How to Become an Acupuncturist:
The Definitive Guide

Have you ever wanted to poke people?

Maybe do it as part of your job?

You have?

Cool, well maybe you should become an acupuncturist.

You’ll be able to take tiny little needles and stick them all over people’s bodies.

No, it’s not mean!

It helps relieve many different physical and emotional issues.

Let me explain…

What is an Acupuncturist?

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine.

An acupuncturist inserts tiny needles into pressure points throughout a client’s body, to increase the body’s healing process.

The usage of herbs and other non-traditional forms of treatment may also be a part of an acupuncturist’s repertoire.

Clients may suffer arthritis, high blood pressure, chronic pain, or any other type of ailment.


  • Assisting and caring for others – provide medical attention to patients as well as emotional and personal care support
  • Solve problems – different patients will have different issues, and even if the patients have the same issue, some treatments may work for one and not the other.
  • Document information
  • Interpret and process information- from patients, co-workers, and outside research
  • Provide consultations
  • Keep up with standards of care and compliance with regulations
  • Resolving conflicts
  • Assessing patients
  • Using hands to alleviate pain

How Much Does an Acupuncturist Make?

The average salary for a well-established acupuncturist is roughly $82,000.

Of course, you typically won’t be making that as soon as you start out.

Education and experience will help you get to that number, and possibly even beyond.

Depending on if you are self-employed or work in a doctor’s office, these numbers can vary as well.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $71,770


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
New Jersey$91,410
New York$84,270
North Carolina$82,300

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Tennessee, where the average salary is $138,060.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Tennessee - $138,060
New Jersey - $91,410
Maryland - $89,720
New York - $84,270
North Carolina - $82,300
*Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become an Acupuncturist

Step 1Education is Key

You can’t just start sticking people with needles without first getting an education in the matter.

I guess you could, but that would be frowned upon.

There are several alternative medicine schools that provide degrees and courses for people interested in acupuncture.

In order to become an acupuncturist, you must first obtain a high school diploma or GED, and then a Bachelor’s degree at an accredited school.

There are some schools that are specifically for alternative medicine, or you may be able to find courses at your local college.

After you obtain your degree, you’ll need to think about going back to school for your Master’s.

Some of the most common degrees in this field are Masters of Science in Acupuncture, Master of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, as well as Doctor of Acupuncture Oriental Medicine.

You’ll need to make sure that the school you attend is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).

Step 2Get Your License

Depending on which state you plan to work in, you’ll most likely need to obtain a license.

Most states accept certification from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which can take as long as three to five years to receive.

Some states require additional clinical hours, which means that you’ll be doing in person training and working on real people.

Also, most states require students to study to become a chiropractor or medical doctor before obtaining licensure in acupuncture.

Step 3Find a Job

Most acupuncturists are self-employed.

This can be a good thing, because you can set your own hours, and work at your own pace.

It’s possible to work directly with chiropractors or oriental medical centers as well.

Step 4Become a Primary Care Practitioner

This means that you can work in any medical facility.

Acupuncture has started to be accepted by insurance companies.

So, you’ll be able to help people with stress, PMS, chronic muscle pain, and other issues within a doctor’s office, hospital, or clinic.

Each state defines what an acupuncturist can and cannot do, so it would be wise to contact the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine for your state in order to find out the specifics for your career choice.


After you get our Bachelor’s degree, which you can get in any field, you’ll need to start your Master’s.

There are different types of Master’s degrees that you can get to become an acupuncturist.

The best thing to do is contact the school that you want to attend and see what types of specialties they offer for what you want to do.

Make sure that the school is accredited with the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Once you start your degree, you’ll want to take classes in Oriental medical theory, Oriental herbal studies, and diagnosis and treatment techniques.

Typically, depending on the state you want to work, you’ll have to take some type of clinical class, where you will get hands-on experience at your school.

Video About The Career


In the US, all but six states require that you are certified in this field.

To be eligible for certification, you’ll need to obtain a Master’s degree at an accredited school.

You’ll also need to pass the clean-needle technique course that is offered by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine,

Then you have to take an exam by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Lastly, you’ll need to pass exams in the foundations of Oriental medicine, acupuncture, and biomedicine.

Being licensed in one state does not mean you are licensed in another, so make sure you check out which licensing procedures you need to do for the state that you want to work in.

Certification Example:

acupuncture certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

Popular Programs

Job Outlook

There are about 55,700 acupuncturists in the United States at this time.

The number of jobs is estimated to grow by roughly 5% within the next decade.

Society has started to drift away from traditional medicine and lean more toward alternative types of care.

The fact that more insurance companies have decided to take on acupuncturists, means that more jobs will be available, as this type of medical procedure takes off.

The state with the most acupuncturists is Maryland, while South Dakota has the least.

Cities with larger populations are going to have the most jobs available.

Employment Growth Projection: 5%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 2,600 jobs.

Acupuncturist: Interest Over Time

Should You Become an Acupuncturist?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

Many people who become acupuncturists love their job.

Those that have their own practices find that the freedom to create their own hours is especially wonderful.

Working with other’s is great as well, with a 74% satisfaction rate, this job sounds like a winner.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

The average salary for this career is about $82,000 a year.

When you first start in this job, you’ll make roughly $40,000 a year.

As you increase your education and experience, you can make up to $132,000 a year!

This all depends on your education level, as well as if you work for yourself, or for a medical center or doctor.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

With the adjustment from modern traditional medicine, to a more Western approach, the job outlook for acupuncturists is high.

An acupuncturist can work in many facilities, so depending on where you live, the opportunities can be found quite often.

Education Duration: 4+ Years

Education Duration

There are different college majors you can partake in, that will help you to get your degree necessary to become an acupuncturist.

These majors include:

  • Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
  • Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Medical Systems, General
  • Alternative and Complementary Medicine and Medical Systems, Other
  • Holistic Health
  • Homeopathic Medicine/Homeopathy
  • Naturopathic Medicine/Naturopathy

Some colleges don’t offer these types of majors, but when you find one that does, it can take you between 3 years and 6 years to become an acupuncturist.

Typically, you will have to obtain a Masters degree in order to become a certified acupuncturist.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed


  • Active listening
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making skills
  • Reading comprehension
  • Complex problem solving
  • Time management
  • Science knowledge
  • Medicinal knowledge
  • Biology
  • Therapy and counseling knowledge
  • Dependability
  • Self-control
  • Leadership skills
  • Analytical thinking

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How much does an acupuncturist make?

Depending on how much experience an acupuncturist has, they can make anywhere from $40,000 a year to over $100,000 a year, with the average salary being $82,000 a year.

Those that work in higher populations, that don’t have as many acupuncturists may make more than average.

Q. What does an Acupuncturist do?

An acupuncturist pokes patients with very small needles in the pressure points around their bodies.

Doing this can alleviate pain, and other health issues that cause inflammation, high blood pressure, depression, and so much more.

Q. How long does it take to become an Acupuncturist?

It can take some time to be an acupuncturist.

First, you must get your Bachelor’s degree.

Then you’ll need to get your Master’s degree, which can be obtained from a university or an Acupuncturist school.

It does not matter if you do not have education in medicine, it is still possible to become an acupuncturist, regardless of which Bachelor’s degree you hold.

A Bachelor’s degree can take around 4 years, and a Master’s degree can take around 2, depending on where you go to get your degree.

Q. Is acupuncture a good career?


Those that work as acupuncturists enjoy their jobs, they make good money, and if they work for themselves they can set their own hours and see as many patients as they wish.

Q. Is there a demand for Acupuncturists?

With the increase of alternative medicines around the world, the demand for this type of job is going up.

There is a 13% increase between now and ten years from now, so it is looking like a pretty good career step.

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