An acupuncturist helps patients relieve their pain and discomfort, as well as help treat other disorders by using fine needles that are placed in specific locations on the person’s body. Depending on their training, acupuncturists may also perform massages and other holistic treatments to their patients.
Watch a video to learn what an acupuncturist does:
How to Become an Acupuncturist
The requirements to become an acupuncturist will depend on where you live and each state may have different requirements. However, there are colleges that offer the formal training necessary to become an acupuncturist. To become accepted into an accredited program, you must earn at least two years of bachelor level classes in a medical profession though some programs require a bachelor’s degree. According to ONET online, most acupuncturists have a graduate degree or above.
In addition to earning a degree, one must become certified as well. One can only do this after they graduate. First, there is a course on using clean needles, and then pending on where you live there are additional exams that each state requires. Due to the variety of requirements, it is best to research the specific state requirements for where you plan to work. Examples of certification can include Diplomate of Acupuncture, Diplomate of Chinese Herbology, and Diplomate of Oriental Medicine, all offered through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
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Job Description of an Acupuncturist
Acupuncturists insert very fine needles into various parts of a person’s body to promote better health. Though acupuncture is used worldwide, in traditional Chinese medicine these fine needles are placed along with a patient’s ‘energy map’ to rebalance the ‘flow’ of energy in the body. However, other practitioners world-wide may attribute acupuncture’s benefit as a method to stimulate nerves and muscles, not necessarily the ‘flow’ of energy. Research into the effectiveness of this form of treatment is ongoing.
In any event, those practicing this holistic method of treatment must assess their patient’s needs and write a care plan that works to improve the patient’s condition. Some acupuncturists may also practice other forms of holistic medicine as well. Those practicing encounter tasks such as inserting needles to provide acupuncture treatment while identifying correct anatomical and proportional point locations based on patients’ anatomy and positions, contraindications, and precautions related to treatments. They maintain detailed and complete records of health care plans and prognoses. In addition, they follow standard quality, safety, environmental and infection control policies, procedures and guidelines while adhering to local, state and federal laws, regulations and statutes.
Licensed acupuncture practitioners often are found working in healthcare service settings, including chemical addiction treatment, pain management, and rehabilitation assistance. Most work in private practices, multidisciplinary clinic settings or hospitals while others may choose research, teaching, or writing. They work a variety of hours and usually see patients anywhere for 30-60 minutes per session. An acupuncturist must be people-oriented and feel comfortable being in close proximity to their patients.
Free Teacher and Student Resources
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) provides a holistic look at Acupuncture (link opens in a new tab) and explains the scientific data behind Acupuncture’s effectiveness. It also discusses how much more can still be learned from the practice. Additionally, you can also read an article published by the American Academy of Family Physicians titled, Research Finds Acupuncture Effective for Chronic Pain (link opens in a new tab).
Acupuncturist Career Video Transcript
More than 2000 years of practice informs the work of modern day acupuncturists. They practice the skill of inserting thin needles into the skin to induce pain relief and improve symptoms. Acupuncturists use an energy map of points on the body to guide their work. The stimulation of these points triggers reactions that promote pain relief. They may use small electrical currents, and provide massage treatment as well. These natural medicine practitioners interview patients to develop a unique treatment plan. Acupuncturists formulate herbal preparations for patients, and inform them about dosages, treatment duration, possible side effects, and interactions. Many acupuncturists also educate patients about topics such as meditation, nutrition, breathing, and relaxation.
Acupuncturists often work in their own practice, or in collaborative settings with other natural healers, such as naturopaths and massage therapists. The ability for patients to cover treatment costs through their health insurance providers has grown in recent years, which has increased the demand for services. Training and certification is required to practice in most states. Candidates must complete a graduate acupuncture program of approximately 3-5 years, then pass a state board exam to earn licensure. Modern science has validated that acupuncture works, but with no agreement on how it works, acupuncturists rely on seeing the benefit in their patients’ well-being.
- National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1199.01. O*NET OnLine. This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA. RethinkOldSchool, Inc. has modified all or some of this information. USDOL/ETA has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.
- Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Frequently Asked Questions.
- The video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.