Career of the Week: Accupuncturist

An acupuncturist is a complementary health practitioner who takes a holistic approach to the maintenance of health and the management of disease. The focus is on the individual, rather than the illness and the aim is to improve the person’s overall wellbeing. The correct manipulation of qi is used to treat a range of emotional and physical disorders, including those of a musculoskeletal, respiratory, circulatory and gynaecological nature. Acupuncture is an ancient therapy based on the theory that the body depends on vital energy, known as qi, being in balance. If there is pain or illness, acupuncturists see this as a sign that the body is out of balance. To correct this they insert fine needles into acupuncture points, which restore the flow of qi, which then triggers the body’s natural healing process   Accupuncturist Responsibilities As an acupuncturist, you’ll need to: carry out an initial consultation with each patient, in order to establish a detailed case history, assess their health and determine a treatment plan conduct subsequent one-to-one treatment sessions with patients, lasting between 45 minutes to an hour explain the diagnosis and treatment to the patient and respond to their questions and concerns treat by inserting fine needles into the skin at particular locations to stimulate the energy flow along meridians (energy channels) and the body’s own healing response incorporate other treatments, such as moxibustion (burning herbs to warm insertion points), electro-acupuncture (stimulating insertion points with small electric currents), acupressure (to loosen and relax muscles), and cupping assess patient progress through questioning and examination as well as reviewing treatment plans if necessary keep patient and financial records organise and promote your practice.      

The Job Stats:


An acupuncturist’s earnings are related to the success of the practice and may be low during the first three to four years, as it can take time to get established.

  • On average, acupuncturists treat between one and four clients a day in the early stages, at about £40 a session (£45 to £90 per session in London). More will be charged for the initial consultation session. Once established, an acupuncturist may treat 30 to 40 clients a week and fees can vary depending on the success and location of the practice.

Some acupuncturists offer multi-bed sessions in which more than one client is treated at a time (using partition screens for privacy), making it possible to reduce the treatment cost.

Additional income from other employment may be required to cover living costs and overheads, such as rent of practice premises, until the time that clients’ fees cover outgoings.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours typically include frequent unsocial hours, e.g. weekends and evenings, to suit clients. Part-time work and career breaks are possible.

What to expect

  • The cost of overheads and room rental may determine the place of work; you may have a private or shared consulting room. Flexibility and mobility are an advantage when starting out.
  • Practitioners need to be at ease with physical contact and with working in a variety of workplaces (including patients’ homes) with a range of clients and colleagues.
  • Self-employment is very common and ultimately offers a choice of working hours and locations.
  • Jobs are widely available in both urban and rural areas. Effective self-promotion is essential in order to compete successfully in areas where there are already a number of established acupuncture practices.
  • A uniform is not required, but many acupuncturists choose to wear white clinical clothing (tunic and trousers).

Education Needed:


You can choose from a variety of acupuncture courses, with the length of study varying according to the educational provider. Courses are run at an honours-degree level and many lead to a BSc. Some institutions also offer MSc courses.

Accreditation ensures a certain level of teaching is delivered, across a minimum of 400 hours in a clinical setting, including a basis in Chinese medicine theory along with physiology, anatomy and other western medical sciences. A list of available accredited courses can be found at British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) – Accredited courses. Observation and clinical practice will form a substantial part of your training, and practice treatments are carried out under the close supervision of trained and experienced acupuncturists.

Completing an accredited course means you are automatically eligible to join the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC). This enables you to join the BAcC register, which allows acupuncturists to display the Accredited Voluntary Register quality mark to show their practice meets robust professional standards.

Acquiring student membership of the BAcC while studying, offers you access to a student website, copy of the in-house publication and advice on setting up your own practice once you are qualified.

It’s not essential to have previous experience in healthcare to get onto an acupuncture course. Knowledge of biological sciences is helpful but attitude, personal qualities and life experience are equally important. Personal experience of successful treatment and any experience of teaching, counselling, advice work, massage or nursing may be useful.

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