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Northern College of Acupuncture


20 frequently asked questions about our acupuncture courses

We would like to give you a really good overview of what it is like to study acupuncture with us here at the Northern College of Acupuncture (NCA). So we have put together a series of 20 “frequently asked questions” (FAQs) asked by people considering a career as a fully qualified acupuncture practitioner.

We hope that this information will give you a good overview of our acupuncture degree courses. You can find even more information on studying acupuncture on our main website.

16. What is the difference between traditional Chinese acupuncture, five elements acupuncture and medical acupuncture?

Here at the Northern College of Acupuncture you will learn traditional Chinese acupuncture which has been continually developing in China (and more recently in the West) for over 2,000 years as part of a Chinese system of health sometimes called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which also includes Chinese herbal medicine and tuina massage. Chinese medicine is rooted in two millennia of thinking and clinical experience in China, giving it great strength and depth. It is a wide-ranging set of approaches to understanding and diagnosing disease, leading to diverse treatment options. This allows practitioners to draw on a varied repertoire to choose the best approach for each individual patient. Our teaching is based on Chinese medicine because we believe this produces the most well-rounded practitioners, able to work flexibly and effectively in the West.

Five Element Acupuncture is a self-contained system of acupuncture practice which derives from the teachings of J.R. Worsley in the UK, and can be learned in its own right. Its basis is the theoretical construct of the five elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – which then frame diagnosis and treatment of patients. Five element theory is also an aspect of TCM and is covered in the NCA’s acupuncture syllabi. In year three of our courses you will receive a guest lecture from a leading five element practitioner to help you appreciate the similarities and divergences between the five element system and TCM.

Medical Acupuncture is practised by orthodox healthcare practitioners such as doctors, physios and nurses who take a short course. These courses teach particular acupuncture point formulas to help relieve pain and tension. They do not teach treatment of the “whole person” but rather treatment of specific symptoms, and medical acupuncture is normally used in conjunction with other treatments.

Northern college of acupuncture, Lara McClure             Lara McClure -

“Traditional Chinese acupuncture is the diverse and exciting system that we teach here at the NCA. Our graduates often go on to study specific areas of their discipline in further depth once they are established in practice, and indeed the study of Chinese medicine can be considered a lifetime's endeavour.”




17. What is the evidence for acupuncture?

Hugh MacPherson on the BBC2 programme 'Trust Me, I'm A Doctor'.

There is now a substantial body of evidence for acupuncture from research carried out here in the UK, in China and all over the world. Acupuncture is recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the prevention of headache and migraine. Our College co-founder Dr Hugh MacPherson is now Professor of Acupuncture Research at the University of York and one of the leading researchers in the UK. He has carried out clinical trials and pioneering research studies using neuroimaging showing how the brain responds to acupuncture needles.

Northern college of acupuncture, Dr Hugh MacPherson                Dr Hugh MacPherson –

“One of the questions posed by scientists is to ask whether or not acupuncture is simply a placebo, albeit a powerful one. This question has been answered definitively by a systematic review of high quality clinical trials of acupuncture for chronic pain, namely musculoskeletal pain in the low back and neck, headache and migraine, and osteoarthritis.”



Northern College of Acupuncture student Amanda talks about why she decided to change her healthcare career and study to become an acupuncturist

Acupuncture student Amanda talks about why she decided to change her healthcare career and study to become an acupuncturist

18. I am already a healthcare practitioner - can I take a shorter course in traditional Chinese acupuncture?

If you are a healthcare practitioner who has a degree (or degree level learning) in your subject and you are currently working in your field, you may be entitled to exemptions from two modules of the course - “Biomedicine for Acupuncturists” and “Being and Becoming”. This will mean reduced time in class and reduced fees. Training to become an acupuncturist still takes three years and the clinic requirements are still the same.



19. I live quite a distance from the NCA, are you able to provide accommodation?

Northern College of Acupuncture student Clare talks about staying with a local family when she comes for her weekend course

Acupuncture student Clare talks about staying with a local family when she comes for her weekend course

As a small independent acupuncture College we do not provide onsite campus accommodation. However, for students travelling to study with us we keep an up-to-date list of local accommodation providers including hostels, bed and breakfast, and hotel accommodation. By far the most popular option for our students in terms of costs and friendliness is to stay with our network of local families who provide a room on a “bed and help yourself breakfast” basis at a very reasonable cost of around £25 per night. These are mostly within walking distance of the College. For  students who are relocating to York to study with us, we provide individual support and advice about student accommodation in York. York is a lively city and students staying overnight at weekends normally enjoy the social side of College life with other students staying over.

Northern college of acupuncture, Eilldh Snape             Eilidh Snape -

“I moved to York from Scotland and shared a house with some students from other colleges in my first year so I could have more of a social life and meet some younger people - which worked out brilliantly.”




20. I am interested – how do I find out more?

•    Take a look at our main College website for comprehensive information about our College, acupuncture courses and all that we offer.



•    Watch our YouTube channel to see videos of our students and graduates talking about studying and practising acupuncture.



•    Download as a PDF, or request a printed copy of our acupuncture courses prospectus.



•    Attend one of the full day introductory events or short informal visits that we run throughout the year – these really are the best way to help you to decide whether studying acupuncture with us at the NCA is right for you.



•    Keep up to date with all that is happening at the College on our social media channels: fcbk-grey blue twit-grey-blue youtube-grey-blue Stay updated with everything going on at the Northern College of Acupuncture on via official blog

Northern college of acupuncture, Chris Wadsworth             Chris Wadsworth -

“I thoroughly enjoyed the introductory day and the information that we were given helped me to decide to apply for the course.”


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