How to Become an Acupuncturist

Should you become an acupuncturist? If you have an interest in this ancient form of treatment from the Far East, there is good news for you. Acupuncture, which was once thought to be only an alternative method of treatment, has recently experienced a surge in popularity. Acupuncture may even become mainstream, some health experts predict.

Acupuncture utilizes tiny needles placed carefully at specific pressure points on the patient's body to relieve a variety of physical and physiological issues from pain to stress, to migraines, and some illnesses.

Learn more about the growing practice of acupuncture, and how to become an acupuncturist in this career overview, which includes information from a placement specialist and career expert in integrated healthcare, Lisa McDonald of Integrated Connections.

Why There Is an Increasing Demand for Acupuncturists

acupuncturist applying acupuncture needles to patient's back

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"Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions including chronic pain, digestive complaints, emotional disorders, fatigue, addictions, gynecological disorders, weight loss, stress and to promote overall well-being. It has also proven effective in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting," states Lisa McDonald.

She adds: "Public demand and recent changes in healthcare legislation will increase the number of acupuncture patient visits leading to increased employment opportunities for licensed acupuncturists nationwide."

McDonald states that an increasing number of insurance companies are beginning to offer coverage for acupuncture recently, due to patient demand, and evidence demonstrating the benefits and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture.

Additionally, the military, government, and private corporations are all beginning to recognize the overall effectiveness of acupuncture, says McDonald, and therefore, laws and regulations are being changed in favor of increasing utilization and coverage of acupuncture for military personnel, company employees, and the general public. "I am confident the profession will continue its growth over the next several years with an increasing number of job openings," McDonald predicts.

Becoming Qualified as an Acupuncturist

Chinese acupuncture chart

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Lisa McDonald provides the following advice for people interested in pursuing a career in acupuncture: "Future acupuncturists must graduate from an accredited school of acupuncture with a Masters Degree in Acupuncture or Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Nearly all the states that license acupuncturists require graduation from a program that is accredited, each state has different licensing requirements. In some states, a bachelor's degree is required as well as a master's in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in order to practice."

To check individual state requirements, an accredited school listing can be found at the website of the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). Programs vary at each school but generally training programs range from 3-4 years, including internship, McDonald explains.

Once graduated, acupuncturists can go into private practice or find opportunities in integrative medicine clinics, cancer centers or in large systems like Kaiser Permanente and the VA.

Typical Day

acupuncture treatment on woman's forehead

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Naturally, the work schedule and structure will vary depending on the type and location of the practice. A day at work for an acupuncturist will typically include administering treatments to patients, counseling them about lifestyle issues (i.e. diet, nutrition, emotional well-being), reviewing and writing medical reports as well as conferring with other medical professionals.


acupuncturist holding needle

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There are not many figures available for acupuncturist salaries. Even the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report on salaries for acupuncturists. However, Glassdoor, an aggregate job board, reports average annual income at $76,000 and up, which seems a bit higher than reality, but that is what is being reported. Actual results may vary!

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