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Alternative Medicine: How to Become an Acupressure Technician

Learn how to become an acupressure technician. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information and experience required for starting a career in acupressure.

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Do I Want to Be an Acupressure Technician?

Acupressure is often referred to as Asian bodywork therapy (ABT) and is considered to be one component of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupressure technicians provide hands-on bodywork therapy by pressing on or otherwise massaging specific points on the body. Pressure applied to these points alleviates related symptoms and improves overall wellness. Some practitioners practice acupressure exclusively, while others combine acupressure with acupuncture, moxibustion or other therapeutic modalities. This work can be physically demanding, and techs must take precautions to prevent personal injury. Some are self-employed and must spend sufficient time finding new clients and sometimes work evenings or weekends to complete bookkeeping work or to meet clients' scheduling needs.

Job Requirements

The regulation for acupressure professionals varies from state to state. In many locations, acupressure is recognized as a type of massage, which requires practitioners to meet the requirements of licensed massage therapists in order to practice professionally.

The following table presents common requirements for entering the profession of acupressure:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Postsecondary training with at least 500 hours of coursework*
Degree Field Massage therapy or a closely related field*
Licensure and Certification Licensing or certification is required in most states*; states may require CPR certification**
Experience Hands-on experience is included and required in most training programs*
Key Skills Communication skills, empathy, ability to interact with many types of people*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Various state massage therapy licensing boards.

Step One: Enroll in a Postsecondary Massage Therapy Program

There are a variety of program options for preparing students to practice acupressure. These programs can vary in length, cost and topics covered, as well as how they prepare graduates for certification.

Depending on the type of program students choose, certain educational prerequisites may be required, which can include students being at least 18 years of age and having completed a high school diploma or equivalent. Other programs may require a certain number of college credits or science coursework.

In most states, students will need to meet the state requirements for becoming a licensed massage therapist in order to practice acupressure. Therefore, students should look for programs that are approved by their state's licensing board for massage therapy. Approved programs will include coursework on topics such as anatomy and physiology, acupressure and massage theory and technique and professional ethics, as well as hands-on clinical experience. Students should check their state's licensing requirements before choosing a program to be sure that all requirements will be met.

Step Two: Take an Approved Examination

The exams commonly recognized by state licensing boards are the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) and National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). States may also offer their own examination. The format of these exams can vary by the organization and state; however, they generally required a multiple-choice section.

Success Tip

  • Prepare for the exam. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) offers study aids for its exam. Students can also review course materials from their massage therapy program.

Step Three: Obtain Appropriate Professional Licensure or Certification

The practice of massage therapy is regulated by 43 states and the District of Columbia, according to the BLS in 2011. Graduates from an approved program who have passed the required examination can pursue licensure. Many states also require candidates to maintain a current CPR certification. Graduates that do not meet requirements for a massage therapy license may have the option to be licensed as a massage technician in some states and cities.

Step Four: Meet Continuing Education Requirements

Once licensed, acupressure professionals will need to complete continuing education hours; however, this requirement can vary by state. For example, in New York, licensed massage therapists must pursue 36 hours of continuing education every three years, while the requirement in Tennessee is 25 hours every two years. The NCCAOM requires professionals to complete a recertification process every four years, which requires submitting evidence of meeting the continuing education requirements, as well as current CPR certification.

Step Five: Consider Graduate Study

Students who have interests in other areas of traditional Chinese medicine may want to consider a program that will prepare them to practice as an acupuncturist, which includes being able to prescribe herbal remedies. Master's programs in traditional Chinese medicine can last 3-4 years and cover topics like herbology and needle techniques. Studying in a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) can help students meet the licensure requirements for acupuncture in some states, including New York and Iowa.

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