Acupuncture Technician: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become an acupuncture technician. Learn about job duties, training and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Acupuncture Technician?

Acupuncture technicians are acupuncture practitioners who have completed only basic training in the field. They are limited to performing acupuncture on five points on the ear, rather than the whole body. This treatment can help their patients manage both physical and psychological symptoms, including pain, addiction and digestive problems. In addition, it serves as a preventive health technique. Acupuncture technicians meet with their patients before beginning treatment so that they have a full understanding of their health issues, and they design a therapeutic plan based on the patient's symptoms and/or health goals.

The table below provides information for this career.

Education Required High school diploma
Training Required Program certified by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA)
Certification State certifications vary, some require background checks and certification
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12%* (for all other health diagnosing and treating practitioners)
Median Salary (2015) $74,710* (for all other health diagnosing and treating practitioners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does an Acupuncture Technician Do?

An acupuncture technician, often called an acupuncture detoxification specialist, performs an acupuncture treatment on five points of the ear. In traditional Chinese medicine, all illnesses are believed to be driven by an energy imbalance in the body. Acupuncture uses needles to balance the energy of the body's pathways.

While it can take 3-4 years for an aspiring acupuncturist to learn a wide variety of applications, an acupuncture technician is trained for 100 hours or less in just auricular acupuncture. The range of work for an acupuncture technician is limited to treating addiction, trauma and general pain.

What Training Do I Need?

To become an acupuncture technician, you will need to participate in a program certified by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA). This program will teach you the five basic ear points of auricular acupuncture used as a therapy for addiction, trauma and mental illnesses. In a NADA program, you'll take a 30-hour didactic course and spend 40 hours practicing your skills in a clinic. Completion of this program leads to a certificate of completion as an acupuncture detoxification specialist. You will not be qualified to perform the same range of techniques as a licensed acupuncturist.

As an acupuncture technician, you may find work in detox and rehabilitation programs, mental health facilities, halfway houses and correctional facilities. Some acupuncture technicians participate in disaster relief programs and aid survivors of natural disasters.

What Are the Government Regulations Like?

States regulate the certification of acupuncture technicians and provide their own requirements. Common requirements include a high school diploma or its equivalent and submission of professional references. Completion of a NADA-approved training program and a clean needle technique course approved by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine may be required as well.

States may request further information. For instance, they may require a background check, and Delaware applicants must also fill out a child protection registry form. In Indiana, applicants must explain any court documents or arrest records with an affidavit and verify licenses from other states and countries. If you apply to practice in Georgia, you would need to submit proof that you are covered by professional liability insurance and request permission from the state if you want to switch to a new employer.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another complementary medicine career that you might be interested in is a position as a massage therapist. They manipulate a patient's muscles and soft tissues in order to promote relaxation, healing, pain reduction and overall wellbeing. For this job, you need to complete a professional training program after high school. Alternatively, if you are looking for a technician position in a healthcare setting, you could consider becoming a physical therapist aide. In this job, you would not work directly with patients, but you would support the work of a physical therapist by setting up and cleaning physical therapy equipment, as well as completing clerical tasks in the therapist's office. A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement.

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