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Oriental Medicine Degree

Oriental medicine is one of the oldest health care systems in the world. Its practice dates back over 3000 years and today it is a recognized form of medical treatment the world over. Degrees in oriental medicine equip students with the knowledge, tools, and skills required to understand and practice a wide range of oriental healing techniques.

What is Oriental Medicine?

Oriental medicine is a comprehensive health care system as well as the oldest codified medical system in the world. It encompasses a wide range of practices which include acupuncture, oriental nutrition, Chinese herbal medicine, tai chi, dietary therapy, oriental bodywork or tuina, and qi gong.
Oriental medicine has traditionally been practiced in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Tibet and India. Today, oriental medicine is used in many parts of the world and is recognized as an effective form of medical treatment due to the extensive body of evidence that points to its effectiveness.

The Philosophy of Oriental Medicine

In order to treat a patient, oriental medicine practitioners rely on a highly comprehensive and individualized diagnosis of a patient’s Qi energy. By assessing the energy field, practitioners are able to determine if there are any imbalances or weaknesses which could be the underlying cause of disharmony and disease in the body.
Once the affected key organ systems have been identified, the oriental medicine practitioner uses a wide range of therapies to restore balance to the patient’s Qi energy. By doing so, they encourage the free flowing of energy which results in better health and healing capabilities.

Types of Degrees in Oriental Medicine

When it comes to degrees in oriental medicine and acupuncture, the most common degree type available is a master’s degree. Accredited distance learning degree options are not currently offered due to restrictions set forth by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).

Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

These programs provide students with the historical foundations of traditional oriental medicine. Students can expect to learn the theories and techniques necessary to assess and diagnose patients. The program also explores the clinical approaches used in oriental medicine to treat illnesses and maintain patient health, and how to utilize herbal medicine and acupuncture as treatment modalities.
The degree typically takes three to four years to complete.
Entry Requirements:

  • A bachelor’s degree in a related field from an accredited university
  • Students must have completed relevant coursework in biology, chemistry, psychology, anatomy and physiology
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs

Master degree programs in oriental medicine examine all the traditional Chinese medicine practices and applications. Students are then taught how to assess and diagnose patients and develop oriental medicine based treatment plans for a diverse range of medical conditions. They are also taught how to help patients maintain and enhance their wellness and vitality using a variety of oriental techniques. Additionally, the program also looks at the legal and ethical requirements and issues surrounding oriental medicine and acupuncture. Students will also be required to complete clinical work in order to gain the necessary experience required to practice oriental medicine.
When looking for a master’s degree program in this discipline, it is important to ensure that the university you are applying to is recognized by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). This is a national organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and is responsible for establishing the ‘policies and standards that govern the accreditation process for acupuncture and Oriental medicine programs’.
Some of the courses which may be offered in this degree include:

  • Acupuncture techniques for pain management
  • Counseling patients with chronic and terminal pain
  • Fundamentals of traditional Chinese medicine
  • Chinese herbal therapeutics
  • Living anatomy
  • Qi gong
  • Meridians and points
  • Eastern nutrition
  • Herbology

Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Ph.D. programs in this discipline offer masters-level acupuncturists and oriental medicine practitioners the opportunity to advance their education within a clinical specialty area. Furthermore, these programs are concerned with creating individuals who will become advanced clinical specialists, researchers, educators, collaborative partners, and leaders in the field of oriental medicine.
This program typically takes four years to complete.
Entry Requirements:

  • A master’s degree in acupuncture and oriental medicine from an accredited institution
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Professional experience may be required
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs

Doctoral programs focus on expanding the knowledge and skills of students in acupuncture and oriental medicine. Students may also choose to gain a medical specialization within a specific area of oriental medicine. Through this degree, students can expect to gain valuable experience in research and teaching.
Although the precise curriculum is likely to vary according to the area of specialty chosen, some of the courses which may be included in this degree include:

  • Classical needling techniques
  • Health preservation and rehabilitation in classical oriental medicine
  • Healing Qi gong
  • Ayurveda and naturopathy
  • Comparative studies of modern medicine
  • Acupressure, reflexology, and acupuncture
  • Oriental diagnosis

Doctoral degrees culminate in a thesis or dissertation project on an original piece of research.


In order to practice acupuncture and oriental medicine, many states require licensure to ensure that practitioners meet a certain standard of knowledge and expertise in the field. There are currently 43 states, including the District of Columbia, that require prospective practitioners to pass the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exams as a prerequisite for licensure.
Although a majority of states require the NCCAOM examination or certification, each state also has its own regulatory board which may have its own unique requirements for licensure. For this reason, prospective practitioners should find out more information from their state’s respective regulatory body.

Job Prospects & Salary

According to data from O*NET OnLine:

  • In 2014, the annual median wage for acupuncturists was $73,400
  • There is a 8-14% projected employment growth rate between 2012-22

Oriental medicine is a field with a wide range of possibilities. Because this comprehensive medical system encompasses so many different techniques and practices for healing, individuals have a wide range of choices before them when determine what to do with a degree in oriental medicine. The most common degree type offered in this field is a master’s degree. For those interested in gaining a more advanced qualification, doctoral degree options are also available.

Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What topics do oriental medicine courses cover?

A:The curriculum of oriental medicine courses may vary from place to place and also depend on the level of program. Usually, the following important areas of study are covered: Chinese medicine, advanced orthopedics, oriental medicine, healthcare management, sensations and perception, human performance, and more. Students will develop necessary skills and a sound basis of theoretical knowledge.

Q:What are online oriental medicine programs?

A:Although degrees in this field are very small in number, some universities in the United States do offer very comprehensive programs, usually online graduate certificate programs in herbal medicine. You may go for a master of science in acupuncture and oriental medicine. The course structure will include clinical rotations and laboratory work.

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