Career in Acupuncture: Job Description, Duties and Responsibilities

A career in acupuncture requires significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensing requirements to see if this is the right career for you. View article »

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  • 0:04 Acupuncture
  • 1:04 Career Options
  • 1:26 Job Duties
  • 1:50 Career Requirements
  • 2:30 Educational Requirements

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Video Transcript

Essential Information

Acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medical art practiced for more than 5,000 years, involves inserting fine needles at points on the body's surface to influence physiological functions. Acupuncture practitioners treat a wide range of physical and psychological conditions and provide support for patients with chronic diseases. They can work in a variety of settings, including in private practice and hospitals. Most acupuncturists have master's degrees or graduate certificates from accredited acupuncture programs. Most states require licensing or certification, and their regulations vary.

According to O*net Online, a website sponsored by the Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor, acupuncturists earned a median annual salary of $74,710 in May 2015. Between 2014-2024, job opportunities for acupuncturists were expected to increase from 9% to 13% as reported by O*net.

Career Options in Acupuncture

Licensed acupuncture practitioners are trained to provide a broad range of healthcare services, including internal, dental and visual care, as well as addiction treatment, pain management and rehabilitation assistance. They may work in private practices, multidisciplinary clinic settings or hospitals. Other career options include teaching, research and writing.

Job Duties

Unlike conventional Western medical practice, acupuncturists are trained to treat the entire individual rather than the specific illness or condition. They take into account a patient's physical, mental and emotional condition in order to determine the proper course of treatment. In addition to providing acupuncture therapy, practitioners help their patients achieve balance and wellness in their everyday lives.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Master's degrees or post-baccalaureate certificates from schools accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine; some states require acupuncturists to be physicians, osteopaths, or chiropractors
Degree Field(s) Acupuncture
Licensure/Certification Most states have licensing requirements
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 9%-13% growth
Mean Annual Salary (2015)* $74,710

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *O*net Online

Acupuncture regulations vary state by state, according to the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) (www.nccaom.org). Most states have licensing or continuing education requirements, including certification by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Seven states (Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota) allow only medical doctors, osteopaths and chiropractors to perform acupuncture, while at least two states (Louisiana and Michigan) require acupuncture professionals to treat patients under the supervision of doctors or osteopaths.

Educational Requirements

Most licensed acupuncturists hold master's degrees or post-baccalaureate certificates from schools accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.acaom.org). As the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM) explains, most programs require 1,500-2,000 hours of acupuncture training and take 3-4 years to complete (www.ccaom.org). Graduates must pass the certification exam offered by NCCAOM and fulfill any additional state licensing requirements.

If your still interested in becoming an acupuncturist, remember that you'll need a graduate certificate or degree as well as a certification or license before you can enter this fast growing field. As of May 2015, acupuncturists earned a mean annual salary of $74,710.

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