Oriental Medicine Practitioners


Employment Prospects


About 33,000 Oriental medicine and acupuncture practitioners are currently employed in the United States. Most Oriental medicine practitioners who specialize in acupuncture, Chinese herbology, or other forms of Oriental medicine operate private practices. Some form or join partnerships with other OM or other alternative health care practitioners. Professionals such as chiropractors, osteopaths, and other licensed physicians increasingly include Oriental medicine practitioners in their practices.

As Oriental medicine and acupuncture become more accepted, there are growing opportunities for practitioners in hospitals and university medical schools. A few are engaged in medical research. They conduct studies on the effectiveness of Oriental medicine in treating various health conditions. There is a growing emphasis on research in acupuncture, and this area is likely to employ more people in the future. A few Oriental medicine practitioners work for government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health.

Oriental bodywork therapists practice in clinics with acupuncturists, other OM practitioners, or other alternative health practitioners. They also work in many of the locations where conventional massage therapists practice, such as conventional doctors' offices, hotels, spas, cruise ships, fitness centers, nursing homes, and hospitals. Some establish private practices or run their own clinics. A few teach Oriental bodywork in massage schools or in programs that specialize in Oriental bodywork.

Starting Out

When you start out as an Oriental medicine practitioner, one of the most important considerations is having the proper certification and licensing for your geographical area. This is essential because the requirements for the profession and for each state are changing rapidly.

When starting out, acupuncturists sometimes find jobs in clinics with alternative health care practitioners or chiropractors or in wellness centers. This gives them a chance to start practicing in a setting where they can work with and learn from others. Some begin working with more experienced practitioners and then later go into private practice. When starting their new practices, they often keep their full-time jobs and begin their practices part time.

Oriental bodywork therapists may also find work in clinics with chiropractors or other complementary health care practitioners. In addition, they might find job opportunities in local health clubs, spas, nursing homes, hospitals, or wellness centers.

Networking with professionals in local and national organizations is always a good way to learn about job opportunities. Join the organizations that interest you, attend meetings, and get to know people in the field.

Advancement Prospects

Oriental medicine practitioners who specialize in acupuncture or Chinese herbology advance in their careers by establishing their own practices, building large bases of patients, or starting their own clinics. Because they receive referrals from physicians and other alternative health care practitioners, relationships with other members of the medical community are very helpful in building a patient base.

Experienced acupuncturists may teach at a school of Oriental medicine. After much experience, an individual may achieve a supervisory or directorship position in a school. The growing acceptance of acupuncture and Oriental medicine by the American public and the medical community will lead to an increasing need for research in university medical hospitals or government agencies.

For OM practitioners who specialize in Oriental bodywork, advancement can come in the form of promotions within the facility where they work. They can take more advanced courses and pursue a higher degree in Oriental bodywork. They can also become teachers or start their own practice.

Tips for Entry

Arrange to observe a practitioner of Oriental medicine at work. If possible interview the practitioner about his or her work.

Browse the Web site of the American Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (https://www.aaaomonline.org) for information about the practice of Oriental medicine.

Take a course in one of the popular Oriental bodywork exercises, such as t'ai qi or kung fu, to get a feel for the effects of these ancient practices.

Using the guide on the Web site for the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (http://acaom.org/directory-menu), find a school in your area and investigate what it offers.