Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Regulatory Agencies

As with most professions, Acupuncture and Oriental medicine is regulated not by one central agency, but several smaller ones, each responsible for the oversight of a specific part of the profession. The three regulatory agencies for acupuncture and Oriental medicine are the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) and the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is the agency responsible for accrediting acupuncture schools in the United States. ACAOM's primary purposes are to establish educational and institutional requirements for acupuncture and Oriental medicine programs, and to then accredit programs and institutions that meet these requirements.

The Accreditation Commission is composed of nine commissioners: three members from programs that are in candidate or accredited status with the Commission; three acupuncture practitioners from the professional community at large; and three members from the general public. They are responsible for approving ACAOM's accreditation standards, and overseeing the accreditation process.

ACAOM is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) as a "specialized and professional" accrediting agency. It was first recognized by the DoE in 1998 to accredit master's level programs and master's degrees in acupuncture only. In 1992, the Department of Education expanded ACAOM's scope to include programs in Oriental medicine. The Accreditation Commission is currently working to become a recognized accrediting body for acupuncture and Oriental medicine doctoral programs.

The Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is responsible for advancing the status of acupuncture and Oriental medicine through the power of educational institutions. The Council develops clinical and academic guidelines and core curriculum requirements for master's and doctoral level programs in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. The Council's other duties include creating programs in faculty and administrative development, and supporting acupuncture and Oriental medicine research.

Currently, more than 45 acupuncture and Oriental medicine institutions are members of the Council. Membership is open to all established three-year professional acupuncture and Oriental medicine programs that meet the Accreditation Commission's requirements for accreditation or candidacy status.

The National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is responsible for certifying individual acupuncturists to ensure that they have demonstrated nationally-recognized standards of competence in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.

NCCAOM currently offers certification in acupuncture, Chinese herbology, Oriental bodywork therapy and Oriental medicine. To date, more than 5,000 individuals have become certified in acupuncture; approximately 1,000 people have been certified in Chinese herbology. Certification in Oriental bodywork therapy began in 1996. The NCCAOM's most recent certification program, Oriental medicine, began in 2004.

To become certified, a candidate must meet eligibility standards of education and/or experience; pass the NCCAOM's Comprehensive Written Examination and Practical Examination; and complete an NCCAOM-approved course in clean needle technique. Candidates who meet these requirements are allowed to use the credentials Dipl.Ac., Dipl.CH or Dipl.ABT for acupuncture, Chinese herbology or Asian bodywork therapy, respectively. Unlike most other healthcare professions, all diplomates undergo a re-certification process every four years to show that practitioners are still active and can demonstrate current knowledge in the field.

NCCAOM is a member of the National Organization of Competency Assurance. It is certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies, the agency with the highest voluntary certifying standards in the United States.

In addition to the three regulatory agencies, there are several acupuncture and Oriental medicine member associations. For a listing of these associations and their role in the profession, click here.

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