Acupuncture Certification Information
Credentialing, the certification process and Colorado requirements
The practice of acupuncture in the U.S. has been exponential in recent years and what has emerged are practitioners with varying levels of basic training. Unlike the practice of law or acquiring a real estate license, all practitioners are not required to pass a basic minimum competency exam in order to practice acupuncture in the state of Colorado.
The only national competency exam for acupuncture is the one given by the NCCAOM (National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.) To sit for this board, a student of acupuncture must attend a graduate school program in Traditional Chinese Medicine for 4 years and acquire over 3,000 hours of training. Once this is completed and the Boards are successfully passed, a person becomes NCCAOM certified.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology are now two separate exams thus allowing the individual to acquire the designation Dipl. Ac (for acupuncture) and Dipl. C.H. (for Chinese Herbology). Only the acupuncture exam is currently required for Colorado licensure. Due to their extensive training, practitioners who are state Licensed and NCCAOM certified are the most highly educated and qualified to practice Chinese Medicine.
Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.'s) and Medical Doctors (M.D.'s) have no minimum requirements for training to do acupuncture in the state of Colorado. These doctors who practice acupuncture are usually called "Medical Acupuncturists". There are a few weekend classes available for medical doctors if they wish to learn some limited acupuncture and use the title "Medical Acupuncturist", but the state does not legally require or enforce it.
Chiropractors are required to have 100 hours of training. No exam is required to practice and no acupuncture license is required. As with M.D.'s it is considered an "add-on" to their current professional scope of practice.
Physical therapists are now allowed to practice dry needling with only 40 hours training. Dry needling is clinically a form of acupunture.
In the state of Colorado, acupuncture is regulated by the Colorado State Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Only those who have passed the NCCAOM exam are awarded the title of "Licensed Acupuncturist" in this state. Most states which license acupuncturists use the NCCAOM exam as the licensing criteria, but a few states (like California) have their own licensing exam.
Here is an explanation of those confusing initials often used by Acupuncturists:
NCCAOM Certified: This term means the person has passed one or more of the standard competency exams given by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
DIPL. Ac.: Diplomate of Acupuncture. Title awarded to those who have successfully passed the NCCAOM competency exam in Acupuncture.
Dipl. C.H.: Diplomate of Chinese Herbology. Title awarded to those having successfully passed the NCCAOM competency exam in Chinese Herbology.
MTOM: Masters Degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine. This degree is awarded after a 3-4 year study program at an accredited school of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
L.Ac.: Licensed Acupuncturist. A title used to denote a person who has passed the NCCAOM competency exam and wishes to be licensed to practice in a particular state. Colorado acupuncturists usually use the initials Dipl. Ac., Dipl. C.H. to show they are NCCAOM certified.