Alternative therapies

Career outlook for acupuncturist

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


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What's it like?

You would treat people's health concerns by carefully inserting very fine needles into key pressure points on their body.

Your clients could have a wide range of conditions including arthritis, circulatory problems, high blood pressure, migraines, depression or addiction.

You would:

  • Take a detailed history from clients
  • Ask them about their symptoms, lifestyle, diet and feelings
  • Decide what action to take
  • Select specific points on the body to be treated
  • Insert needles as required
  • Keep records of each patient's treatment

The idea behind this traditional Chinese treatment is that stimulating the pressure points regulates the body's healing process, restores the person's energy and eases the symptoms of physical and emotional problems.

You might also use other techniques such as burning dried herbs, placing vacuum cups on the skin or using an electrical current.

If necessary, you would explain to a client that you think they should go to the doctor.

Working conditions


Most acupuncturists are self-employed. This means that you could choose your own working hours, although you may have to offer evening and weekend appointments to meet the needs of your patients.


You may work from your own home, from an alternative therapy clinic or sometimes a GP surgery or hospital.


It would be helpful to have a driving licence as you may carry out treatments at several locations, including clients' homes.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Observation
  • Empathising
  • Respecting
  • Social conscience
  • Attention to detail

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


It is possible to begin training and work in this role with no formal qualifications but to prepare for work as an acupuncturist, it will help if you take a qualification that is recognised by one of the professional organisations for acupuncture such as the:

  • the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC)
  • the Acupuncture Society
  • the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Each association requires its members to have achieved certain qualifications and to comply with their code of practice.

The British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) is an independent accreditation body and has approved several courses that lead to membership of the BAcC.

Most BAAB approved courses are degree level (SCQF 9/10) and to do this you will usually need at least three to four Highers including a science subject or a relevant HNC/D.

There are currently no British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) accredited acupuncture training courses in Scotland, entry to a degree in England will require between 180 to 260 UCAS Points.

A Higher National Diploma (SCQF Level 8) or degree (SCQF Level 9/10) in life/medical sciences or complementary therapies may be useful.

If you are a qualified medical or other related healthcare professional such as physiotherapist you can complete accredited programmes in acupuncture.

If you meet professional standards, you can join the British Acupunture Council (BAcC) register. This usually means completing British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB) accredited training courses requiring a minimum of three years' full-time study at degree level (or the equivalent part-time). Courses are available at several different institutions.

These courses lead to professional membership of the BAcC, which provides professional indemnity and public liability insurance.

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science-based subjects such as human biology

You will also need

Once you enter work it is likely that you will be required to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

Helpful to have

Knowledge of the subject, personal experience of successful treatment and experience of supporting others, complementary therapies such as massage or nursing may also facilitate entry.