Program of Study

The program of study at Southwest Acupuncture College is a well-rounded professional degree program designed to gradually expose the emerging practitioner to the uses of Oriental and Western medical models of the human body, as well as the underlying philosophy, theory and clinical application of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. As a classical school of Oriental medicine, the program provides a broad yet deep historical base of diagnostic approaches. These paradigms range from Yin/Yang, Five Elements, Three Treasures, Four Levels, Six Stages, and Qi and Blood, to Essential Substances, Zang Fu, and Eight Principles, versus a limited concentration in any one approach. A subspecialty in traditional and modern Japanese acupuncture is carefully woven into the program, and advanced studies in this rich lineage may be taken as electives. A wide spectrum of relevant Western sciences complements the Oriental infrastructure.

The Master’s Degree Programs in Oriental Medicine

The academic programs at Southwest Acupuncture College consists of training in the five branches of classical Oriental medicine: acupuncture, herbal medicine, physical therapy, nutrition, and exercise/breathing therapy. The greatest number of hours are devoted to the study and practice of acupuncture and herbal medicine, with the balance of the hours completing the students' education in graduate level studies in Oriental medicine and Western science. Upon graduation, the college confers the Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (M.S.O.M.) degree. The M.S.O.M. degree consists of 3092.5 hours. The college also offers the Master of Science in Acupuncture (M.S.Ac.) degree which consists of 2525.5 hours and does not include the herbal program. The identical programs are taught at all three campuses.

Both campuses operate on a yearly schedule of three fifteen-week semesters. With the exception of electives, classes are held only in the daytime. Clinic is held both in the day and the evening. While course times are set, the college clinic runs many shifts from which the students may select so that reasonable flexibility is built into the program to accommodate individual student needs.

The professional degree program, which is the equivalent of four academic years, can be taken in one of three formats. The accelerated format, our most popular option, requires approximately twenty-two to twenty-four hours of course work per week. It allows for completion in three calendar years. The full-time format takes four calendar years to finish and requires sixteen to nineteen hours of coursework per week. This option permits students to have a lighter schedule while still allowing for a reasonable completion time. The part-time format is an option the students can take advantage of if financial burdens or other responsibilities require the student’s attention, or if the student prefers to study at a more gradual pace. Part-time study necessitates a minimum of nine to ten hours per week of class attendance. In all cases, part-time study must be completed within seven years of entry to the program. Regardless of the pace selected by the student, the quality of the educational experience at Southwest Acupuncture College is always the aim of the education, not the acceleration of studies.



The Master of Science in Oriental Medicine

The M.S.O.M. consists of training in the five branches of classical Oriental medicine: acupuncture, herbal medicine, physical therapy, nutrition, and exercise/breathing therapy. The majority of the program is devoted to the study and practice of acupuncture and herbal medicine. Students also complete graduate-level studies in Oriental medicine and Western science. The M.S.O.M. degree meets the requirements for licensure in all states, including California, with the addition of extra clinic hours and Western science electives required by the State of California.


The Master of Science in Acupuncture

The M.S.Ac. program is a specialized subset of the M.S.O.M. program that allows students to focus on acupuncture without the herbal component of the M.S.O.M. degree. The M.S.Ac. program includes an Introduction to Herbology course surveying the power of Chinese herbs in practice (to facilitate referral), plus three acupuncture specialty courses. Thirty-nine states, including Colorado (but not New Mexico or California), allow licensing for acupuncture-only programs. Information regarding state laws and program options can be obtained from the Academic Dean.

Programs OverviewMSOMMSAc
Program Hours3092.52525.5
Clinical Hours1262.51042.5
Biomedical Clinical Science Hours600553
Oriental Medical Theory and Related Subjects705885
Pure Herbal Classes52545
Minimum Time to Complete Program36 months (accelerated)36 months
Maximum Time to Complete Program8 years6 years


Continuing Education

In addition to the degree-granting program, Southwest Acupuncture College provides continuing education in the profession by offering various optional weekend and special engagement seminars with international authorities, classes in specialty topics, and foreign study externships.

Qualified members of the public, graduates, and licensed practitioners as well as students enrolled in the Master’s program may elect to take these classes and seminars. Details describing specialty workshops, visiting faculty and foreign externship programs are available in separate literature, when those programs are advertised and are available upon request. This information can also be found on this web site under Events.

Seminar certificates are provided to everyone who attends any workshop at Southwest Acupuncture College. Credit is only granted for attendance at an entire workshop.

Click here to see upcoming continuing education events.

Harbin China Trip 2018
By Joanne Neville L.Ac., Clinic Director, Boulder Campus

This summer I was lucky enough to be chosen to accompany our students to Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine in Harbin, China for nearly two weeks. What an amazing and life changing experience. It really opened my eyes to what acupuncture and Chinese medicine can really do when it is an integral part of the mainstream paradigm of health care.

Arriving in Harbin, we were met by our phenomenal translators Eddie and Chen, both of whom are students at the university. They quickly proved invaluable to us as we attempted to navigate a city where nothing was familiar. It’s quite a different experience traveling in an Asian country because there are no similarities in our language, written or spoken, you absolutely can’t fake it! All we were able to say was hello and thank you, Nihao and Xie Xie. At least we were polite. It got a lot of smiles and laughs.

Eddie and Chen went above and beyond the call of duty of translating for us when we were observing in the hospital and spent quite a lot of their off time with us when they could. When they couldn’t be with us, they would send us We Chat messages of places we might want to visit with the English name of the places and the Chinese translations to show our cab drivers where we wanted to go. They became treasured friends by the end of the trip, even showing up at our hotel at 5am to see us off the morning we departed.

We Chat is the only social media that we could access while we were there. This was our main form of communication while in China. We all had it on our phones before the trip and made sure our close family members were on it as well. This came in very handy when my daughter-in-law went into labor and I was able to video chat with her and my son from China and see my precious grandson, moments after he was born.

The twenty story Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine 2nd Affiliated Hospital, situated in the middle of Harbin, the capitol of the northernmost province in China, a city of 10 million, is widely known throughout China for their expertise in treating neurological disorders including brain infarctions, brain hemorrhages, post stroke, Bell’s palsy, shingles and many other disease processes. We were honored to follow many prominent doctors on their rounds and receive lectures from several of them as well.

The nearly two-week format of the trip was new, previous trips having been almost four weeks, and we weren’t sure what to expect, but in speaking with our translator Eddie, who has served SWAC students on several previous trips, he said we were lucky because we were exposed to so many more departments and hospital directors than in past trips. Many thanks to Skya Abbate for the richly varied experiences she negotiated for us. We were on one or two different floors of the hospital daily, each floor run by its own director, all with their own unique specialties and styles.

It was fascinating to experience Chinese medicine the way it was intended to be used. Unlike what is available in the United States thus far, many neurological in-patients receive scalp acupuncture twice daily, administered by the floor director, often retaining needles for up to six hours at a time, during which the director’s student interns work on the patients with electrical stimulation, moxibustion, Tuina and other adjuncts. Many patients also receive herbal therapy either as a decoction or sometimes in an IV drip.  The duration, intensity and frequency of treatments clearly accounts for the remarkable and often miraculous results in treating issues that western medicine often deems untreatable.

Now, armed with this knowledge, it becomes ever more important to promote the use of Chinese Medicine in the United States in a way that allows this kind of consistency of care for all of the people who want and need it. We all need to continually work to bring this medicine into mainstream healthcare offerings.

On the Saturday we were there, Skya had arranged for a van drive us to different places of interest in the city. Among our favorites, collectively, were going to the Siberian Tiger preserve and driving through their open areas in buses that were fully caged and getting to feed them meat through the cages. The other favorite area was the Buddhist Temples. So lovely, even in the rain. We had the best meal of our trip at the temple restaurant, so good, we took a cab back the next day to eat there again.

I believe that anyone studying Chinese medicine should make a point of experiencing the wealth of information and the culture of the country that created the medicine they are devoting their lives to. After being involved in the world of acupuncture for nearly 20 years, I feel a renewed sense of what can be done with my chosen path.