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November 8, 2019

Masters or Doctorate: Which Program Fits Your Needs As an Acupuncturist?

Your education is an important investment and making sure you get a return on that investment is important in your research process.
An education in acupuncture or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can open up your future to many diverse career paths. However, not every path is the same, and just as not every education is the same. How do you know if the degree you’re aiming for will be right for your career goals?
Our guide below can help you to understand the difference between Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine College’s (AIMC) Masters and Doctorate programs, and help you to decide which type may be right for you.

woman receiving an acupuncture treatment

Masters Program

Alternative medicine can seem a world away from conventional western practices, but when it comes to education, the requirements are somewhat similar. To begin, you may need to start with some prerequisite courses and steadily build up to learning specialized practices. You can also expect to learn in-depth anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.

At AIMC, our Masters curriculum is designed for future acupuncturists who want to practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with a strong emphasis on integrative medicine. Our curriculum includes six subject areas:

  • Acupuncture
  • Western Biomedicine
  • Integrative Medicine
  • East Asian Herbal Medicine
  • East Asian Medicine
  • Personal Practice and Ethics

Completing these courses can certify a graduate to work in acupuncture or a related field, and can also prepare them to move toward a Doctorate degree. This program can be completed in as little as 3 ⅓ years. Contact our admissions department for more information about our schedules and see if AIMC is right for you.

woman sitting on her couch and taking notes in a notebook

Doctoral Program

In our Doctoral courses, you can expect to dive deeper into integrative medicine and get advanced, specialized training in traditional and contemporary medicine. Subject areas here include:

  • Integrative Herbal Medicine
  • Functional Medicine
  • Advanced Clinic Skill
  • Advanced Orthopedics & Collaborative Care
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Doctoral Research

AIMC’s doctoral program requires a California Acupuncture Board approved Masters in Acupuncture, or you can also take advantage of our Masters and Dual Degree and get started on your doctoral degree as you complete your masters. As with an education in western medicine, students are expected to complete coursework as well as practical exams and clinical training hours before graduation.

Benefits of Earning a Degree in Acupuncture

There are many benefits to earning a degree in integrative medicine, including building up your credentials, skills, and gaining connections you might not come across otherwise. A Masters education is required to sit for the state licensing exam. Our program has had a lot of success preparing students for their board exams as well as preparation for running private practices and joining integrative medicine teams in hospitals or clinics.

Working toward a degree can also facilitate a focus or specialization in an area. You might be interested in women’s health, pediatrics, or physical therapy. Educators can help to hone your focus and find your place in the community.

Education Equals Experience

At AIMC our students are required to participate in the student clinic program, which provides interns the opportunity to apply acupuncture treatments, such as bodywork, herbal medicine, and other East Asian medicinal treatments under the supervision of a licensed faculty supervisor. AIMC also offers two permanent off-site clinical internships.
In these professional environments, you can focus on your chosen specialization and receive valuable experience moving forward. At AIMC’s herbal pharmacy you can also learn the basics of maintaining an integrative herbal pharmacy and herbal compounding.

woman applying an acupuncture treatment to a clients back

Career Requirements

In each state, you will need to sit for the state licensing exams to be certified to work. It’s important to define your career needs and goals before you commit to a program.
With a degree in integrative medicine or acupuncture, there may be quite a few career options open to you. Some of the most common within acupuncture are:

  • Sports medicine
  • Researcher
  • Reproductive & women’s health
  • Pain management
  • & Trauma recovery

At AIMC our graduates often go on to work in sports medicine, private practices, and community acupuncture projects.

Starting with a master’s degree can help you to learn more about your own interests and decide on a career path you want to take. Moving onto a Doctorate program can offer more time for research, teaching, and travel within the industry. It is a good option for those interested in a deeper understanding of traditional and integrated medicine.

If you’re interested in what your future career options could be, read more about AIMC Alumni, including former Oakland Raider Josh Taves, to see how they have made careers in acupuncture:

  • AIMC Graduate Spotlight: Sydney Malawer
  • Exploring an AIMC Student’s Personal Path to Healing
  • Pediatric Acupuncture At USCF Benioff Children’s Hospital
  • Oakland Raiders and AIMC Berkley Alumnus Explains His Start As an Acupuncturist

Can a Degree Affect Earning Potential?

You might wonder how much effect a degree in integrative medicine might have in your chosen career. In most states, certification through testing is required in order to practice acupuncture. A degree from an accredited institution is also required.
Depending on where you work can affect your earning potential. Different states have varying demands for acupuncturists, with California, Maryland, and Florida having the highest demand.

How to Apply

Get started on your journey into integrative medicine by applying to our program today. AIMC offers financial aid to those who qualify. Start by applying for the Application for Financial Aid (AFA) and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You can also apply for scholarships.
Contact us today to get in touch with an admissions representative and find out more about the programs offered and how you can pursue a career in this rewarding field.

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