Training in traditional acupuncture

It takes at least three years of full-time study to become a fully qualified traditional acupuncturist. In the UK, the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) oversees undergraduate degrees in acupuncture to ensure a consistently high standard of training.


To achieve the high BAAB standards, acupuncturists study:

Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture is part of a natural, complete system of healthcare that has been used continuously in the Far East for thousands of years. Chinese medicine makes no separation between physical and emotional health. It is focused on restoring your body’s energetic balance to maintain good health. To fully understand this complex system of medicine requires at least three years’ dedicated study, research and clinical practice. Only fully qualified traditional acupuncturists, who have studied Chinese medicine, can provide you with all the health benefits that acupuncture is capable of achieving.

Qi awareness

Because acupuncture evolved as a technique to directly affect the body’s energetic balance, traditional acupuncturists are trained to develop a sensitive awareness of qi (also called vital energy or life force). Traditional acupuncturists learn how to use acupuncture needles to control the flow of qi through all your organs, tissues and cells. People who only attend a short course on basic acupuncture techniques are not trained to do this.

Acupuncture points

There are hundreds of acupuncture points distributed all over the body. It takes years of study to learn where they all are, what effect they have when stimulated with a needle, and how to combine them to treat all types of health conditions. People who attend a short course will only know a small selection of acupuncture points, usually for pain relief. Traditional acupuncturists study all the points and are trained to prescribe different combinations for each patient.

Acupuncture techniques

There is much more to acupuncture than simply inserting a needle into an acupuncture point. Traditional acupuncturists learn many subtle needling techniques to direct the flow of qi and bring about the desired result. They also learn other Chinese medicine techniques that enhance acupuncture, such as moxibustion, cupping, Guasha and Tuina. Only fully qualified traditional acupuncturists receive this training.   


Traditional acupuncturists learn how to understand your symptoms and overall state of health by applying both Chinese and Western medical diagnostic techniques. As well as asking detailed questions to take your medical history they are trained to ‘read’ your body through observation and palpation. For example, a fully trained traditional acupuncturist can interpret your overall state of health by feeling the pulse at your wrist.

Western medical science

Alongside Chinese medicine, traditional acupuncturists also study:

  • Anatomy to accurately locate acupuncture points on the body
  • Physiology to understand how all the body’s organs and systems work when health is in balance
  • Pathology to recognise symptoms of serious conditions that should be referred to your GP and to understand how illness and injury affect the body
  • Pharmacology to understand how drugs affect the body so that the acupuncture treatment supports prescribed medication and helps to manage any side effects.

Professional conduct

As well as medical theory and acupuncture techniques, BAAB accredited acupuncture degrees include rigorous training in professional conduct and safe practice that goes beyond the current Environmental Health standards for acupuncture. Only highly qualified traditional acupuncturists, such as those that have completed these BAAB approved courses, are eligible to join the British Acupuncture Council, the largest self regulatory body for traditional acupuncturists in the UK.