Acupuncture Careers and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for acupuncturists. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and job duties 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?

Acupuncture is an alternative healing therapy based in traditional Chinese medicine that may be performed independently or in conjunction with Western medicine. Acupuncturists insert thin metal needles into specific areas of the body to treat physical, mental and emotional disorders. Acupuncturists work closely with patients and clients to understand their reason for getting acupuncture, whether it be weight loss, migraines or allergies, as the corresponding treatment is likely to be affected.These professionals need to be aware of anatomy in order to make sure they are placing the needles in the appropriate places. The following chart provides an overview of the requirements for a career as an acupuncturist:

Degree Required Master's or doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Acupuncture or Oriental medicine
Key Skills Steady hands; compassion; good observation skills; good listening skills
Licensure and/or Certification Most states require acupuncturists to be licensed; professional certification may be required by some states
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 12% for all other health diagnosing and treating practitioners*
Median Salary (2017) $49,094**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Are the Job Duties of an Acupuncturist?

Acupuncturists perform a therapeutic procedure with roots in traditional Chinese medicine that treats illness or pain by inserting very thin needles into specific areas of the body. Traditional Chinese medicine purports that acupuncture improves the body's energy, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that acupuncturists may treat clients for conditions like head, neck, joint and back pain as well as headaches ( As an acupuncturist, you could work at a medical clinic or in private practice.

How Do I Get Trained?

Acupuncture programs typically require that applicants have at least two years of postsecondary education. Prerequisite coursework can include biology, anatomy and physiology. Programs can take 3-4 years to complete and generally require an internship. Upon completion, you may earn a master's level diploma or degree in acupuncture or a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree.

Accredited acupuncture programs are not offered online. Your studies will include general principles of traditional Oriental medicine, common pathologies and acupoint locations. Western medical topics are also covered and can include infectious diseases, pathology and pharmacology, medical ethics, counseling and management of an acupuncture practice.

What Kind Of Licensing Or Certification Do I Need?

Most states mandate that acupuncturists hold a state-issued license, although requirements vary. Some states may require voluntary national certification as part of the licensing process. Certification is available through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The eligibility requirements for the certification exam include enrollment in or completion of an acupuncture program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), although in some cases, an apprenticeship may be acceptable.

What Salary Could I Look Forward To? reported in January 2017 that the 10th-90th percentile range for acupuncturist salaries was $30,304 - $105,284 including salary and bonuses. In that same time period, according to, the 10th-90th percentile range for licensed acupuncturist salaries was $33,024 - $183,352, including salary and bonuses.

What Are Some Other Related Alternative Careers?

You could also pursue a career as a massage therapist, which generally requires some specialize post-secondary school training. Massage therapists may sometimes work in conjuncture with acupuncturists or work in offices that offer both services. Massage therapists provide massages and other bodywork treatments to clients who are suffering from pain or need relaxation. You could also pursue a career as an occupational therapist, though this requires a master's degree. Occupational therapists are responsible for helping patients who have had injuries or illnesses recover and be able to perform everyday tasks.

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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