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What Can I Earn as an Acupuncturist?

This master’s-level healthcare career can be personally—as well as financially—rewarding.

person standing at window at night looking at tablet
person standing at window at night looking at tablet

Acupuncture is an increasingly in-demand specialty, and one that pays a generous salary as well. In recent years, more and more people have been seeking out acupuncture treatment for pain relief and the general sense of well-being it can provide.

Today, you can find acupuncturists—who typically need at least a master’s degree to practice—working at complementary medical centers alongside Western healthcare professionals. This increased interest has created excellent earning opportunities for acupuncturists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for acupuncturists is $82,420.

As holistic health practitioners, acupuncturists also have the opportunity to open a private acupuncture practice. With a private practice, you can build your own client base and increase your earnings. You’ll need business, money management, and marketing skills to head up your own clinic, but for many acupuncturists, it’s a great way to take charge of their careers and their earnings. 

Acupuncturists can work in private practice or as part of an integrative health collaborative.

Acupuncturists use a variety of techniques across their practice. Beyond just the needles you’re probably picturing, acupuncturists can also apply pressure or suction to acupuncture points on the body to promote healing. Pressure is often applied by hand, while suction is achieved using a method called cupping.

The more of these methods you’re able to learn and master, the more services you’ll be able to offer to you clients. This can grow your practice, and your salary. 

You can also grow your business by making sure that you’re able to treat multiple conditions. Many people seek acupuncturists for pain relief, but it is far from the only reason. Infertility, allergies, and digestive disorders are also common issues you’ll see in your practice.

Pain relief is only one issue acupuncture can address. Infertility, allergies, and digestive disorders can also be treated with acupuncture.

More education may help you increase your earnings as an acupuncturist. In some cases, this might mean pursuing a higher degree or advanced certification. In other cases, it can help to have skills you can add to your practice such as herbology, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or naturopathy.

How Do Acupuncturist Salaries Compare?

Acupuncturists are master’s-level holistic health professionals, and they’re often well compensated for their experience, education, and skills. Take a look at how acupuncture salaries compare to other alternative and complementary healthcare providers:

Acupuncturist Salary Comparison
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Average Salary

Acupuncturists and Healthcare Diagnosing or Treating Practitioners, All Other$89,060

Projected job growth: %

Avg Annual Salary$89,060
$42,120 $148,950
Bottom 10%Top 10%
Massage Therapists$47,180

Projected job growth: 22.2%

Avg Annual Salary$47,180
$21,810 $80,630
Bottom 10%Top 10%
Physical Therapists$90,170

Projected job growth: 21.9%

Avg Annual Salary$90,170
$62,120 $124,740
Bottom 10%Top 10%
Chiropractors$85,010

Projected job growth: 7.4%

Avg Annual Salary$85,010
$35,290 $147,480
Bottom 10%Top 10%

Average salary information is calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and is based on the 2019 payroll records of business establishments. Actual salaries vary greatly depending on your location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and many other factors. Please note that salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Is There Demand for This Career?

People are turning to acupuncture now more than ever before. According to the Global Advances in Health and Medicine Journal, acupuncture’s use in Western countries has grown significantly. From being part of respected integrative medical centers to its use by influential people like athletes, acupuncture is everywhere. That creates demand.

The more people seek out acupuncture, the more familiar and mainstream it becomes, says Jennifer Bennett, ND, LAc, an acupuncturist practicing in Seattle. “People are more likely to get acupuncture if they know someone that has already gotten it before. Seeing people like Olympic athletes (with) cupping marks on their backs makes people curious to try these different techniques.”       

Is This a Growing Field?

bundles of herbs and bottle with dropper and acupuncture needles arranged on table

Acupuncture is a popular field of healthcare, and its popularity is increasing. In the past few years, the profession has hit some major milestones that have helped it grow in both respect and acceptance in the U.S. According to the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), the agency that certifies acupuncturists, this includes:

  • Medicare coverage for acupuncture started in 2020
  • The inclusion of acupuncture as a service for people who receive care from the Veterans Administration, started in 2018. The VA also began hiring acupuncturists to provide this service at VA medical facilities in 2018.
  • Recommendation of acupuncture as a research-backed pain relief treatment by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  • Recognition of acupuncture as an independent job classification by the BLS

This growing acceptance of acupuncture is driving an increased number of opportunities for qualified acupuncturists. 

How Much Competition Will I Face for a Job?

The amount of competition you could face depends on several factors.

Consider questions like:

Will you be one of only a few acupuncture private practices in your city or town?

Will your school help with job placement?

Hospitals or clinics might require their acupuncturists to work evenings or weekends to accommodate patients’ schedules. If you’re willing to commit to a somewhat irregular schedule, this could make you a more desirable candidate compared to someone looking for standard office hours.

What Kind of Institutions Hire Acupuncturists?

Acupuncturists can find work at a variety of institutions, including:

  • Wellness centers
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Integrative medical treatment facilities
  • Government healthcare facilities
  • Specialty hospitals
  • Private practices

Remember that people see acupuncturists for a variety of reasons. From pain management to skin conditions, many people find acupuncture helpful. That means that health facilities with a wide range of services could employ an acupuncturist, including some you might not expect.

“I think that some of the most surprising (applications) would be using acupuncture on pregnant women to help them with their pregnancies,” says Bennett. “Acupuncture can be used to help reduce morning sickness, ease aches and pains with pregnancy, and reduce reflux. Acupuncture can also be used to help turn breech babies and to help induce labor (in women past their) due date.”

Running Your Own Clinic:
What You Need to Know

Many acupuncturists are sole proprietors of their own clinics. If you think this might be the path for you, there are some things you need to consider. Keep in mind the costs associated with a private practice:

Renting an office or other space for a clinic

Electricity, heat, and other utilities for your clinic

Advertising or other marketing efforts to attract clients

The salaries of any employees you hire

Permits and licenses to operate a clinic in your city

The tools, equipment, furniture, and other things you need to run your clinic

Local and federal taxes

Health insurance

Having a business plan will help you set a budget and help you establish goals. You’ll know how many clients you’ll need to see to earn a salary that fits your needs. A financial planner or another financial professional can help you get started.

How Do I Advance in My Career?

You’ll need at least a master’s degree to practice acupuncture. Expanding your educational background can help you advance your career. If you’ve already earned a graduate degree in acupuncture, you might consider taking continuing education courses to stay up to date on the latest research and techniques.

Additionally, you could pad your existing degree with a post-graduate certificate in other areas like Traditional Chinese Medicine. Other certificates include holistic nutrition and hypnotherapy. Using these certifications, you can offer more services at your clinic theoretically attract more clients.

You can also work to build your business and your reputation in the community. People are often recommended to acupuncturists by friends, family, or even other healthcare providers. If you have a reputation for delivering excellent care, people will be more likely to recommend you to others. That can make a major impact as you grow your business and advance your career.


stephanie behring

Written and Reported by:
Stephanie Behring
Contributing Writer

jennifer bennett

With professional insight from:
Jennifer Bennett, ND, LAc
Naturopath and Professor, Bastyr University


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