What Do Acupuncturists Earn?

It’s important to think through the financial implications of working as an acupuncturist, in order to help decide whether or not an acupuncture education is a good investment for you.

First, it’s important to recognize that the majority of acupuncturists are self-employed (up to 91%, according to the NCCAOM) which means that they had to start their own business. Owning your own business differs in some important ways from being employed by someone else, including: you are responsible for setting up everything you need to have an acupuncture practice; you have to pay additional taxes, over and above what employees owe; and your wages are not guaranteed in any way. As a self-employed person, it’s possible to work very long hours for very little compensation, especially when your business is brand new.

Let’s review some numbers.

From the California Acupuncture Board’s 2015 Occupational Analysis

Look at the pie chart on page 19 (graphics coming to this page soon).

As you can see from this chart, as you would expect when you’re talking about small businesses, some acupuncturists are earning a good amount, while others are earning very little. Complicating the question is that this data is listed as “gross annual income”; if that means the gross earnings of a small business before overhead is deducted, then the amount that the acupuncturist actually takes home as compensation could be as much as 50% less. So someone who has been able to bring in $60,000 a year to their acupuncture practice could be taking home only $30,000 to live on, once things like office rent, utilities, insurance, supplies and other costs are deducted.

From the 2017 POCA Tech Job Task Analysis

Take a look at this page: https://www.pocatech.org/what-was-your-personal-gross-pre-tax-income-providing-acupuncture-last-year

You can see that the most common response to this question was $40,000, whether someone worked in a POCA clinic or a conventional private room practice. The total responses, however, varied from $0 at one end to $1.2 million on the other end. (You should also review the data on this page: https://www.pocatech.org/20-takeaways-poca-tech-jta) So there’s huge variation, and no guarantees.

From O Net Online

Here’s a commonly cited but misleading statistic: according to the U.S. Department of Labor National Center for O*NET Development, median wages for an acupuncturist are $35.83 hourly, $74,530 annual.

First, because most acupuncturists are self-employed, it’s misleading to talk about wages and salaries because wages and salaries are guaranteed by an employer, while income from self-employment is not guaranteed.

Second, if you read the fine print on this page, the information about acupuncturist wages and employment outlook was aggregated from a number of other occupations ("Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners, All Other"), and it’s impossible to tell how much data came from acupuncturists, relatively speaking, versus naturopaths and orthoptists (other occupations in the same category).

From A Facebook Group Survey

Take this survey for what it's worth, obviously (it's Facebook): https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-WXFPKYT5V/

However, the data in this survey appears to be relatively consistent with the data from the California Acupuncture Board: some acupuncturists are earning quite a bit, while some are earning very little.

Overall, the take home message is that an acupuncturist could earn: a lot of money, a living wage, not enough to live on, or nothing at all. Your own results will certainly vary based on a number of factors. Starting your own business will always represent risk and uncertainty.