Acupuncture was long considered an alternative medical-treatment method. At least, that was the attitude in western countries. Acupuncture has been an accepted component of Oriental medicine for thousands of years, and is growing in acceptance throughout the world.

Acupuncturists are practitioners trained to insert needles into the skin of patients, in targeted locations, to treat pain and disorders. They also provide electrical and heat stimulation to specific points on the human body. These techniques relieve pain, aid in rehabilitation, treat illnesses, and help patients deal with addictions and other psychological problems.

Acupuncturists also provide related types of therapy, like acupressure. They prescribe herbal treatments, taking advantage of ancient Chinese knowledge about plant-based medicine. They consult with patients and make suggestions regarding diet, exercise, lifestyle, and stress management.

Acupuncturists work in private practices, medical clinics with other practioners, and hospitals. Experts in the field also find jobs as teachers, writers, and researchers.

Acupuncturist Job Description

Acupuncturists provide various types of treatments for patients suffering from pain, injury, illness, and emotional and psychological maladies. They are most famous for the needles they strategically insert into the skin. Heating pads, hot and cold compresses, heat lamps, and other items are sometimes used to stimulate the proper areas of the body.

Ailments for which acupuncture may be appropriate include those associated with the muscular, skeletal, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and circulatory systems. This treatment method has been proven effective in lowering blood pressure, treating obesity and eating disorders, and reducing stress and anxiety.

At least a few treatment sessions are necessary for most patients to experience relief from their symptoms. Some people continue to visit an acupuncturist for a year or longer.

The acupuncturist job description includes:
  • Meet with patients to obtain information about their complaints, symptoms, medical history, diet, lifestyle, and psychological health
  • Make diagnoses and determine treatment strategies
  • Explain procedures to patients and prepare them for treatment
  • Identify precise locations on a patient’s body where needles should be inserted, or where electrical or heat stimulation is to be applied
  • Perform acupressure and related techniques
  • Following a procedure, consult with the patient about other therapy, diet, exercise, and emotional health
  • Suggest treatments involving herbal medicine
  • Evaluate treatment outcomes and maintain patient records
  • Comply with quality, safety, and infection-prevention protocols, as well as laws and regulations
  • If operating a private practice, perform financial, management, and other business-related duties
  • If employed at a clinic or hospital, work cooperatively with medical and administrative staff
  • Receive continuing education, read trade journals, and keep up-to-date on industry practices and regulations

How to Become an Acupuncturist

The first step to becoming an acupuncturist is to receive an undergraduate degree (4 years) through a college. A major in a science is recommended. Students planning to pursue acupuncture as a career generally take physiology, anatomy, and related courses.

The second requirement is a master’s degree from an acupuncture college accredited by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). This entails three or four years of classroom instruction, and 1,500 to 2,000 hours of training as an apprentice.

Some people become medical doctors before deciding to specialize in acupuncture. A medical degree requires even more years of education and training, as well as additional certification and licensing.

Qualities and Traits

An acupuncturist, like any other health-care provider, needs to develop a good bedside manner. Patients want to feel confident that they have placed themselves in capable hands. The ability to effectively communicate, which includes listening well, is essential.

Acupuncturists must be able to work in cooperation with other medical practitioners, as well as clinic and hospital staffers. Those who operate their own clinics also need to develop finance, marketing, employee-management, customer-service, and other skills.

Acupuncturist Certification

Each state’s medical-licensing board has its own rules for certifying a person to practice acupuncture. Most require a degree from an accredited acupuncture college, and board certification from the NCCAOM. To get a certificate from the commission, an applicant must pass an exam. (For more information, visit

Many state boards also mandate that acupuncturists receive continuing education in their field. This is often done by attending professional conferences.

Different states have different regulations for who may practice acupuncture. Seven states (Alabama, Delaware, Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota) permit only medical doctors, osteopaths, and chiropractors to perform acupuncture. In Louisiana and Michigan, acupuncture must be done under the supervision of a doctor or osteopath.

Acupuncturist Job Description Summary

  • Insert needles to treat pain and disorder
  • Work with other physicians and health practitioners
  • 4 year Bachelor’s degree
  • 3 to 4 year Master’s degree
  • Must be certified to practice