basis to promote and maintain strengthen your Qi, health and be able to teach your clients the benefits of Qi-Gong.


Electro-acupuncture is the stimulation of acupuncture points with electric current, using needles and to promote Qi flow and stimulate healing, therapy aims to stimulate circulation.

Plum Blossom

Plum-blossom needle therapy is a method of shallow insertion of multiple needles into the skin. The instrument is made of five or seven stainless-steel needles arranged in a plum-blossom-shaped pattern. This therapy treats diseases by tapping specific skin areas or acupoints.


Gua-sha is an exterior release method and is an integral part of acupuncture and TCM-related techniques.

Gua means to scrape and Sha means redness or swelling. Gua-Sha techniques involve the use of instruments to apply pressure or scape the skin to promote the extravasation of blood and fluids to promote normal circulation and metabolic processes.


Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups, silicon cups or bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on the ski to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion. This is done by drawing congested blood to the surface.


Moxibustion is an external heat treatment using a dried herb known as mugwort, Artemisia Vulgaris. It is based on the theory of (TCM), and it usually heats acupoints with burning moxa wool.

The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

If you are considering becoming an R.TCMP you will be taking the following courses:

Chinese herbal medicine is primarily plant-based (using leaves, roots, stems, flowers and seeds) and some minerals and animal products. These herbs are classified by their energy characteristics and taste property, where a combination of different herbs is used to balance the yin and yang energy patterns of the body. These formulas are packaged as powders, pastes, lotions or tablets, depending on the herb prescribed and its intended use.

Materia Medica

Materia Medica is a Chinese herbal theory. Identify Chinese herbs and their applications. Learn the foundation of herbal formulas as a basis for planning individualized and modified herbal prescriptions.

R.Ac’s will be introduced to Materia Medica as well.

Classical Chinese Herbal Formulas

Learn the major categories of Chinese herbal formulas and the modification of formulas employed clinically.

Chinese Herbal Treatment of Disease

Learn the most commonly seen diseases in internal medicine, including gynecology, dermatology and other common complaints. Discover how to identify and treat them using TCM theory.

Chinese Herbal Dispensary and Preparation

You will learn safety considerations to prepare, process and store herbal medicines; be educated in the general requirements in prescribing herbal formulas.

Learn about western medication and their interaction with Chinese medicinal herbs to ensure a safe dispensary.

Western Medical Theory (Biomedicine)

First Aid and CPR

Receive First Aid training and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) skills. This first aid course will address more than 28 different injury and illness scenarios, including CPR for adults, children, and infants, as well as automated external defibrillation (AED), and bag valve mask techniques for health care providers.

Nationally recognized certificates are valid for three years and issued upon completion.

Human Anatomy and Physiology

Human anatomy is the study of the structure and composition of cells, tissues and organs. Learn about the systems of the body: skeletal, articular, muscular, lymphatic, circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary, endocrine and reproductive. Understand the organization of the body organ systems and the coordination of their functions.

Physiology studies the functioning of the human body. Major topics include cellular metabolism, thermoregulation, bone growth, muscle function, lymph flow, blood flow, respiration, digestion, waste elimination, hormonal influences, reproduction, and nerve function.

Functional Anatomy

Learn to communicate with the medical community and your clients using anatomical language. You will be able to identify the action, function, origin, insertion, and general innervation of palpable muscle groups; locate and palpate major muscle groups; describe muscular contribution to the movement, and the functional limitations posed by articular structures; and demonstrate ROM of major muscle groups.

Human Pathology and Symptomology

Study the processes of tissue repair, infectious diseases, and the pathologies of the bone, muscle and the major body systems, respiration, circulation, nervous, gastrointestinal, reproductive, immunological, and hormonal.

Biomedical Pharmacology

Learn the basic classifications of prescription drugs and potential side effects. Discover vitamins, herbs and supplements that are commonly taken. You will be introduced to the potential medication, herb and nutritional supplement interactions, contraindications and side effects and how to access this information.

Western Medical Assessment

Gain diagnostic training and learn to acquire information on biomedical diagnostic data, medical and health history, measure vital signs and conduct relevant physical examinations.

Learn how to interpret the results of imaging studies and medical lab tests, and how to diagnose and treat western diseases. Recognize conditions that require urgent medical treatment, and assist or direct patients appropriately, obtain information on biomedical diagnostic data, medical and health history, measure vital signs, conduct relevant physical examinations.

Practice Management and Professionalism

Ethics and Jurisprudence

Learn the professional issues pertaining to acupuncture treatment, including medical, legal and ethical issues, future trends and record keeping.

Practice Management and Communication

Gain the knowledge to succeed in private practice and learn proper techniques for record-keeping, financial planning, effective marketing and how to successfully manage their business.

Master the skills to communicate between patient and practitioner, managing difficult situations, making appropriate referrals, insurance issues, resume writing, risk management, and quality assurance.

Professional Counselling Strategies

TCM counselling draws upon the theory of medicine and the self-awareness of the practitioner. Learn to address and best professionally serve your patient’s emotional and psychological needs within your scope of practice.

Study the principles, ethics and effective methods of curative counselling. You will focus on interaction techniques and explore them in a practical setting.

Acupuncuture Clinic Practice

Acupuncture Practicum (Student Clinic)

The practice clinic is where you will spend the bulk of your program. This is where you take everything you have learned and apply it in a supervised clinical setting and be exposed to a wide variety of ailments.

Begin with an introduction to policies and procedures; be introduced to cases in the clinic. Learn about patient intake, safe and ethical practices, how to use the equipment, and how to dispense Chinese herbs (if in the TCMP program).

Clinical Internships

Some acupuncture schools will have you intern with a practicing R.Ac. and/or R.TCMP where you can learn from established practitioners that will count towards your clinical hours.

For those studying TCMP additional courses clinic hours are required they are as follow:

Prepare For the Registration Examinations

Congratulations! You have completed your full-time TCM acupuncture program and passed your exams.

You may now prepare to register for the Examinations with the CTCMPAO.