How to become a Acupuncturist. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about Acupuncturist careers.
What does an Acupuncturist do?
Acupuncturists use an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine to help relieve their clients’ symptoms. This method involves inserting very fine stainless steel needles into key pressure points on the body, with the aim of regulating the healing process and restoring health and energy.
As an acupuncturist, your day-to-day work would include:
- taking a detailed history from the client
- exploring issues surrounding their symptoms, lifestyle and emotional responses to situations
- making a decision on a course of action or diagnosis
- selecting specific points on the body to be treated
- inserting needles according to the level of stimulation required.
Your clients could include people with conditions ranging from arthritis, circulatory problems and high blood pressure to migraine, depression, and addiction.
As well as traditional methods you may also use electro-acupuncture, which involves using electrical energy to treat parts of the body.
You are likely to make your own appointments and set your own working hours. However, to meet the needs of clients, you may need to cover some weekends and evenings.
You would be based either in a health clinic or in another therapeutic environment. You might also travel to clients’ homes.
How much does an Acupuncturist earn?
Acupuncturists working on a full-time basis may earn between £23,000 and £38,000 a year. However, most acupuncturists are self-employed, so incomes vary considerably.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To work accurately and safely with clients, you need to take an in-depth training course (usually around three years full-time or the part-time equivalent). Acupuncture is currently unregulated, however, you could work towards membership of a professional body, such as the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) or the Acupuncture Society.
- British Acupuncture Council
The British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB), an independent accreditation body, has approved several courses that lead to membership of the BAcC. To get on to a BAAB approved course you will usually need at least five GCSEs (A-C). With some colleges you may also need two A levels, including a science subject. Check with providers (listed on the BAcC website) for exact entry details because alternative qualifications may also be accepted.
- British Acupuncture Accreditation Board
To join the Acupuncture Society, you will need to be a graduate of the College of Chinese Medicine, or be a practitioner with five years’ professional training from mainland China (check the Society website for details).
- Acupuncture Society
If you are a qualified healthcare professional you may be exempt from certain parts of the training or examinations. Check the British Medical Acupuncture Society (BMAS) website for more information.
- British Medical Acupuncture Society
It would be helpful to have a driving licence because you may carry out treatments in several settings, including clients’ homes.
Organisations from a variety of complementary therapies, including Acupuncture, have worked to create a single (voluntary) regulatory body, known as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). The aim of the CNHC is to protect the public by registering practitioners, setting standards for safe practice and providing a means of redress if things go wrong.
To register, your profession must be a member of the CNHC (this is being rolled out in stages). If you are interested in joining, you should check with your professional body and on the CNHC website regularly for updates.
- Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council
A Department of Health Steering Group has also recommended the statutory regulation of practitioners of acupuncture by the Health Professions Council (HPC). For the latest information on this issue, check with your professional body or the HPC website.
- Health Professions Council
Training and Development
Once you are on a course leading to membership of a professional body, you will combine practical work placements with attending university or college. You will study areas such as:
- anatomy and physiology
- common diseases
- diagnostic skills and methods
- acupuncture points, life energy (chi or qi) and health
- acupuncture techniques and treatment (including traditional methods)
- emergency first aid
- business skills and setting up a practice.
Throughout your career you will need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date. You could achieve this through membership of a professional body (like the BAcC or Acupuncture Society), which would give you access to a programme of continuing professional development (CPD).
You could also take courses in specific acupuncture techniques, advanced theory, and additional complementary practices (like herbal medicine) or you could focus on the needs of a client group (such as children or cancer sufferers). Some courses are available at postgraduate and doctoral level.
Skills and Knowledge
- a keen interest in biological sciences and complementary therapies
- the ability to empathise with your patients’ circumstances
- good communication and listening skills
- a logical approach to problem solving
- self awareness and emotional stability
- the ability to create good working relationships with a range of clients
- commercial awareness with the ability to develop and run a business.
Acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular in the UK and there are now over 2000 acupuncturists registered with the BAcC.
You will find most opportunities as a self-employed acupuncturist, working from home or other premises you have arranged, or within a complementary or holistic therapy centre alongside practitioners from a range of disciplines.
Occasionally you may find work (often part-time) in the NHS, working with specialist nurses and physiotherapists to provide pain management services to patients. However, it is more likely that you would be self-employed and provide some services to the NHS. You should contact GP surgeries, Primary Care Trusts and hospitals in your area to market your services and discuss your options.