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First Professional Doctorate (FPD)

PCOM Receives Approval from WASC to Offer FPD

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) is well into the process of developing and offering what has become known as the first professional doctorate in acupuncture and/or Oriental medicine. The College has received approval from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) to offer the program. At the same time, the College's academic leadership team is using this as an opportunity to review its master's of science programs with the goal of reducing repetition, increasing efficiency, and creating better articulation with the College's post-graduate doctorate (DAOM).


What is the First Professional Doctorate (FPD)?

PCOM's current doctoral degree, the Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM), is a post-graduate degree. It requires students to first complete a master's degree in acupuncture and/or Oriental medicine. The post-graduate DAOM does not provide entry-level training. Pacific's DAOM is designed for existing practitioners to become leaders through specialization; language skills; research; advanced, integrative clinical training; and the study of Chinese Classics. On the other hand, students can enter FPDs directly from undergraduate programs without prior acupuncture and/or Oriental medicine training and receive a doctoral degree upon graduation.

The FPD should be distinguished from the common term "first professional or entry level degree", which is the first professional degree leading to entry into a profession. Pacific College already has that. It is the master's degree. There is currently no movement to alter the minimum entry-level degree requirement on a nationwide basis and it is not expected to change in California, New York, or Illinois.

What is presently proposed for the FPD is a degree that expands on the minimum ACAOM standards for master's programs. For some schools that will be quite an expansion. However, Pacific College's MSTOM exceeds ACAOM's minimum master's training standards by approximately 900 hours and exceeds the first professional doctorate degree standards by approximately 500 hours.

The ACAOM FPD standards allow for separate Oriental medicine and acupuncture degrees, paralleling the MSTOM and MSAc degrees currently offered by Pacific College (the MSAc is offered in NY only at this time).

Will the professional doctorate (FPD) require a bachelor's degree?

No. The proposed admissions standards require three years (90 semester credits) of undergraduate education, which must include courses in biology, psychology, and chemistry. This is in contrast to the current two-year prerequisite for the master's programs.

Will the FPD graduates receive a different license to practice than those who graduate from MSTOM program?

No. Graduates of the Pacific College's MSTOM and MSAc programs would be eligible to sit for the same state and national licensing exams as they are now, and it is expected that FPD graduates will have the same right. However, the NCCAOM has no public statement yet regarding FPD graduates. There are no state initiatives to change the entry-level degree requirements or change the scope of practice for someone holding an FPD.

How will I earn a doctorate if I'm already in a master's program or have already graduated?

PCOM has developed a principle, "No Master's Left Behind", which it will advocate to ACAOM. Given the nearly identical content of the College's comprehensive master's degree and the FPD, Pacific College believes that 100% transfer credit should be awarded to master's students and graduates and that they should be required to take only those few credits that are different.

Will the professional doctorate (FPD) replace the post-graduate doctorate (DAOM)?

No. Even if the FPD is widely adopted, which is uncertain and may take a generation, the DAOM will serve the vital function of training advanced clinicians, specialists, researchers, and teachers for our profession.

What does this mean for the profession and what other professions have undergone a standard degree title change?

Many professions have gone through what has been commonly referred to as "degree creep," an increase in degree titles without significant changes to curriculum. Usually graduates who earned the earlier degree titles do not change their degrees. Examples of this include our own profession. Some of your more experienced teachers graduated from non-degree programs in the 1980s or 90s and do not have a master's degree, yet have all the rights and privileges to practice acupuncture. Another is the field of pharmacy, where students used to earn a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy, while current students earn a Doctor of Pharmacy, with added time largely making room for general education. Both have the same right to practice. The entry-level education for physical therapists used to be a Master's of Physical Therapy. It is now a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT). The physical therapy profession designed a transitional doctorate that enabled those with master's degrees to easily earn a doctorate. Our profession is exploring the option as well since many practitioners did not graduate from a master's program as comprehensive as PCOM's and may need significantly more courses to bridge the difference between the degrees.

Acupuncture and Massage programs available at our school in San Diego, California

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Acupuncture is the practice of inserting very fine needles into strategically selected acupoints, specific points on the body that correlate to various meridians and organs, to free and aid one's "qi", or energy. This ancient method of healing originated in China over 3,500 years ago and aims to treat the whole person rather than just the symptoms of disease.

View All Acupuncture Programs offered at our school in San Diego ...

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Massage is an ancient practice that combines the healing power of touch with the anatomical knowledge of the body. Asian Bodywork is a term that encompasses many massage modalities including Tui Na, Shiatsu, and Thai Massage, many of which also incorporate acupoints.

View All Massage Programs offered at our school in San Diego ...

Our Acupuncture and Massage School in San Diego is close to the following Socal cities: Aliso Viejo, Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Habra, La Palma, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods , Lake Forest, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange County, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, Yorba Linda. San Diego is a city in California which neighbors states like Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

Acupuncture Programs - San Diego

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Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

The purpose of the doctoral program is to foster self-directed learning and critical thinking skills within the framework of traditional Chinese medicine to where it becomes a defining characteristic of the graduate's professionalism.

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Master of Science (Traditional Oriental Medicine)

The purpose of the Master’s program is to train practitioners of Oriental medicine and to enable them to function as primary, independent healthcare providers, and most importantly, to become an integral part of the modern healthcare system.

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Massage Programs - San Diego


Massage Therapist/Asian Bodywork Certificate

The purpose of the Massage Therapist/Asian Bodywork program is to prepare students for employment in massage therapy either in private practice, or a wide variety of healthcare or spa settings. Emphasis is placed on Oriental medical theory and Chinese therapeutic massage.

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Associate of Applied Science
(Holistic Health Science)

The purpose of the Associate of Applied Science program is to develop the student into an expertly trained body therapist. Focus is on Oriental medical theory with a comprehensive training in practical massage skills, including tui na, shiatsu, Thai massage, and a variety of other Asian bodywork therapies.

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Associate of Science
(Massage Therapy/Asian Bodywork)

The purpose of the Associate of Science program is to develop the student into an expertly trained body therapist, while providing the general education units required to advance into the Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program.

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Bachelor of Health Science
(Asian Holistic Health and Massage)

The purpose of the bachelor’s program is to provide those with a related prerequisite Associates degree advanced training and application in Oriental medicine theory and massage practice.

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Have questions on how distance education works? Visit our Distance Education Frequently Asked Questions Page.

Associate of Science (Massage Therapy/Asian Bodywork)



Associate of Science (Massage Therapy/Asian Bodywork) (AS)

Searching for massage schools in San Diego? Begin your massage and Asian bodywork therapy career with our associate’s degree. Our program ties together massage therapy with Oriental medicine theory, giving you the tools to best serve your future clients’ needs with a unique blend of East and West. 

The associate's degree in massage therapy program schedule is designed to complement and enrich your current lifestyle. Our innovative combination of online and in-class courses allows you to complete some of your coursework from the comfort of your own home, on your own time—in addition to building community with one’s peers and participating in practical training with our expert faculty on campus.

The purpose of the Associate of Science program is to develop the student into an expertly trained body therapist, while providing the general education units required to advance into the bachelor’s or master’s degree program. The massage therapy portion of the program emphasizes Oriental medical theory, tui na, and the development of the student's ability to understand the causes and symptoms of disease. In the bodywork portion of the program, students receive an introduction to the theories of Chinese medicine and specialize in a multitude of Asian bodywork therapies.

The Associate of Science (Massage Therapy/Asian Bodywork) is a five-semester degree program consisting of core massage therapy curriculum and 30 units of General Education to meet the requirements for advancement into the Master’s program. The Associate of Science Program is a total of 64.5 units. Graduates are eligible for national massage certification by the National Commission for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), as well as the requirements for California licensure.

Graduates of the Associate of Science (Massage Therapist/Asian Bodywork) degree will:

  • Demonstrate ethical behavior in their personal and professional lives.
  • Demonstrate fundamental body therapy skills.
  • Know and demonstrate essential, hygienic considerations in the performance of massage.
  • Know and respect conditions contraindicating massage.
  • Be eligible for the examination administered by National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
  • Demonstrate competent and professional communication and human relations skills.
  • Possess the knowledge and skill to run their own private practice massage business or become employed by other healthcare practitioners who utilize massage as part of their client treatment.
  • Possess skills that may lead to management positions in their industry.
  • Possess working knowledge and the ability to utilize information literacy skills to do further research and study.
  • Demonstrate a deeper appreciation of the historical/philosophical context in which Oriental Medicine is based.
  • Be eligible to apply to the bachelor’s and/or master’s degree at Pacific or other higher education institutions.

The Pacific College Associate of Science (Massage Therapy/Asian Bodywork) program combines PCOM’s standard of excellence in quality education with the convenience of online activities and courses that are fully integrated with on-location hands-on training and clinical rotations. Pacific College offers students one-click access to college resources and support. One click and you are beginning a class. One click and you are receiving  one-on-one attention from distinguished and dedicated faculty members, and an open invitation to on- and off-campus programs and activities that can be tailored to each student’s preferred schedule. Once click and you are starting your new career.

Have questions on how eLearning works? Visit our eLearning Frequently Asked Questions Page.


Federal Consumer Disclosure Information About This Program

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine's MSTOM and DAOM programs are accredited by ACAOM. The college and all its programs in San Diego are approved by BPPE. All programs, with the exception of the DAOM, are accredited by ACCSC. For important information on program costs, completion and placement rates, median debt incurred, etc., please click here.


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