When most people are looking for a career in healthcare, they will typically think of becoming a physician or a nurse. Nowadays, the tides of conventional medicine are turning as the demand for complementary and integrative forms of medicine like acupuncture is taking center stage. This post will walk you through how to become an Acupuncturist.

Acupuncture, an ancient therapy originating in East Asia, utilizes tiny needles that are placed in specific pressure points of an individual’s body, and is said to improve a person’s “qi” – also known as the vital life force, thus relieving symptoms of chronic pain, stress, and a whole host of physical and emotional conditions.

Who would have thought that acupuncture, which is over 3,000 years old, is the hottest career option in the medical field? Job market growth (2016-2026) in the field of acupuncture is projected to be faster than average at a rate of 10% to 14%, according to O*NET.  

Career opportunities are abundant, and many licensed acupuncturists can earn a comfortable income whether as a practitioner in private practice, or working in a variety of clinical settings, including hospitals, wellness centers, addiction treatment centers and community clinics.

What Is Acupuncture Used For?

People often turn to acupuncture when they’re seeking a treatment that goes beyond the means of traditional Western medicine. In cases where Western medicine may suggest heavy medications or surgery to combat the problem, East Asian medicine may suggest trying acupuncture first to see if a less invasive option can assist. Some of the most common reasons people turn to acupuncture include infertility, autoimmune disorders, digestive concerns and heart disease.
 
Sometimes, people experiencing chronic pain cannot find relief in common treatment methods. People who suffer from migraines or other pain disorders may have resigned themselves to living in constant pain. In these cases, acupuncture may be the only effective solution they can find.
 
Another group of people who often seek out acupuncturists are people living with cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can cause numerous unpleasant side effects, and some people have noted relief from these symptoms when using acupuncture.
 

Programs for Aspiring Acupuncturists

If you’re hoping to start your path as an acupuncturist, your first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Most programs are for master’s and doctorate degrees, so you have to start by building a base for your education. You can get a bachelor’s degree in any field, although it will help your future to study a health-related field that you can apply to your acupuncture education. 
 
Other requirements for most training programs include classes in anatomy and physiology so everyone in the classes starts with the same basic understanding. In order to get a doctorate in acupuncture, you’ll first have to get your master’s degree. In some acupuncture colleges like the Won Institute of Graduate Studies, you can go straight from your master’s into your doctorate degree.
 

Choosing the Right Program for You

There are many things to consider when you’re exploring your acupuncture program options. Consider: 
 
  • Length of training: How long do you want to spend training? How long do you want to be paying for your schooling? Do you have a position you want to achieve that requires a certain amount of training? All of these questions can factor into whether you pursue a master’s degree or doctorate courses.
  • Location: You may be limited in where you can find accredited acupuncture schools — for example, the Won Institute of Graduate Studies is the only one in Pennsylvania. However, every state has slightly different requirements for acupuncture licensing so ensure you can obtain the correct certifications for wherever you plan to practice.
  • Other specialties: Have you thought about learning other aspects of Chinese medicine, like herbology? If so, you’ll want to find somewhere that offers both practices.
 

How much income can I make as an acupuncturist?

The annual salary per year as of May 2020 for an acupuncturist is $82,420 (national average), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Many licensed acupuncturists have the chance to increase their earning potential if they are good self-marketers and want to own and operate a private practice. While building a well-established practice with a loyal customer base can take a while, it can certainly secure a well-paying salary.  

What Are the future job prospects for the field of acupuncture?

Acupuncture is becoming widely used and a requested form of treatment in the fast-growing field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to treat chronic pain and other medical conditions. The future of acupuncture is promising as conventional medicine acknowledges acupuncture as an important treatment that can be integrated in to clinical settings. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and a 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Statement have recognized acupuncture as effective in treating a wide variety of health conditions. Some of the key areas where acupuncture has gained popularity over the last decade include the following:   

National opioid crisis – A number of federal and state legislators have introduced bills to improve access to acupuncture for patients who have been impacted by opioid addiction. There is evidence demonstrating that acupuncture provides effective management for adjunctive therapy for opioid withdrawal.

Integrative Services – Medical providers in a variety of clinical settings, including cancer treatment centers and fertility clinics are turning to acupuncture as ancillary services they can offer patients in their practices.  

Treatments are getting covered – Insurance companies are now paying for some acupuncture services that treat chronic pain. As more insurers start to come on board and accept alternative medicine as a necessary and effective treatment for medical conditions, job opportunities will open up more for acupuncturists.

Now that you have a better overall view of the future of the profession, and you’re thinking about taking the next leap in to the field of acupuncture,

Follow these steps on how to become an acupuncturist:

 

Step 1: Meet the education requirements.

Applicants to an acupuncture program are required to have a bachelor’s degree. Your undergraduate degree can be in any subject, however, if you did not complete coursework in health and sciences, you will be required to take prerequisites in anatomy and physiology. If you will be applying for the Doctor of Acupuncture Program, there are additional requirements in Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. Learn more about the Won Institute of Graduate Studies admissions requirements.

Step 2: Find an accredited college.

You can study acupuncture at any college accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (ACAHM). An accredited institution, like the Won Institute ensures a quality education with the ability to obtain licensure. The Won Institute is the only regionally accredited Buddhist institution of higher learning on the Eastern Seaboard and one of only eleven institutions nationwide which are accredited by both a regional accreditor (in this case the Middle States Commission on Higher Education) and nationally by the ACAHM.

When looking for an acupuncture college, research the graduate programs; visit the campus; talk to admissions counselors; and meet up with students already in the program who can provide more insight on their experiences.

Step 3: Be prepared to make a commitment.

Completing a degree in acupuncture can be like a full-time job and requires a lot of hard work. According to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, a professional acupuncture curriculum must consist of at least 47 semester credits (705 hours) in Acupuncture medical theory, diagnosis and treatment techniques in acupuncture and related studies; 22 semester credits (660 hours) in clinical training; 30 semester credits (450 hours) in biomedical clinical sciences; and 6 semester credits (90 hours) in counseling, communication, ethics and practice management. 

Step 4: Enroll at the Won Institute –  The Most Important Step.

The Master of Acupuncture Studies Degree has been one of the most successful programs at the Won Institute. Students enrolled in the accredited three-year program gain a comprehensive understanding of Chinese medical theory and the ancient and modern uses of acupuncture from a diverse faculty, many of whom have been trained throughout the world. The clinical internship is one of the most important parts of the program where students spend the final four terms in an intensive clinical internship, treating patients under the supervision of experienced acupuncture faculty members. During the final two terms, students focus on developing their own identity as acupuncturists and have the freedom to craft their own treatment regimens with guidance from faculty. By the time students graduate, they have earned more than 600 hours of experience treating patients. This experience gives them the confidence they need to effectively treat patients in their own practice.

Step 5: Get licensed.

Upon graduating from Won Institute, you are eligible to be certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Candidates must pass board exams on biomedicine, foundations of Oriental medicine and acupuncture with point location. In addition, candidates must complete a clean needle technique course offered by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine (CCAHM). After passing board exams, candidates may apply for state licensure in the state in which they reside.

To learn more about how to become an acupuncturist and how to enroll, contact a Won Institute Admission Counselor.

Apply Now

 

The Won Institute of Graduate Studies is the only school in Pennsylvania that offers accredited programs for acupuncture. Our school offers small class sizes and diverse faculty that can help you understand the history of acupuncture studies and how to bring this sacred tradition into the modern age. By the end of your studies here, you’ll be fully prepared to take the NCCAOM national board exams — the standard in acupuncture licensing in the United States.

You can learn more about any of our acupuncture programs and apply to our programs for free by attending one of our virtual information webinars. Or, if acupuncture is your passion and you’re ready to get started, submit your application today! We can’t wait to have you in our ranks in our next fall semester.