Acupuncturist: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for being an acupuncturist. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is An Acupuncturist?

Acupuncturists are therapists who use a form of alternative medicine in which needles are placed on specific points of the body to alleviate pain. You must have a good knowledge of anatomy so you can insert acupuncture needles in the correct locations. You'll also need to know how to use medical equipment, in addition to diagnosing and treating patients and maintaining medical files. It's also important to be cognizant of and follow laws related to safety and infection control.

Degree Required Master's degree from an approved or accredited acupuncture school program
Education Field of Study Oriental medicine/acupuncture
Key Responsibilities Insert acupuncture needles in correct point locations on the human body; use medical equipment; conduct patient examinations; diagnose and treat patient according to traditional Oriental medicine tenets
Licensure and Certification Most states require acupuncturists to be licensed. States generally require the acupuncturist to have National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certification as a condition of licensure. Some states require independent practitioners to obtain a business license.
Job Outlook (2014-2024)9% to 13%*
Median Wage (2015) $74,710*

Source: *O*Net Online

What Are My Job Duties as an Acupuncturist?

As an acupuncturist, you practice traditional Chinese medicine and target specific points on the body with needles. Your professional services are designed to reduce pain and redirect energy flow throughout the mind and body. For each patient, you develop a personalized treatment plan that focuses on the body's overall health. You may also analyze medical histories and treatment outcomes as well as promoting healthy behaviors.

Career Outlook for an Acupuncturist

As an acupuncturist in the United States, you may be self-employed or have to pay your own business costs. Careers are available at alternative medicine centers and with traditional doctors. Opportunities could also be available to work directly for an Oriental medicine center or a chiropractor. In these facilities, you may work as an independent practitioner and collaborate with other natural healing professionals, including massage therapists, chiropractors and naturopaths.

What Are My Education Requirements?

To work as an acupuncturist, you need a bachelor's degree and a solid science background to begin your graduate-level study of acupuncture. The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) has accredited approximately 30 programs that provide master's degrees in acupuncture ( These programs typically take 2-3 years to complete and help you develop your expertise in identifying and accessing the many acupuncture points on the body. As a student, you may also explore topics in bodywork therapy, Qi Gong, clinical practices, meridian theory, herbal medicine and needle techniques.

Most states require you to be credentialed by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) to be licensed as an acupuncturist. To be eligible for this certification, you need to have graduated from an ACAOM-accredited program and pass an examination. Your certification is valid for four years, and you can re-certify by meeting continuing education requirements.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A similar career to an acupuncturist is a massage therapist, which is a career that typically only requires a postsecondary training program, depending upon the state. These professionals work in a variety of settings and help clients relax and relieve pain. Chiropractors also require a graduate degree, and treat neuromuscularskeletal and spine health problems. They use techniques that may include massage therapy, spinal adjustments and manipulation.

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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