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How to Become an Acupuncturist

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Discover a Career in Acupuncture

If a career in holistic health interests you, consider a career as an acupuncturist. Acupuncture is increasingly accepted by the public, as well as by medical professionals, as a way to treat pain and stress. Since many acupuncturists are self-employed, you may be able to schedule the responsibilities of your new career around the needs of your family.

Job Description

Acupuncture is a branch of traditional Chinese medicine. Acupuncturists use very thin needles as well as other tools to stimulate various points on the body in an effort to assist the body in healing itself. Many people rely on acupuncture as a drug-free way to cope with chronic pain, stress and other ailments. Some acupuncturists also receive training in other healing modalities, including traditional Chinese herbal remedies.

Education Requirements

Most states govern the practice of acupuncture. This means that before you can practice, you’ll have to meet state licensing requirements. Most states require you to complete an approved master’s degree program, after which you’ll take either a licensing exam or a test called the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certification exam. The master’s-level program takes about three years to complete.

It can prove a challenge to find a school that offers a degree program in acupuncture. Some proprietary schools specifically teach acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. In addition, colleges of naturopathy, herbalism or other holistic healing modalities sometimes include acupuncture in their degree offerings.

The United Bureau of Labor Statistics does not track the salaries of acupuncturists. According to a survey by, the average median wages for acupuncturists is $49,096. This means that half of all respondents made more than this salary, and half made less.


Acupuncturists usually work in an office setting. Some rent or own their own office space, while others lease their offices from other medical practices. An acupuncturist may work alongside a chiropractors or a medical doctor, providing care as part of a holistic treatment plan.

Years of Experience

As an acupuncturist, you can expect your income to increase as you gain more experience. A survey by shows a correlation between years on the job and annual median income:

  • 0‒5 years: $51,000 
  • 5‒10 years: $59,000 
  • 10‒20 years: $71,000 
  • 20+ years: $90,000 

Most acupuncturists are self-employed, so your ability to market yourself and your services can have a significant impact on your earnings. Networking with other health care professionals and learning how to promote your services both online and offline are good strategies for success.

Job Growth Trend

Because the BLS does not record acupuncture as a job category, official growth projections are unavailable. O*Net Online, a site sponsored by the United States Department of Labor, includes acupuncturists in the category of “Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners, All Other.” From 2016 to 2026, job growth for this broad category is predicted to range from 10 percent to 14 percent, a bit higher than typical growth in other job categories.