Acupuncture is an ancient medical practice that involves the use of sterile needles to stimulate key areas of the body and carries a lot of benefits. This Chinese therapy is based on the concept of an energy known as “qi,” and is used to help alleviate pain and mobility problems.

Increasingly, acupuncturists are working alongside traditional medical practitioners to deliver multidisciplinary care programs for people with a wide range of conditions. As a result, there’s never been a better time to choose a career in acupuncture.

Before you take the plunge and change your career, there is a lot to think about. Only by considering the following issues will you be able to decide whether or not a career as an acupuncturist is for you.

1. The Potential Salaries Available

The salaries available for trained and certified acupuncturists are higher than ever. As a newly-qualified employee, you should expect to receive a salary similar to that of a nurse. But if you start your own business, the potential rewards could be far greater.

According to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM), the median salary for acupuncturists in America is around $52,000. However, depending on factors such as geography, specialties, reputation and marketing, a salary in excess of $100,000 is achievable.

2. The Usual Working Hours

The hours you work as an acupuncturist depend on whether you’re employed or self-employed, and on your own personal preferences. A lot of acupuncturists work office hours in order to manage family commitments. However, a lot of patients are prepared to pay a premium for evening and weekend sessions.

If you’re self-employed and mobile, a career in acupuncture can provide as much flexibility as you require. For example, if you’re prepared to travel to clients in their own homes, you can often charge a premium and work at the times that suit your lifestyle.

3. The Training Involved

Most schools insist that acupuncturist students have completed at least two years of education at the baccalaureate level, or an equivalent qualification in a medical subject. However, some schools only accept applications from postgraduates. Research the entry requirements of your local schools before making a decision.

Most acupuncture courses are full time, and they generally last three years. However, courses that include Oriental medicine modules can take four years to complete. In the USA, the entry-level standard to practice is a master’s degree.

4. Licensure Requirements

In most jurisdictions, acupuncturists need a state-issued license to practice. There are a few states that require federal certification before a license can be issued. In America, certification is offered by the NCCAOM. You’ll need to have completed an accredited course or be enrolled in one to be considered. Make sure the school you choose is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

To become certified and licensed to practice, you’ll usually need to pass the NCCAOM’s examination. In some U.S. states, an acupuncturist is licensed as an “Acupuncture Physician” or a “Doctor of Oriental Medicine.” However, most states bestow the title of “Licensed Acupuncturist” (L.Ac.).

5. The Conditions You’ll Be Alleviating

Acupuncture is just one of the alternative medicines now offered by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). This state-funded healthcare provider is currently offering acupuncture therapy for conditions such as tension headaches, stress and migraines. There are also several musculoskeletal conditions now being treated with acupuncture, such as joint pain, dental pain and chronic back pain.

Private practices and large hospitals throughout America also offer acupuncture as a way of alleviating pain and improving mobility. The World Health Organization has published a list of conditions that have responded to acupuncture in clinical trials. They include:

  • Hay fever
  • Depression
  • Sciatica
  • Dysentery
  • Facial pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic

6. Possible Alternative Careers

Once you’re qualified and licensed as an acupuncturist, you might be presented with opportunities to diversify. For example, offering massage therapy as well as acupuncture gives clients two related services during one appointment. There are also many other Oriental medicine disciplines you can specialize in.

If you’re prepared to go back to school, you should find that your acupuncture qualification opens a lot of doors for you. For example, you could pursue a master’s degree in occupational therapy. This, along with massage and acupuncture, would allow you to provide a comprehensive rehabilitation and pain management service.

7. The Career Prospects

The NCCAM reports that the use of acupuncture for pain management is on the rise. As a result, the demand for licensed practitioners has never been greater.

It is estimated that 35 million Americans undergo acupuncture treatments regularly, which means there is a lot of work out there. According to, the discipline is expected to grow by 32 percent in America between 2016 and 2022.

To get your new career as an acupuncturist off to the best possible start, you need a school that specializes in alternative medicines. The American Institute of Alternative Medicine offers small class sizes, a wealth of clinical experience and expert help with job placement.

Is Acupuncture the Right Career for Me?

Choosing a career in acupuncture requires careful consideration of various factors. Beyond the potential financial rewards and flexible working hours, aspiring acupuncturists should be genuinely interested in holistic healthcare and a commitment to continuous learning. The philosophy underlying acupuncture involves understanding the body’s energy flow, and practitioners should be comfortable with the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Effective communication skills are also crucial, as acupuncturists need to establish rapport with clients, understand their medical histories, and explain treatment plans. Patience and empathy are valuable traits, as the healing process may take time, and clients often seek acupuncture for chronic conditions.

Bottom Line

Choosing a career in acupuncture is a path that merges ancient healing practices with modern healthcare demands. It’s a field that not only offers potential financial rewards but also provides an opportunity to impact people’s health and well-being significantly. However, pursuing this profession demands dedication, substantial education, and a commitment to ongoing learning and development. With growing recognition of alternative therapies and an increasing demand for holistic approaches to healthcare, becoming an acupuncturist can offer a fulfilling and dynamic career, serving diverse communities and contributing meaningfully to the evolving landscape of healthcare.

For those considering a career in acupuncture or other alternative medicine disciplines, the American Institute of Alternative Medicine stands out as an institution providing comprehensive education and practical experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is acupuncture, and how does it work?

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese therapy that involves inserting sterile needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow or “qi.” It helps alleviate pain and improve mobility by restoring body energy balance. The needles are thin, and the process is generally painless.

What kind of training is required to become an acupuncturist?

Most acupuncturists undergo full-time training programs that last about three to four years. The entry-level standard for practice in the USA is typically a master’s degree. Training includes both theoretical and practical components, and students often need a background in a medical subject or equivalent qualification.

Do acupuncturists need to be licensed, and what are the licensure requirements?

Yes, in most jurisdictions, acupuncturists need a state-issued license to practice. Licensure requirements vary but typically involve completing an accredited acupuncture program and passing an examination, such as the one offered by the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine).

What conditions can acupuncture treat?

Acupuncture is used to address various conditions, including pain management, migraines, tension headaches, stress, musculoskeletal conditions like joint and back pain, and more. 

What are the working hours like for acupuncturists?

Working hours can vary depending on whether an acupuncturist is employed or self-employed. Some work standard office hours, while others offer evening and weekend sessions for patients who prefer flexible scheduling. Self-employed acupuncturists, especially those willing to travel, may have more flexibility in setting their hours.

What are the career prospects for acupuncturists?

The demand for licensed acupuncturists is reportedly rising, especially with the increasing use of acupuncture for pain management. According to BLS, the discipline will grow by 6.3% in America between 2022 and 2032. With millions of Americans undergoing acupuncture treatments regularly, there are ample opportunities for employment and building a successful practice.

Interested in becoming an Acupuncturist?

Click Here to Learn More