Acupuncturists aim to relieve illness or pain by inserting fine needles into the skin at strategic points in the body. The practice is often regarded as alternative or complementary medicine; however, it is becoming increasingly predominant in Western medicine.
Acupuncture therapy is derived from the ancient Chinese theory that a healthy body depends on a balance of vital energy (qi); it is believed if qi can’t flow freely, this can lead to a range of illnesses, and these illnesses can be remedied by acupuncture.
Whereas in Western Medicine, acupuncture is seen as a way to stimulate sensory nerves to facilitate the production of pain-relieving endorphins. Whether working in traditional or Western medicine, you will always treat your patients holistically by considering the individual rather than treating individual symptoms.
People seek the help of acupuncturists for a range of reasons; the most common ones include post-operative pain, joint pain, dental pain, migraines, and musculoskeletal conditions.
Acupuncturists need to:
- Consult with clients/patients to understand their health and create a treatment plan.
- Ensure your client/patient understands their diagnoses and treatment.
- Carry out treatment sessions, which last 20 minutes to 1 hour.
- Ensure your clients are at ease during their treatment.
- Assess client progress and review the treatment plan, where necessary.
- Create and maintain confidential client records.
- Book acupuncture sessions.
While some acupuncturists work for an employer, it is not uncommon to work on a self-employed basis. Self-employed acupuncturists will also need to keep accurate financial records, take responsibility for business administration and marketing and complete self-assessment tax forms.
Some acupuncturists working in traditional medicine may also provide other holistic treatments, such as acupressure, cupping, and moxibustion.
Most acupuncturists are self-employed; therefore, income will depend on the rates you set for your consultations and sessions. Acupuncture fees for new patients are typically £40 – £70, whereas subsequent and shorter sessions are priced at £25 – £60.
As you establish your practice and gain experience, your income will become stronger, especially if you create links with healthcare professionals and GP practices. For financial security, while establishing your practice, you may need to source income from other sources to cover your overheads and living costs.
- The starting salary for employed acupuncturists is £21,051 per year.
- The average salary for employed acupuncturists is £29,165 per year.
- The salary potential for employed acupuncturists is £41,980 per year.
If you like the freedom of choosing your own hours, a career as an acupuncturist will suit you down to a tee as you will have flexibility with the hours you choose to work – to a certain degree. You will still need to accommodate your client’s schedules, meaning you will need to work around their working hours, making weekend, early morning and evening work a necessity.
What to Expect
- Before you can afford to set up your practice or rent a room, you may need to work from home or travel to the homes of your clients.
- Having your own mode of transport is essential for many acupuncturists.
- You will need a flexible approach to your work schedule.
- You will need to be comfortable being in close physical contact with your clients.
- You will need a certain degree of empathy while dealing with chronically and terminally ill clients.
- Employed positions are few and far between, and you may need to prepare to be self-employed, run your own business and be in charge of self-promotion.
- Networking is vital for establishing a client base.
- If you are self-employed, a uniform isn’t a necessity, but you may want to consider wearing a clinical uniform, such as a matching tunic and trouser set.
The best route into a career as an acupuncturist is to enrol in an accredited acupuncture course. There are multiple courses, including Hons, BSc, and MSc level courses.
All accredited courses require a minimum of 400 hours in a clinical setting and consist of teaching Chinese medicine theory and an introduction to Western medical sciences, including anatomy and physiology.
The British Acupuncture Accreditation Board has a comprehensive list of the available accredited courses in the UK.
Acupuncture courses don’t typically ask that student candidates have a background in healthcare; however, knowledge of biological science can be beneficial if there is ample competition for placement on the course.
As an acupuncturist, you will need:
- A strong sense of business acumen if you are looking to set up a successful business.
- Great interpersonal communication skills.
- The ability to explain treatments in a simple and easy-to-understand way.
- A non-judgmental, friendly, and compassionate approach.
- The ability to create supportive relationships with your clients.
- The confidence to advocate for your skills and practice.
- To be a calming influence on your patience.
As acupuncturists carry a very specific form of treatment, time shadowing a qualified and experienced practitioner is vital. Shadowing will give you a view into the technique and the best way to provide patient care and run a clinic.
Work experience in other healthcare settings can help you gain experience working with patients, whereas working in business or marketing can be beneficial when you start running your own business.
If you stick to a career as an acupuncturist, your career progression will depend on your reputation and business acumen. Once you have gained experience, you can teach acupuncture or supervise acupuncture students, or you can diversify your skillset by learning a new form of therapy.
If you would prefer to work for an employer, you could search for an acupuncture position at a private healthcare practice that provides multidisciplinary complementary services, or at a medical centre.
The NHS also employs part-time acupuncturists in pain management, oncology, and antenatal care departments. Even though it isn’t impossible to find work as an employed acupuncturist, the vacancies are very limited.
Your business and marketing skills will be just as crucial to the success of your practice as your talents for providing acupuncture therapy. To ensure that your new enterprise hits the ground running after you become an accredited acupuncturist, consider enrolling in the Business & Marketing BA (Hons) degree taught at the UWS Paisley campus. You will learn about the marketing issues that impact businesses in the modern market, and you will graduate with plenty of hands-on experience in business-related problem-solving.