Alternative Medicine: How to Become an Acupressure Technician

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become an acupressure technician. Explore the education, training, testing and licensing requirements for starting a career in acupressure.

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Acupressure Technicians

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 acupressure technicians practice acupressure exclusively, while others combine acupressure with acupuncture, moxibustion, or other therapeutic modalities. The work can be physically demanding, and techs must take precautions to prevent personal injury. Some acupressure technicians are self-employed and must spend sufficient time finding new clients, work evenings or weekends to complete bookkeeping responsibilities, or to meet clients' scheduling needs.

Career Information

Degree Level Undergraduate coursework (500 hours) or degree may be required for licensure
Degree Field Massage therapy or a closely related field
Licensure and Certification Requirements vary by state; may include CPR certification
Experience Vary by employer
Key Skills Communication skills, empathy, ability to interact with many types of people
Median Salary (2018)* $41,420 (for massage therapists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Although licensing requirements for massage therapists in general vary by state, they may include 500 hours of undergraduate coursework or a degree in massage therapy or a closely related field. Therapists may also need to be licensed in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and CPR. The ability to communicate and interact with different types of people and empathy are key to succeeding in the field. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), massage therapists overall can expect a 22% or much faster than average growth in jobs from 2018-2028 and earn a median annual salary of $41,420 in May 2018.

Step One: Massage 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 its equivalent. Other programs may require a certain number of college credits or science coursework.

In order to practice acupressure in most states, students will need to meet their state licensing requirements for massage therapists. Therefore, students should look for programs that are approved by their state's licensing board for massage therapy. Approved programs will include coursework in anatomy and physiology, acupressure and massage theory and technique and professional ethics. Along with 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: Examinations

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 examinations. The format of these exams can vary by the organization and state; however, they generally required a multiple-choice section.

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: Licensing & Certification

The practice of massage therapy is regulated by 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the BLS in 2019. Graduates of an approved program who have passed the required examination can pursue licensure in some states and cities. Graduates that do not meet the requirements may have the option to pursue licensure as massage technicians.

Step Four: Continuing Ed

Once licensed, acupressure technicians 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 National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine requires professionals to complete a recertification process every four years, which includes submitting evidence of meeting the continuing education requirements and current CPR certification.

Step Five: 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 in herbology and needle techniques. Studying in a program that has been approved by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) can help students meet licensure requirements for acupuncture in some states, including New York and Iowa.

Remember, if you want to work as an acupressure technician, you'll have to meet your state's education and licensing requirements for massage therapists, after which you may earn a median annual salary of $41,420.

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