How to Become an Acupuncturist in 5 Steps

Explore the career requirements for acupuncturist. Get the facts about education, salary, licensing requirements and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Acupuncture is an ancient kind of Chinese medicine that maintains a patient's health by inserting needles into specific points on the body. The following chart provides an overview about becoming an acupuncturist.

Degree Required Master's or doctor's degree
Field of Study Acupuncture
Key Responsibilities Interview, examine, diagnose and treat patients using acupuncture techniques; assess patient's skin and tissue to properly place needles; take medical histories
Certification or Licensing Some states require acupuncturists to be medical doctors or chiropractors; most states require acupuncturists to be licensed; professional certification is available
Average Salary (2014) $46,536*

Source: *

What Is an Acupuncturist?

Acupuncture is a system of healing based on the practice of needling, which is the strategic placement of needles at various points on the body in an effort to alleviate and eliminate chronic pain and treat many ailments. Acupuncturists may also use other forms of treatment, such as herbs and suggested diet changes. Many acupuncturists work in holistic health centers or have a private practice.

Step 1: Researching an Acupuncturist's Career Duties and Education

Acupuncturists balance the body's health by puncturing the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles. The technique balances the yin and the yang, where yin represents the cold, slow or passive principle while yang represents the hot, excited or active principle. You can use these techniques to reduce specific pains in the body. Some colleges and universities offer master's and doctoral programs in acupuncture, which fulfill the requirements for licensure in most states.

Step 2: Get Educated

Alternative medicine schools offer courses or degrees for acupuncturists, and some colleges and universities have programs in the field. You can learn about meridian theory, therapeutic techniques and equipment, clinical strategies and methodologies, functions and indications, point location and needle manipulation in acupuncture treatment. The most common degrees are a Master of Science in Acupuncture or a Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. A few schools offer Doctor of Acupuncture Oriental Medicine (DAOM)) programs. Degree programs prepare graduates to qualify for licensure, which requires you to graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).

Step 3: Become Licensed as an Acupuncturist

Most states require you to obtain licensure before you can practice acupuncture; however, these requirements vary from state to state. Most states accept certification from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), which can take you 3-5 years to earn. Some states, including California and Texas, require additional clinical or academic hours. Other states stipulate that students pass the Clean Needle Technique (CNT) exam administered by Council of College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM). Last of all, many states specify that a student interested in becoming an acupuncturist must study to become a chiropractor or medical doctor first.

Step 4: Get a Job Practicing Acupuncture

Many acupuncturists are self-employed and take referrals from doctors and alternative medicine professionals. They may also work directly with chiropractors or for oriental medicine centers. Some medical doctors and chiropractors use acupuncture as a treatment in their practices.

Step 5: Become a Primary Care Practitioner as an Acupuncturist

Some insurance companies include acupuncture as a covered treatment. They generally pay for acupuncture treatments for chronic muscle pain, stress, PMS and other common pain symptoms. As insurance companies become more open to alternative medicine, career opportunities for acupuncturists will increase.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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