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Dec 25, 2009

Acupuncture Jobs–Why So Few Acupuncture Jobs Exist and What Needs to be Done About It

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If you are an acupuncturist researching job opportunities around the U.S., you have likely noticed that there is a scarcity of options.  When I graduated from acupuncture school, I searched high and low for job openings and was absolutely shocked by the lack of resources available for newly graduated acupuncturists.

This has to change!  The time has come to do something about this, as it is just appalling that it many acupuncturists are going into debt over $100,000 from their education and are facing the sole option of building a private practice.

Now, let me just be clear on this one point:  I DO believe that the real freedom, joy, financial potential, and power is found in building a successful private practice.  Most of this blog is dedicated to helping practitioners do just that.  Even if you find a good acupuncture job, it will still likely pale in comparison to benefits (financial and otherwise) of having a private practice.

Most salaried positions that acupuncturists can find are short-term solutions with long-term sacrifices.  Building a private practice is just the opposite– short-term sacrifice for long-term gain.

I learned this lesson the hard way back in 2001 when I took a job in a chiropractic clinic right out of acupuncture school.  I was getting paid $30 per hour and was initially thrilled about this, since I had never made that much before.  But the harsh truth of the ‘real world’ kicked in shortly thereafter and stomped on my naivete, as I realized that the clinic was having me see all no fault insurance patients and billing out $250 per treatment.  Given that I was seeing 3-4 patients an hour, I realized that the clinic was making $500-1,000 an hour off of me and paying me $30 of that.

job search Acupuncture Jobs  Why So Few Acupuncture Jobs Exist and What Needs to be Done About It

Searching for an acupuncture job? Tips for Success

Of course, this left an awful taste in my mouth, but it was really a wake up call to how business is so often conducted in our modern society.  At the risk of sounding cynical, it has become increasingly clear to me that most employee positions (and I am not just speaking of the acupuncture profession here) are actually well-disguised forms of slave labor where a high degree of exploitation is evident when one probes even a little beneath the outward facade.

This is why I am so passionate about being an entrepreneur.  I have had too many jobs in my life where I felt limited, taken advantage of, and stifled.  I have come to face the truth that I am psychologically unemployable– and I now to see that as a very good thing.

With that being said, if you are looking for an acupuncture job, I absolutely encourage you to learn the marketing and business building skills you will need to build a private practice.  You can leave your name and email in the field below to start getting the right foundation in this regard.  You can also check out this post on acupuncture marketing.

Okay, I will get off my soapbox now and say that I do see it as a positive for the profession if we can get more jobs created for new practitioners.  I realize that a certain percentage of acupuncturists (perhaps the majority) are not interested in building a private practice and would much prefer to have patients handed to them, even if it means they have to compromise in certain ways.

There are still shockingly few resources to help in this regard, so I have decided to offer a jobs section on this blog that you are welcome to check in with on a regular basis to see what is popping up around the country.  You can access this here:  Acupuncture Jobs


I get a lot of questions from new practitioners about how much money they can expect to make if they do find a stable job in the profession.  I would say this varies widely, but the average is right around $40,000 per year for a full-time position.  I have seen some jobs out there paying less than this, and some paying quite a bit more.

A well-established private practice can easily gross anywhere from $130-400,000 depending on the fee schedule and the patient volume.  Of course, it will take some time to hit this level of success in private practice, but it is totally accessible… IF you learn business development and marketing.

When you trying to figure out if your salary is worth your time, it’s helpful to break it down in a couple ways:

1.  The amount earned per patient– If you take my example above, you’ll see that I was making about $8-10 for each patient treatment since I was seeing 3-4 patients an hour and making $30 an hour.  In my private practice, I make $75 per patient and see the same amount per hour.  You do the math.  Crazy difference, right?

2.  The amount made per hour–  If you are on a $40,000 yearly salary and you work 40 hours per week, 50 weeks out of the year, you are making $20 an hour.  Hey, if that works for you, no problem!  But I KNOW that a lot of acupuncturists– if they are really honest with themselves— feel like they are worth a lot more than this.  After all, the receptionist in your office is very likely making close to what you are in this situation… without going through 3-5 years of school and getting into possibly thousands of dollars in debt.

I know the information I am sharing here is harping on the pitfalls of the typical acupuncture job.  I just want to make sure you go into this with your eyes wide open.

Now, there are good opportunities out there.  I know that 2 of my coaching clients are currently looking to bring on acupuncturists and that any practitioner would be fortunate to work with these people.  Let’s cover a quick list of factors that go into a good work opportunity for an acupuncturist:

  • the potential to be mentored by someone who is experienced and successful– this is truly invaluable to your success as a practitioner.  If you can learn directly from a skilled and smart practitioner, you will have a huge advantage if and when you step out into your own private practice.  When I say ‘smart’, I mean from both a clinical and entrepreneurial perspective.  It is worth a 50/50 split if the practitioner will teach you through their own example how to successfully treat patients AND manage a thriving business.
  • aligning with someone who exudes integrity– being around a business owner who is on the ‘up and up’ in all facets of their practice is really inspiring and helpful.  It makes you trust the reality that there are good, honest people out there in the profession… doing good work and making good money.
  • having the support of a community environment– this is also an invaluable benefit to the new practitioner.  If your ‘boss’ is willing to share case studies, co-treat patients with you, and collaborate in a team setting, you will learn the medicine so much faster than you otherwise would.

I hope I can provide you with a powerful resource on this blog to find opportunities that will really be aligned with these benefits.  Where else can you look?  Well, you’ll find the best opportunities by doing a lot of networking, contacting wellness centers and chiropractors in your area, and searching through the alumni pages on different acupuncture school websites.

If you would like to post a job opening here, just email my assistant at and she will post it for you.. no charge.

all the best,

Kevin Doherty, L.Ac.

8 thoughts on “Acupuncture Jobs–Why So Few Acupuncture Jobs Exist and What Needs to be Done About It

  1. arthritisguy

    Acupuncture is really a good alternative medicine technique for common ailments such as allergies, minor headaches and pains. I have been practicing acupuncture for 4 years now.

  2. Yan Luan

    Thank you for sharing your ideas with us. Could you please tell me the standard procesure to open an private clinic major in balance acupunture? I am a biological PH.D. graduate, I can come to the US with J1 or J2 visa, I want to do acupunture here, which is better for me? Thank you very much?

  3. Iva Sualevai

    I always enjoy reading intelligent articles by an individual who is obviously knowledgeable on their chosen subject. I’ll be following this thread with great interest. Keep up the great work, I will be back

  4. Anand Rayasam

    Thank you for the eye opener. I am currently applying to Acupuncture school in California. I heard cruise ships offer work for acupuncturists. Is this true? And would you ever consider working on a cruise ship?

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