Between conversations on Facebook, dialogues on list serves, and college tours with my child, I’ve been thinking about acupuncture education a lot recently. There are several topics I plan to address in the next few weeks. First off –
To those considering becoming an acupuncturist:
- Talk to practitioners in your area. Do they recommend the school they attended? (Ask if they are employed by the school in any capacity to help evaluate their response.) Are most of their classmates are still in practice? How long did it take them to establish a successful practice? (How do they define success?) Are they easily able to make their student loan payments? Are they on an income-based repayment plan?
- What percentage of the school’s graduates are still in practice 3/5/10 years out. The admissions office should be able to tell you this. They won’t be able to. Don’t be fooled – knowing the percentage of students passing the credentialing exams is not sufficient data to make a major investment. And make sure to ask what they mean by “still in practice.” Here’s one school’s information about graduate success.
- Will the education you receive at the school enable you to practice in the states you might want to practice in. Verify the information the schools provide, as many students have been misled. State requirements vary and are changing. Some only approve graduates of particular schools, some require additional education in certain subjects, some are very specific about whether the school has full ACAOM accreditation (ACAOM approved, or ACAOM candidate status won’t do it).
- While schools may say that LAcs are employed in hospitals and other health care settings, know that this is a tiny percentage of practitioners. The vast majority of practitioners are establishing their own private practices upon graduation. What are the schools business classes like? Do they bring in marketing experts, accountants, lawyers, to give you guidance?
- In a recent NCCAOM survey 62% of respondents reported a personal income, before taxes, of less than 65K. Most “employment” situations for LAcs do not include sick time, paid vacation, family leave, health insurance, disability insurance, retirement savings plans, or payment for time spent on administrative tasks. If you are thinking oh, 30 clients/week at $80.00 = $124,000 — I’ll be rich, you should think again.Your ongoing expenses are likely to include fees for licensure, your NCCAOM credential, the CEU expenses to maintain that credential, malpractice insurance, liability insurance for your office, rent and utilities, marketing, supplies, taxes (of course) which are higher for the self-employed. If you intend to work within the insurance system know that while you may build a practice more quickly, the amount you receive as reimbursement can be changed at the whim of the insurance company. Expect that some amount of your time and money will be spent on additional services to help you track and pursue reimbursements.
Don’t get me wrong. Many practitioners love what they do and wouldn’t trade it for anything. This includes people who admit that they are struggling financially. I’m not saying don’t go to acupuncture school. I am saying do the research you would do before any other 80K (or more) purchase.