Acupuncture is an ancient practice, but as an industry, it has only recently become recognized as a form of alternative medicine. With more and more people seeking options to complement conventional treatment, the demand for acupuncture, aromatherapy, and similar approaches has risen, and the career prospects for the field have increased considerably.

Several schools now offer acupuncture training, either as independent courses or as part of a larger program in alternative or Oriental medicine. Most universities and colleges offer them under continuing education or extended learning departments, allowing older students to complement their training or even start a new career altogether.

Most acupuncture courses are highly trained on conventional Chinese medicine, with courses covering herbal medicine, massage, and relaxation along with needling methods. The core of most programs is the standard needling procedure, but students usually have the option to take advanced courses. For example, many students in the latter part of an acupuncture program can opt to learn five-element acupuncture, which is based on supposed interactions between the five traditional elements (earth, air, fire, water, metal) and bodily functions such as breathing, digestion, heartbeat, and even emotions.

The first year of most acupuncture programs usually consists of theory and history. Students learn about the principles of acupuncture and Chinese medical terminology. They then start doing hands-on work, a requirement for a license to practice in most states, which consists of working in a hospital setting, assisting in procedures, and eventually administering treatment on their own. An intensive acupuncture program can take three to four years, but the career prospects are usually excellent as it is a fast-growing industry.

In most states, job prospects are better for those who take clinical training in acupuncture. Along with basic acupuncture courses, these programs teach physiology, anatomy, and pathology, giving students the skills they need to work in hospitals and provide supplementary treatments to patients receiving conventional medicine. Some students opt to work in smaller clinics dedicated to alternative medicine, or even start their own clinics.

Whatever program you choose, the most important thing is to make sure it leads to a certificate or license that will allow you to practice in your area. Online courses may be convenient, but not all of them are accredited or recognized by the state. Doing your research, calling up schools yourself, and asking around is the best way to make sure you’re getting the right training.

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