Acupuncture

Acupuncturists help others relieve pain as well as achieve a good mind-body balance. Read on to find out more about the job responsibilities, employment and education.

Is Acupuncture for Me?

Career Description

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing art and is one of the oldest and most commonly used medical treatments in the world. Acupuncture helps to restore the body's energetic harmony through the strategic insertion of fine needles into specific point locations on the body. Acupuncture is based on the theory that human energy circulates along meridians, or interconnected pathways in the body. When the energy flow, or Qi, is disrupted, illness is the result. The placement of needles helps to restore balance by eliminating the disruption of energy. Modern medical practitioners believe the needles help to stimulate the body's nervous system to create a chemical response, which releases endorphins into the body and helps to ameliorate pain and instill a feeling of well-being.

In contrast to many traditional Western medicine practitioners, an acupuncturist spends a considerable amount of time taking a medical history that may include questions that appear unrelated to the complaint at hand. However, the acupuncturist takes a whole-body approach to symptoms, searching for underlying causes and prescribing personalized treatment plans. Along with needles, the acupuncturist may prescribe acupressure, which is a type of massage, as well as dietary and exercise modifications to the patient's lifestyle.

Employment Information

The majority of acupuncturists are self-employed in their own practices. However, that's beginning to change as increasing numbers of Americans are turning to alternative treatments for pain and other conditions. As an acupuncturist, you may now find work in traditional Western health care settings, such as hospitals and integrated practices with chiropractors and physicians. You may even find work in a spa or resort. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't have specific information for the job outlook or salary for acupuncturists, but does consider them as a part of health diagnosing and treating practitioners. As of 2013, this category of professionals earned an annual median wage of $72,870 and could look forward to average job growth during the 2012-2022 decade. April 2014 data from PayScale.com reported that licensed acupuncturists earned an annual median salary of $46,237.

How Can I Become an Acupuncturist?

Education

In an acupuncture degree program, you may take numerous acupuncture classes, as well as classes in acupressure, medical terminology, biology, chemistry, physics, anatomy, physiology, nutrition, neuroscience and pathology. You may earn degrees such as a Master of Acupuncture or a Master of Science in Acupuncture. Some programs are combined bachelor's and master's programs, while others are combined master's degree programs that also teach Oriental medicine.

Licensing and Certification

To become an acupuncturist, most states require licensing. Each state handles licensing based on its own standards. Successful completion of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exam is required by 43 states, as well as the District of Columbia, to obtain a license (www.nccaom.org). A Diplomate of Acupuncture is the title conferred on the individual certified by the NCCAOM.

To qualify to take the NCCAOM exam, you must first receive comprehensive training in the proper methods of diagnosis and treatment at the master's degree level, which generally takes three to four years. For admission to a master's degree program, you'll need a bachelor's degree, preferably with a major in science or a related field. The acupuncture degree program must be accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) and should include a course entitled Clean Needle Technique (CNT) to meet NCCAOM certification.

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  • What is Acupuncture? - Video

    Acupuncture is a form of alternative or natural medicine that originated in China more than 5,000 years ago. Although Acupuncture is commonly used for therapeutic purposes, it can also be used to relieve pain caused by arthritis, migraines and other medical conditions. Students who study Acupuncture typically go on to become acupuncturists.
  • What is Naturopathic Medicine? - Video

    Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) use natural, non-invasive alternative remedies to treat sickness and promote holistic wellness in their patients. Their treatments focus on improvements in diet and lifestyle and medicines such as herbal extracts and homeopathy. In the U.S., Naturopaths must attend a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school that combines basic medical science with training in nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, botanical medicine and psychology.
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