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Can a Felon Become an Acupuncturist?

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There are resources available even though felons may not believe they can find a job. Often, felons must look at different career path, including returning to school for additional education.

Some felons might consider a career making a difference for those with medical problems. They could explore a career as an acupuncturist.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become an acupuncturist.

  • What is an Acupuncturist?
  • What Education/Training Does an Acupuncturist Need?
  • How Much Does an Acupuncturist Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is an Acupuncturist?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice involving use of thin, sterile needles to stimulate body points in order to produce relief. The theory is that energy is conducted along pathways in the body and that the energy flow can be disrupted, resulting in pain or discomfort in various body organs.

An acupuncture practitioner is trained to diagnose issues and choose appropriate points on the body to apply acupuncture needles. He or she balances the body’s health by puncturing the skin with solid, metallic needles and treats a number of physical and psychological issues, including hypertension and anxiety.

Typically, an acupuncturist:

  • Discusses a patient’s symptoms
  • Diagnoses problems
  • Discusses treatment options
  • Inserts acupuncture needles into appropriate body parts
  • Manipulates and removes needles
  • Documents a patient’s progress
  • Educates a patient regarding pressure points and health

What Education/Training Does an Acupuncturist Need?

In order to become an acupuncturist, someone must study acupuncture at a school approved by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

An applicant must have a high school diploma or a GED and complete at least two years of study at a college prior to admission to an acupuncture school.

Course work in an acupuncture program typically includes:

  • Oriental medical theory
  • Diagnosis and treatment techniques
  • Oriental herbal studies
  • Acupuncture and herbal clinical training
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Asian body work
  • Nutrition
  • Ethics
  • Needle technique
  • Acupuncture points
  • Western medicine

A candidate who completes a training program will graduate with a master’s degree, which is the minimum educational requirement to practice in most states and can take three years to complete.

All but six states require an acupuncturist to obtain a license to practice. These six states are:

  • Alabama
  • Kansas
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Wyoming

California has a zone licensing exam, though the remaining states require passing an exam from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

A candidate must also complete a clean needle technique course offered by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) and pass a certification exam in the fundamentals of:

  • Oriental medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Biomedicine

How Much Does an Acupuncturist Earn?

There are approximately 30,000 licensed acupuncture specialists. The median annual salary for an acupuncturist was $60,570 in 2021. The median salary is the amount at which half of acupuncturists earned less and half earned more.

Experience will make a difference in how much an acupuncturist earns annually. The area of the country also makes a difference in their earnings. Those on the East or West coast typically earn more than an acupuncturist that works elsewhere.

The job outlook for acupuncturists is strong, with a growth rate of 12.7% expected between 2021 and 2031, which is higher than average as people become interested in integrative healthcare as a way to treat physical problems and to improve overall wellness.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A felon can pursue any degree he or she wants. Approximately 60% of colleges consider criminal history in their admissions process, although there is no standard policy regarding a background check.

Any felon that wants to get a degree in preparation for becoming an acupuncturist can find a college that will accept him or her. A felon may have difficulty getting accepted into many acupuncture schools, but there are programs that will accept him or her.

There may be more difficulty, however, in obtaining a license following college.

A candidate is ineligible to obtain a license as an acupuncture practitioner within five years following a felony conviction. An applicant may not have been convicted of or pled guilty to any activity related to acupuncture. Five years after the completion of a sentence, a felon can apply a felony conviction waiver.

When applying for state licensing as an acupuncturist, each application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Regarding a felony conviction the board considers the:

  • Nature and severity of the crime
  • How recently the crime was comitted
  • Signs of rehabilitation in the felon’s life
  • Other related factors like any prior conviction

The board will make a determination for approval or denial of licensure after evaluating the entire application and supporting evidence.

After passing the board exam, a candidate will complete the final steps for licensure as required by the state. These steps typically include:

  • Undergoing a criminal background check
  • Passing a state-level exam on the state’s acupuncture regulations
  • Submitting a list of personal references

It’s important to be honest when filling out an application to apply for acupuncture school or licensing as an acupuncturist. If a felony isn’t disclosed but is found on a background check, this constitutes fraud and is punishable. It’s a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming an acupuncturist. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become an acupuncturist. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in becoming an acupuncturist.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We’re not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become an acupuncturist with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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