Licensing and Certification
How to Apply for the California Licensing Examination (CALE)
- Go to the Board’s website to get all relevant dates.
- Complete the application. Application for Examination and instruction can be seen in here.
- Mail in the application by the date stated with the application fee ($75 if it’s your first time taking the CALE. There is no application fee if you’ve taken the CALE in the past two years, but you will need to pay the examination fee of $550 again; Note: information may have been updated, please go to CA Acupuncture Board’s website for more accurate information). Your application must be postmarked by the date stated, or it will be returned. You are also required to send in:
- a copy of your CPR certification (make sure it’s current!)
- a copy of CNT certificate (from Dongguk or CCAOM)
- If you require special accommodations because of a handicap, please read this and fill out Form A and Form B and return them with the above application.
- Request transcripts from all schools, acupuncture or otherwise, that you have received academic credit (including transfer credit) from. This may include your undergraduate or graduate institution. You are responsible for determining and requesting this information. The deadline for these is a week after the above deadline, but you should request these immediately. It’s ok if your transcripts get there before your application does. Have your schools directly mail the transcripts to: Acupuncture Board, 1747 North Market Blvd., Ste. 180, Sacramento, CA 95834.
- The Board will then contact you to let you know if you qualify for the CALE.
- If you qualify for the CALE, you will then need to mail in the exam fee. Make sure this is postmarked by the appropriate date.
- Make sure DULA sends in your final graduation transcript. Talk to the registrar to determine this.
- The Board will then contact you with exam information.
The Board will include a letter with your exam information encouraging you to begin the Live Scan process. The Live Scan is not required to sit for the CALE, but it is required for your license, so it’s best to get it out of the way so that you can start practicing as soon as possible after passing the Boards. Fill this form out and take it to a Live Scan location (google Live Scan for locations in your area. Fees vary by location, so maybe check a few out).
CA Acupuncture Board main website: http://www.acupuncture.ca.gov
How to Apply for National Certification
- Determine which type of certification you would like to have. There are three options:
- Acupuncture certification–requires you to have a CNT certificate from CCAOM, and to pass the NCCAOM’s Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, and Biomedicine exams.
- Chinese Herbology certification–requires you to pass NCCAOM’s Oriental Medicine, Biomedicine, and Chinese Herbology exams.
- Oriental Medicine certification–requires you to have a CNT certificate from CCAOM, and to pass the NCCAOM’s Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, Biomedicine, and Chinese Herbology exams.
- Apply for a CCAOM CNT class (if you want Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine certification). You need to apply to this class TWO MONTHS before it is held, so be sure to look at the CCAOM CNT course page and the course schedule. This is not required to sit for the examination(s), but it is required for certification.
- Visit NCCAOM page of how to become a certified practitioner to obtain detail procedures. Please also check the NCCAOM resource for applicant fees.
- When you have been approved, you will be sent an Authorization to Test letter. Once you have this letter, you can schedule your exams at any Pearson VUE testing center that offers NCCAOM exam. Once your application for NCCAOM test has been approved, NCCAOM will provide more instructions for you to register at Pearson VUE testing center.
- When you take your exam, you will be told (unofficially) if you passed the exam. Official correspondence will arrive a few weeks later.
- Once you have passed all of your required exams***, NCCAOM will send you a congratulatory letter and a wallet-sized identification card (about 4 weeks after you’ve passed everything). NCCAOM will send a full-sized certificate for framing about 6 weeks after the successful completion of all exams.
- Information may be updated from NCCAOM, so please be sure to always go to NCCAOM page to receive updated information.
***If you had not yet graduated when you initially registered, you must send NCCAOM your final Graduation Transcript in order to receive certification.
For more complete information, please click on the the link for the information related to the applicant home, NCCAOM exam processand applicant resources. Any recent updates from the NCCAOM can also be seen in NCCAOM latest news and NCCAOM homepage.
NCCAOM main website: http://www.nccaom.org
ACAOM main website: http://acaom.org
What to Do After You’ve Passed Your Boards
Congratulations! You’ve passed your Board exam. Now it’s time to get to business.
First things first: Send in your application money as soon as possible after receiving your Pass Letter from the Board. I sent my money in the same day I got my letter (Saturday), it arrived Tuesday, and my license number was online by Thursday! Check here to get your license number. I’m guessing that if you wait a few days to send in your application money, there will be more of a delay in getting your number posted. REMEMBER THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO PRACTICE UNTIL YOU HAVE THE ACTUAL PAPER LICENSE IN YOUR POSSESSION (that takes a few weeks to arrive).
***This link here maybe helpful for you if you are eager with marketing your acupuncture practice.
Things that don’t require your license number:
- If you’re going to be working for yourself, get an EIN. Similar in purpose to the Social Security number assigned to individuals, EINs are used by employers, sole proprietors, corporations, partnerships, non-profit organizations, trusts and estates, government agencies, certain individuals and other business entities. The IRS uses this number to identify taxpayers that are required to file various business tax returns. Apply for your EIN here (this free of charge). An EIN is also called a Tax ID. That is how most insurance companies will refer to it.
- If you’re not already on it, join Acupuncturists on Facebook and Acupuncture Business Academy (and any other acupuncture groups that look interesting on FB). There is a lot of great info on these sites and you can search old threads for information (go to the main page for that group and enter your search terms in the “Search this group” box in the upper right corner).
- Make a webpage, this link of Squarespace maybe helpful to you. There are a number of other sites where you can do this, including WordPress (a little tricky to use, but is free), wix.com, weebly.com, web.com. I don’t know too much about these other companies, but it’s helpful. Please do your research.
- Get a domain name. Godaddy.com is usually pretty cheap. You can also get domain names from some of the sites in Step 3.
- Write a brief bio for your webpage. Look at other acupuncturists’ websites/bios to see what you like and what you don’t.
- Get a professional looking picture of yourself for your webpage.
- Consider opening a business bank account. It will be much easier to track your expenses this way. Link your mobile credit card reader account (see Step 10) to this bank account. You will need your EIN for this.
- Consider getting a Google Voice phone number. This is totally optional, but a cool (free) service that allows you to come up with a work phone number that sends calls and text messages to your smartphone. (Edit from after a year in practice: I don’t really see the difference between using your real phone number vs. a Google Voice number. It just seems like an extra step. I’ll probably go back to using my actual phone number whenever I get new business cards.)
- Get business cards. I got some made by Indie Printing in Los Angeles and they were pretty nice. I also got some made by an online company, Overnight Prints, and they were equally as nice and much cheaper. Feel free to shop around for other options though! I believe Indie Printing can also help you out with the design of your business card (for a fee).
- Get a mobile credit card reader. These plug in to your smartphone or tablet (check that the reader you want works with your device!). The most popular is Square. Here’s an article comparing a number of different services. Rates change from time to time, so research a few different options. I’ve also seen threads about these on the Facebook groups.
- Consider making a Yelp! business page. Ask some of your best/favorite patients from clinic to write some reviews for you. Check the Facebook group for people’s thoughts on Yelp. There are definitely pros and cons. If you decide to go that route, be incredibly nice to Yelp staff.
- Keep track of all the money you spend so that you can write it off for taxes!
- Get a business license. If you are practicing in the City of Los Angeles, you are required to get a business license. I didn’t know you had to do this and they caught me in less than a year, so just go ahead and sign up. You can do so here. If you make less than $100,000 per year and declare your income to the LA Office of Finance sometime between January 1 and February 28, it is free of charge! If you miss those due dates, you also will miss the small business exemption (ie. you will get charged).
Things to get/set up that require your license number:
- Get an NPI number. A National Provider Identifier or NPI is a unique 10-digit identification number issued to health care providers in the United States by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Apply for one here (this is free).
- Get malpractice insurance. Here is a small comparison chart I’ve made for you to get an idea of some things to look at. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH! Do a search on the Facebook groups for malpractice insurance. They are very informative and a lot of people have a lot of different opinions!
- Register your W-9s with the insurance companies (Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Blue Cross, Cigna, Aetna). Do this as soon as you have your EIN and NPI. Some of these companies take 120 days to get your information in their systems. ***Please note that these instructions are for practitioners that do not want to become in-network practitioners, but will still bill insurance. Instructions for in-network practitioners are different (I’m out-of-network though, so don’t know).
- Blue Shield Provider Information and Enrollment: Call (800) 258-3091 and let them know that you’re an acupuncturist and would like to be put in their system as an out-of-network provider. This takes at least 120 days to process, so get this done ASAP (Mine actually took about 140 days).
- United Healthcare: (877) 842-3210: Choose the “credentialing” option. When asked for your Tax ID, enter in a bunch of zeroes and you will eventually get an operator (so they say). Explain that you’d like to be put into their system as an out-of-network provider and they will provide you with further instruction.
- Anthem Blue Cross: (800) 677-6669. I just double-checked this and they told me that I’d have to submit my information to American Specialty Health. ASH’s number is (800) 972-4226 (choose option 2). They will take your information and put it in their system within 5 business days. Get a reference number for the call so you can call back in 6 business days to make sure you’re in the system.
- Aetna: Mail or fax them your W9. Fax number: (859) 455-8650. Address is: Aetna, PO Box 981106, El Paso, TX 79998-1106. You don’t have to call them for this, but here’s their phone number as a reference: (888) 632-3862.
- Cigna: (800) 244-6224. They told me that you don’t have to register with them ahead of time. Just file a claim and they’ll put you in their system.