Working in well-being: the difference of Chinese herbs

Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU) recently renamed its doctorate in Chinese medicine to a doctorate in acupuncture with a specialization in Chinese herbal medicine. The name change is, as experts say, a difference with implications for the industry.

As part of an effort by the national accrediting body to create greater standardization of degree names within the industry, Jessica M. Frier, dean of the College of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at NWHSU, states that standardization has several advantages. “There really was no naming consistency nationally,” she says. “If you look around, you can have a master’s degree in Chinese medicine, a master’s degree in acupuncture, a master’s degree in science and oriental medicine, a master’s degree in science and acupuncture and Chinese medicine.”

This inconsistency in degree names makes it difficult for organizations hiring acupuncturists or for patients looking for a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Frier says, because it’s not clear what training and skills are included. in degrees named differently.

Acupuncture is the medical procedure of inserting needles, and students in a master’s program learn these skills just like students in the doctoral program, she adds. What differs is that the doctoral program includes more clinical work and an advanced study of clinical herbalism.

“The difference between our master’s degree, which is an entry level, and our doctorate, which is also considered an entry level, is the advanced study of herbs. This means they [doctorate grads] we have tools that complement primary care, and we belong at this table. Jessica M. Frier, Dean of the College of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine at Northwestern Health Sciences University

“Our mastery will teach you how to safely insert needles for a therapeutic response in the body,” she says. “Now Doctor of Acupuncture with a major in Chinese Herbal Medicine means you get a doctorate in acupuncture procedure and advanced training to prescribe Chinese Herbal Medicine.

“The difference between our master’s degree, which is an entry level, and our doctorate, which is also considered an entry level, is the advanced study of herbs. That means they have tools that complement primary care, and we belong at that table.

Everything points up

For Frier, standardizing the name of the doctorate has the intrinsic benefit of elevating the practitioner and the profession. “Having a doctorate opens additional doors for students looking to get hired somewhere,” she says. “But there’s really no direct correlation to better jobs, more money, or anything like that with the doctorate.”

This is mainly because the vast majority of acupuncturists are self-employed. However, she adds, one advantage is that many employers and patients are more interested in the clinical history that is part of the doctorate. For practitioners, the doctorate is also a confidence factor and can help them establish relationships with practitioners in other fields.

“It helps open that door to the conversation about what we can do from an integrative medicine perspective to be part of a patient’s care team,” she says. “We are not just something complementary on the side; we are an active and integrated member of this care team. That’s the biggest thing this title does.

Acupuncture has been on the rise for years, but in the age of COVID, interest in acupuncture has increased, both as a career choice and as a treatment for pain and other issues.

“We’ve seen exponential growth in terms of clinics opening, students enrolling and graduating, and just public demand for acupuncture,” says Frier. “Acupuncture seems to be thriving, especially after COVID when people were looking for alternatives to Western care. They either couldn’t get Western care or they needed additional options.

There are more than 10 million acupuncture treatments in the United States each year, according to New York University’s Langone Orthopedic Hospital. This growth is expected to continue in the years to come. By 2028, the NWHSU predicts at least 11% growth in career opportunities for acupuncture professionals.

Learn more about converting the Doctor of Chinese Medicine into a Doctor of Acupuncture with specialization in Chinese Herbal Medicine and other acupuncture programs at NWHSU.


Located in Bloomington, Northwestern University of Health Sciences is a pioneer in integrative natural health care education, offering degree programs in chiropractic, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, medical assisting, medical laboratory programs, post-baccalaureate/pre-health, radiation therapy and completion BS. His Bloomington Clinic is open to the public and offers chiropractic care, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine and cupping.


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