Your Guide On Becoming An Acupuncturist

Submitted by Jerry Parker on December 13, 2012

An acupuncturist is a person who has been trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat pain in any part of the body. The practitioners of this form of healing believe that energy or “qi” flows through the body through pathways or meridians. Blockages that interrupt the flow of this energy are responsible for many of the common ailments afflicting man.


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Acupuncturists use thin needles at specific points along the meridians to clear blockages and ease the flow of energy. Practitioners have been using this form of TCM for centuries to provide relief from pain and to treat a variety of ailments including arthritis, headaches, asthma, stress, vision problems, and menstrual problems and even to induce labor.

Acupuncture has gained in popularity in the United States, with estimates by the National Institute of Health putting the rate of increase at 46% between the years 2002 to 2007.

This makes it one of the fastest growing disciplines in the field of alternative health care. With the increasing popularity comes an increased demand for qualified and skilled acupuncturists and employment opportunities are expected to remain high for the foreseeable future.

Here are a few tips that will help you if you are interested in pursuing a career as an acupuncturist.

  • Find out what the licensure requirements for acupuncturists are in your state. Different states have different requirements and you need to ensure that you have the correct qualifications in order to practice in your state. A list of schools and colleges that provide courses in acupuncture as well as the licensure requirements for different states can be got from the National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance website –
  • You will first have to earn your bachelor’s degree since most TCM and acupuncture programs require it as a prerequisite. The degree may be in any subject but it is suggested that you also take classes in anatomy, physiology, biology and psychology as they will complement your course in acupuncture and have a beneficial impact on your career. A course in Chinese herbology will also benefit you greatly.
  • Only choose a school that has certification from the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). Studying at a school with this accreditation is important and will also allow you to apply for a federal student loan. Note that school accreditation has to be revalidated periodically.
  • You will have to pass the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) examination to be board certified and recognized as a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.). You can only pass this exam if your school is accredited by the ACAOM.
  • It is suggest that you first get a job as an acupuncturist before striking out on your own. This will help you to gain experience and develop your personal client base. Jobs are usually easier to find in the larger towns.
License Requirements

The licensing requirements vary from state to state but usually call for your having an Associate’s degree or 60 college credits. Some states require that you have a Bachelor’s degree instead of an Associate’s degree. Other states require you to complete a 4 year program in Oriental Medicine that includes training in Chinese herbs. The three year Acupuncture program has to be completed and you must earn at least a passing grade on the NCCAOM national board examination.

Course Duration

The duration of the course will vary from 3 to 4 years depending on the state you wish to practice in. Most acupuncture schools offer a Master’s program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and usually include one year of supervised practice.

Do You Have What It Takes?

A career as an acupuncturist is not suitable for everyone. An acupuncturist needs to have certain skills to be an effective healer. Steady hands and good eye-hand coordination is a must. You will need to develop your communication and people skills since you will be interacting with people who are frequently distraught and in need of reassurance.

Expected pay package

The average starting salary for a newly graduated acupuncturist depends primarily upon two factors. These are the school from which he or she has graduated and the state in which he or she is working. Statistics show a wide range of starting salaries, ranging from $37,000 to $121,000 per annum, underscoring once again the importance of the school one chooses.

Additional Training

Continuing education programs are a must for you if you want to keep abreast of the latest developments in your field.

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