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 from the Far East, 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 about 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.

How much income can I make as an acupuncturist?

The annual salary per year for an acupuncturist is $74,530 (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.

Licensed acupuncturists who start their own business can gross up towards $300,000 to $400,000 per year, according to Benjamin W. Griffith II, M.Ac., L.Ac, Dipl. Ac., Acupuncture Studies Department Chair at the Won Institute.

What is 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 basic sciences, and anatomy and physiology. 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 Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). An accredited college, 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 ACAOM.

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 full-time job and requires a lot of hard work. According to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, a professional acupuncture curriculum must consist of at least 47 semester credits (705 hours) in Oriental 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 in the Won Institute – Why this is 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 certified.

Upon graduating from an accredited college, you are eligible to be certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Candidates must pass 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 Oriental Medicine (CCOAM).

In most states, practitioners are designated Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac.), but in some states they may be designated Acupuncture Physicians or Doctors of Oriental Medicine. These doctoral designations, however, are licensure titles conferred by the state and do not reflect earned academic degrees at the doctoral level, according to the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

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