How to Become an Acupuncturist in 4 Simple Steps

Degree Level

Master's Degree





What Does an Acupuncturist Do?

Acupuncturists practice a form of an ancient Chinese medicine, by inserting thin, sterile needles in specific points across the body. This allows them to alleviate pain and treat various other health conditions.

Practitioners may also apply heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points. As well as using other forms of treatment such as herbs and diet changes.

As an acupuncturist, you will need a good understanding of human anatomy, as well as various items of medical equipment used to carry out acupuncture. You will also interview, examine, diagnose patient issues, and decide what the appropriate points are on the body to apply these techniques and promote the desired response.

In this profession it’s also important to understand and follow laws related to infection control and safety.

The key duties of an acupuncturist include:

  • Meeting with patients and diagnosing issues
  • Choosing treatment options
  • Inserting needles into the appropriate areas of the body
  • Maintaining patient records and monitoring their progress
  • Following all safety and infection procedures

Desirable Skills of an Acupuncturist

There are some skills that’ll aid you in being a successful physician in the field of acupuncture.

Whether you’re working as self-employed, or as part of a team, these qualities remain the same and are summarized below:

Showing compassion and being a good listener

In medical professions it is essential that the patient feels relaxed and comfortable.

Showing genuine empathy and compassion will reassure them and help anyone with fears about needles.

Being a good listener is also important for picking up on these situations and understanding the needs of the patient.

Having good communication skills

An acupuncturist must have excellent communication skills to be able to effectively communicate with patients and carry out the most effective treatments.

As well as being able to explain new and different concepts so the patients are fully informed.

Knowledge about health issues

It’s important for an acupuncturist to have good knowledge about human anatomy and keep up-to-date on different diseases and treatments to provide the best possible solutions through acupuncture.

Strong commitment

You absolutely need to have a strong commitment to the study of acupuncture and providing the highest level of care to the patient should be your top priority.

By continuing your education and personal development you’ll be able to keep up-to-date with the latest development.

Being able to handle pressure

As an acupuncturist you will no doubt have stressful, long days at times.

 In order to be successful in this field, it is essential to balance your workload and be able to handle the stress that comes with providing important medical care.

Becoming an Acupuncturist

Step 1 High School Preparation

High School Classes for an Acupuncturist

Anatomy and Physiology

These classes are essential for learning about the human body and its functions and therefore being able to apply a safe and competent acupuncture practice. With respect to the relevant anatomy you can apply needling without injuring the patient.


Students who are interested in following the career of an acupuncturist will benefit from biology lessons. Biology is critical to your education at the high school level because it will provide you with knowledge of the fundamentals of medicine and will strengthen your understanding of the foundations of the scientific method.


Another important lesson you need to take in high school is psychology. Understanding human psychology will help you communicate better with patients from different backgrounds, different situations, and stressful times.

Step 2 Get an Undergraduate Degree

Pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Acupuncture

Students who are interested in obtaining a bachelor’s degree in acupuncture, will follow a program designed around providing healing with alternative methods.

Classes include theories and principles of acupuncture along with other aspects of Chinese herbal medicine.

There will also be many opportunities to gain hands-on experience and practice.

If you pursue a bachelor’s degree in acupuncture you will benefit in a wide range of ways.

You will obtain practical experience that will prepare you for working in real life situations. In addition, the various classes that the program offers will give you more career options.

  • Communications
  • Social Sciences
  • Humanities
  • Natural Sciences/Math
  • General Chemistry 1
  • General Chemistry 2
  • Organic Chemistry 1
  • Organic Chemistry 2
  • Foundations of Math
  • General Physics 1
  • General Physics 2
  • Anatomy and Physiology 1
  • Anatomy and Physiology 2
  • Pathophysiology 1
  • Pathophysiology 2
  • Topics in Cardiopulmonary Health
  • Topics in Orthopedic Health
  • Topics in Neurological Health
  • Topics in Pediatric, Obstetric and Women’s Health
  • Topics in Digestive Health
  • Topics in Endocrine and Male Uro-Genital Health
  • Medical Terminology
  • Culture and Health
  • Human Origins
  • Epistemology of Health
  • History of Health Care
  • Mandarin for Health Professionals
  • Health Psychology
  • Psychology of Addiction
  • Sex and Gender
  • Spanish for Health Professionals
  • Communication Skills for Health Professionals
  • Critical Thinking for Health Professionals
  • Bioethics
  • Understanding and Using Research

The average cost of acupuncturist bachelor’s degree program is about $45,630 – $85,680.

If you are thinking of joining acupuncturist bachelor’s degree program click below and discover the best programs close to you. The information is free and there is no obligation to enroll.

Step 3 Get a Graduate Degree

Master’s Degree in Acupuncture

If you want to apply for a master’s degree program in acupuncture, you must have a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare or alternative medicine field of study and a grade point with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

These master’s degree programs typically take 3 years to complete. In the final year of your program you can begin the process of NCCAOM certification.

  • Introduction to Oriental Medicine
  • Physiology of Oriental Medicine
  • Meridian Theory and Point Location 1
  • Meridian Theory and Point Location 2
  • Asian Body Work
  • Tui Na
  • Palpation Skills
  • Medical Terminology
  • Western Anatomy and Physiology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Principles of Biochemistry
  • Neurology
  • Etiology and Pathogenesis of Oriental Medicine
  • Diagnosis and Skills of Oriental Medicine 1
  • Meridian and Point Energetics 1
  • Asian Body Work
  • Tui Na
  • Western Anatomy and Physiology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Principles of Biochemistry
  • Neurology
  • Western Physical Examination
  • Neuromusculoskeletal Examination
  • Western Pathology
  • Microbiology, Immunology and Public Health
  • Clinic Observation 1
  • Diagnosis and Skills of Oriental Medicine 2
  • Differential Diagnosis of Oriental Medicine 1
  • Differential Diagnosis of Oriental Medicine 2
  • Meridian and Point Energetics 2
  • Acupuncture and Clean Needle Technique
  • Medical Qi Gong
  • Tai Chi
  • Western Physical Exam
  • Neuromusculoskeletal Exam
  • Western Pathology
  • Microbiology, Immunology and Public Health
  • Clinic Observation 2
  • Clinic Observation 3
  • Differential Diagnosis of Oriental Medicine 1
  • Differential Diagnosis of Oriental Medicine 2
  • Advanced Diagnosis and Treatment Strategy
  • Microsystems and Advanced Acupunctures
  • Acupuncture and Accessory Techniques
  • Medical Qi Gong
  • Tai Chi
  • Business, Marketing and Practice Management
  • Evidence Based Practice
  • Clinical Laboratory Diagnosis
  • Imaging Diagnosis
  • Western Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Neurophysiology of Acupuncture

The average cost of acupuncturist master’s degree program is about $75,924 – $124,370.

If you are thinking of joining acupuncturist master’s degree program click the button below and discover the best programs close to you.

Step 4 Get a License

To obtain a license to practice acupuncture you need to have a certificate from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

To get an NCCAOM license you need to graduate from an ACAOM program, pass the Clean Needle Technique (CNT) exam administered by the Council of College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCOAM) as well as certification exams in oriental medicine, acupuncture and biomedicine. You can earn the NCCAOM license in 3-5 years.

The requirements to obtain an acupuncturist’s license vary from state to state, as well as what a licensed acupuncturist may do in his/her practice. Also, an acupuncturist licensed in one state may not be able to practice in other states.

Eastern medicine, and especially acupuncture has grown an interest in the last years, which is why becoming a licensed acupuncturist is well worth considering. As you will have read above, we have broken down all the steps you need to follow explaining how to become an acupuncturist.

Overview of Acupuncturist Degrees

Bachelor’s Degree Program

As I’ve mentioned in this article, ongoing education is vital to keep up-to-date with all the latest acupuncture techniques and be able to offer the highest level of patient care.

Completing a Bachelor’s degree program in acupuncture is a good place to start. It’s typically easy to find a school, affordable, and provide the foundations that are not only important in regards to knowledge, but setting you up for further education after.

You will cover various forms of Chinese medicine, as well as learning about herbology principles, palpation and massage, the history and philosophy behind acupuncture, and some of the finer points of acupuncture techniques specifically.

Acupuncturist Master’s Degree Program

A Master’s degree in acupuncture builds on what you’ve covered in a Bachelor’s degree and other courses. You will delve deeper into anatomy and nutrition, along with herbology, and cover more of the Traditional Chinese Medicine practices and procedures.

You will likely be required to fulfill an internship or assistantship depending on your program requirements too. This is an excellent way to get real hands-on training under supervision and get a feel for working as an acupuncturist.

Which Type of Degree Is Best for You?

To give a specific answer tailored to you as an individual I would need to know what experience you have with both your level of education and working practice. As well as what your goals are for the future.

As a rule of thumb however, for anyone looking to complete the best degree program to progress their career as an acupuncturist I always advise completing a Master’s degree.

A Master’s degree covers a much wider scope of topics and will give you a more comprehensive understanding of acupuncture. As well as other Chinese Medicine practices that compliment acupuncture.

This helps you become a more well-rounded and complete acupuncturist. Setting you apart from most of the field and equipping you with the tools you need to start your own business or work for an organization.

Most importantly I recommend choosing a program that includes supervised hands-on training in the form of an internship or assistant-ship. There is nothing that compares to the experience you get from hands-on training so I’m always an advocate for this.

If you’re serious about being the best you can be, and opening up the most employment opportunities and earning potential, then take a look at Master Degree Programs in acupuncture.

acupuncture explanation

Acupuncturist Job Growth, Salary and Outlook





If you’re interested in becoming an acupuncturist it’s a good idea to look at the projected growth for the profession, salary, and overall outlook.

The good news is that the future is bright for acupuncturists. According to the projected growth between 2014-2024 is 12%.

This is much higher than the average across all professions which is just 7%. This shows us that there is going to be an increase in demand for acupuncture practitioners, meaning plenty employment opportunities.

This is reflected in the stats showing an expected need for around 17,700 more acupuncturists, and a median salary in the region of .

Again, figures that are far above the average baseline of all professions. With the median salary of all professions being , this is certainly an attractive proposition for entering this profession.

Some of the main driving forces behind these numbers are the aging population in need of additional medical care, the ongoing education and understanding of acupuncture from the public, and these forms of treatment becoming more accessible.

How Long Does it Take to Become an Acupuncturist and How Much Does it Cost?

Option 1: Bachelor’s Degree

Degree Time Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$​45,​630$ – $85,680
Total 4 years$​45,​630$ – $85,680

Option 2: Master’s Degree

DegreeTime Cost
Bachelor’s 4 years$​45,​630$ – $85,680
Master’s2 years to 3 years$​​75,​924$ – $​124,​370
Total6 years to 7 years$121,554 – $210,050

Acupuncturist Training Video

Noel Griffith, Ph.D.
Noel Griffith is a Doctor of Philosophy with a strong interest in educational research. He has been an editor-in-chief of since 2014. Noel is an avid reader (non-fiction), enjoys good food, live theatre, and helping others make wiser career decisions.

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