The acupuncture license. It’s the last official hurdle to being able to practice this beautiful medicine. You’ve finished your intensives; the clinical marathon has been run; your corequisite classes are done. And yes, no more studying for your national exams because you’ve passed! Now the only thing you’re waiting on is your state acupuncture regulatory board to review your application and send you your official license.

Compared to the three years it’s taken to get to this point, waiting on your license should be the easiest step. It is after all, the culmination of all of the work you’ve been doing. Your schoolwork has been laying the foundation for this from the first day you enrolled. And yet, the waiting makes it one of the hardest steps. The trying is over, and there’s nothing you can do until they approve your application. In the back of your mind it’s hard not to worry that you’ve missed something. And with each state’s varying rules and regulations, it’s easy to see why that worry is reasonable.

As most of you know (or are becoming aware), acupuncture laws differ from state to state. No two states that regulate the practice of acupuncture have the same criteria for issuing licenses. Along with meeting accreditation standards, your program also has to meet the requirements for the state where it is located. And that doesn’t mean it meets the requirements for the state next door. If you move after graduation, or find yourself moving years down the road, you want to make sure your training is, shall we say, portable. It’s hard to plan for a possibility 10 years down the road, but there are steps you can take to put yourself in good standing.

Step 1: Create a list of possible states where you might want to practice. Will you return to the state you currently live in after graduation, or will you be going some place new? Write down all of the possibilities.

Step 2: Research the rules and regulations of acupuncture practice for each state on your list. Government websites can be confusing, so don’t rely solely on the internet. When in doubt, find the number for the acupuncture representative at that state’s Department of Health. Talk to them.

Step 3: Compare your results. Are the states similar in hours required? Do they have special western science requirements? And here’s the one of the biggest difference between states: do they require herbal training?

Step 4: Compare the strictest state you’ve found with the schools that you’re looking at. Apply accordingly!

With the early preparation done, there’s one more piece of advice that I want to pass along: once you’re enrolled in a program take advantage of every class that it has to offer.  Even if you’re not initially in love with the topic, you never know when that knowledge will prove useful (in your practice and in getting licensed). One of the most common questions students ask me is whether or not they should also enroll in the Chinese Herbal Studies program. They hear the calling to practice acupuncture, but they’re not quite so sure that that calling includes herbal studies. My advice is always to enroll. From a purely practical stand-point, you might need the training one day if you’re moving to a new state. Your home state might pass a law requiring training while you’re in school, after you’ve done your initial research. Enrolling is the best way to be prepared. Besides, you might also fall in love with herbs!

I’ve talked to a number of practitioners who want to move to Florida and realized that they can’t become licensed here without herbal training. It’s easy to tell yourself when you’re in school that you want to focus on acupuncture and that you can always come back to study herbs. But when you’re on the verge of that move and suddenly find that you have to wait, that earlier decision can become very frustrating.

Every student gets to a point with the licensing application process when they’re tired of jumping through bureaucratic hoops. And sometimes extra classes can feel like one more hoop, but it’s always best to position yourself as strongly as possible. In the end, when you’re holding your first license in your hand, you’ll know it was all worth it.

Congratulations to our most recent licensees! Well done!