How to Become a TCM Practitioner

Do you like helping people? Are you interested in healing using more natural and homeopathic methods? Are you tired of seeing people covering up their symptoms with painkillers? Are you looking for a rewarding and interesting new career?

Practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) may be just the thing for you. When you enter your career as a TCM practitioner, you’ll be able to ease pain and heal people through the techniques of acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, Qi-Gong and herbal methods. 

So, once you decide that this is the correct path for you, just how do you go about becoming a TCM practitioner? 

First things first, you need to find a program to enroll in. Although TCM is not yet a large part of mainstream medicine in many countries, its practitioners are nevertheless educated medical professionals. There is a database of TCM schools on this website, but it’s also a great idea to go and talk with a TCM practitioner in your area about what kind of training they received. Not only will they be able to provide some insight into what your TCM education will be like, but they also may be able to answer any other questions you may have and give you career advice in general.  

When you do find a school you are interested in though, make sure that it offers a fully accredited program. At the very least, the school should have accreditation candidacy status. You’ll also need to evaluate your current financial situation at this time. Are you able to attend a school that is far away? Do you have the funds to enroll? Are you able to take timeoff (or quit) from your current job to pursue this? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself, and you should not move forward until you have completely answered them. 

Once you have narrowed down a school that you want to attend, be sure to contact them for more information. Ask what materials they require for an application packet and what fees may come with it. The majority of TCM schools do not require that their students have a medical or therapeutically background, but some may nevertheless require certain levels of education. So, be sure to ask about this as well. 

The next step is actually applying to a TCM program. Set several hours aside so you have the time you need to focus on the application. This is your future career, and so it shouldn’t be rushed or completed with only minimal effort. And of course, make sure that everything is filled out correctly and that you have included everything that is required. After all, most application fees are nonrefundable. 

Once you are accepted as a student of TCM, do everything you can to prepare for your classes. This means reading plenty of literature on the subject (reviewing the information on this website will definitely help). You will learn a lot at your school, of course, but having prior knowledge will only help you preserve everything in your memory for good. At this point it is also a good idea to seek out the advice of current TCM practitioners (if you haven’t already), as well as anyone else who has attended a TCM school before. Even someone who failed to complete a program may be able to tell you why it didn’t work for them, and therefore help you to avoid making the same mistakes. If you don’t know anyone in real life who you can talk to, seek out TCM forums and social groups online and look up TCM practitioners in your area. 

As you go through your studies, remember to never slack off or take any classes lightly. All school programs can be tough, but keep in mind that if it were really easy, it probably wouldn’t be very high in quality. 

At the end of your studies you’ll need to pass a licensing exam (although every state has different requirements). Study hard for this, because if you don’t pass you’ll either need to retake your courses or simply drop out and try a different career. 

Once you are a licensed TCM practitioner, it’s time to create a business plan. Find a place where you can set up your practice, or see if any other alternative medicine practices are hiring. 

Keep in mind that being a good TCM practitioner means never shutting down your mind to new knowledge and ideas. If you want a PhD in TCM or Oriental Medicine, you may also need experiencing practicing TCM in addition to doing field research (like actually traveling to Asia). But don’t discourage if this is the case— learning TCM and ways to help people through natural methods is essentially a lifelong process, but one of the most rewarding ones there is.