After my first blog, I received a comment asking what the requirements are to become an acupuncturist. I thought the response might be of interest to everyone in that actually no formal training is required whatsoever since acupuncture is an unregulated medicine. This means that anybody seeking out an acupuncturist might find themselves having needles administered by somebody with no formal training at all and this is completely legal under the current laws. This is exactly why the British Acupuncture Council (http://www.acupuncture.org.uk) has been set up, so that trained acupuncturists have a presence whereby they can push for change and encourage the powers that be to help regulate the industry.
Acupuncturists who have been accepted as members of the BAcC have been deemed responsible and trained to a good standard to administer acupuncture.
I trained at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine for 4 years to achieve a BSc degree level qualification accredited by Kingston University. It was a very tough course to complete with only a dozen colleagues qualifying at the end of it. The course was run over weekends and included a mixture of coursework and exams as part of the assessments. About half of the course was taken up learning Western Medical approaches to disease. This is important as an acupuncturist needs to be able to distinguish the seriousness of the patient's condition and whether that patient should be referred to their GP for further tests. It also gives us a greater understanding of what types of tests and procedures the patient has had to encounter as part of their condition.
The final year was split between lessons and practicing in the College clinic. A nerve-racking time where we treated the public under direct supervision from our senior lecturers. This was fantastic as we were able to glean years of experience from our supervisors and put our 3 years of study to practice.
However, I think what ought to be stressed, and I'm sure my fellow graduates would agree, that embarking on this particular course at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine is no mean feat. It involved a huge amount of study, cramming for exams and furiously writing up coursework into the night. Friends and loved ones endlessly being told we don't have time to see them and even when we do, spending that time covering them in dots as we practised locating the 365 acupuncture points we needed to know to the millimetre to pass our exams.
Alongside coursework and exam pressures, I had to hold down a full-time job whilst maintaining the full-time degree in order to fund the £17,500 course fees. Having already obtained a Journalism degree, government funding was not an option for me, although I believe there are some grant schemes that can help with that side of things.
But enough of the doom and gloom... Becoming an acupuncturist was the best thing I ever did! Making people feel better is the best job in the world, I feel so honoured and privileged that I was able to study with some of the best acupuncturists in the country and to have learnt a form of medicine that has been practised for thousands of years and to carry on the long tradition of curing people with acupuncture.
So all I will say is that if you are considering a career in acupuncture, look long and hard at your work, social, financial and childcare commitments as these will definitely suffer for that 4 year period. Then look at your life now and weigh up how badly you want to change it. And finally take the leap, knuckle down, become a recluse, and after 4 years you'll be an acupuncturist. You'll never have much money, but you'll have the best job in world!
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Verity Allen - BSc, BA, MBAcC, Lic Ac