Careers in Acupuncture

Page content

Acupuncture as a career

The acupuncturist job description can vary widely depending on the practice and roles that the practice would like the practitioner to fill. Acupuncture is a division of TCM, Traditional Chinese Medicine, along with herbal remedies and meditation. The acupuncturist works with the patient to diagnose and treat ailments by placing thin needles into the skin to cause a physical and mental reaction and redirect qi in a healing fashion. Qi is the internal energy that connects all of the organs and keeps them working properly.


Schooling for any alternative medicine field can be more difficult than many traditional fields. Because of this, most states in the United States require 3-5 years of training at an accredited school of acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine. Many states also require that you gain a state certification in your field. Schools can be found across the country and generally accept standard financial aid. Because of the nature of the profession, most schools do not allow for distance learning degrees in acupuncture and even those that do require a minimum of time on campus.

Career Choices

Acupuncturists may be employed by a large company specializing in alternative medicine, massage and/or physical therapy. An acupuncturist may also start their own practice and several acupuncture professionals have become very successful in the field of veterinary acupuncture. All acupuncturist positions have their pros and cons and each should be considered very carefully. The acupuncturist job description, per practice, should include hours and flexibility of hours and other services the company provides. If the practitioner decides to start their own practice, they will need to learn the basics of office management and this may not be a role they are able or willing to provide for their own company.

Private Practice

One of the most common career choices of the acupuncturist is to start their own practice. This allows the freedom of setting your own hours, pay rate and policies. This also adds the responsibility of office management, hiring employees, if applicable, working with insurance if they choose to do so and attracting new clients. Taking some business classes is highly recommended, since the new acupuncturist may need to run their own business or hire someone with experience in this area.

Larger Companies

Large alternative health practices may employ acupuncturists. These companies include already established private practices, hospitals, alternative therapy practices, massage parlors and luxury locations including spas and cruise ships. This type of employment often offers benefits, hours and clientele. Generally, appointment setting and administrative work will be taken care of allowing you to focus on your clients.

Hours, Pay and Conditions

Acupuncturists typically work a day shift from 8 am until 5:30 pm. This varies if you own your own practice and as the client needs. The office environment is clean and sterile to protect you and the patient. Many practitioners in a larger office will work along with other alternative health professionals including nutritionist, physical therapy and massage therapy. Labor statistics indicate that professionals in alternative health earn an average of $453 per week, equivalent to 15.48 per hour. To pursue a career in acupuncture you may need to be willing to relocate. The demand in a local area for an acupuncturist depends on a number of things including economy and interest in alternative medicine.