Kaiwero Ngira Hauora
Acupuncturists give general health advice and treat patients using therapies such as electronic and needle acupuncture, cupping, skin scraping (gua sha), the heating of acupuncture points (moxibustion) and tuina (massage).
Acupuncturists usually earn
$47K-$100K per year
Source: Acupuncture NZ, 2018.
Pay for acupuncturists varies depending on the number of hours they work and where they work.
- Acupuncturist graduates can expect to earn minimum wage.
- Acupuncturists employed by a clinic can earn between minimum wage and $50,000 a year.
- Self-employed acupuncturists with more than three years' experience can earn between $50,000 and $100,000 a year.
Source: Acupuncture New Zealand, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Acupuncturists may do some or all of the following:
- consult with patients about their health, diet and exercise
- examine patients and diagnose health problems using the principles of traditional Chinese medicine
- discuss treatment options with patients
- locate acupuncture points and insert acupuncture needles
- use and prescribe herbal medicines to treat patients
- give dietary advice, tuina (massage), moxibustion (heat), cupping (suction), scraping, exercise therapy and laser therapy
- keep accurate patient records
- refer patients to other health services.
Skills and knowledge
Acupuncturists need to have knowledge of:
- traditional Chinese medicine and its philosophy, theory and practice
- how to diagnose illness
- acupuncture, massage and scraping techniques
- Western medical theories about the human body and how it functions, treatment procedures and pharmacology
- acupuncture professional code of ethics.
Acupuncturists running their own practice will also need small business skills.
- vary their working hours to suit patient demand, which may involve working evenings and weekends
- work in private clinics, community health centres, sports institutes or from their own homes
- may occasionally travel to visit patients in their homes.
What's the job really like?
Acupuncture is challenging but rewarding
"A challenge is that there are not a lot of paid positions and it takes time at the beginning to get a client base. You've got to get the word out, but it's difficult as you can't advertise what you treat. I get clients through word of mouth and my website."
"It's rewarding when you get a great result and make a difference in someone's life. What I like most is when people feel better."
Empathy essential for the role
“I think empathy and compassion are the main qualities for acupuncturists. Because I find in some ways now there are a lot of patients who come and see me and want to talk. GPs (general practitioners) only sit with patients for 15 minutes now, they don't have time to talk about problems."
Get needled first
"You are going to be needled in Year 2 of study, that's how everyone practises, so if you want to be an acupuncturist you first need to have acupuncture yourself. Talk to an acupuncturist and ask 'What is it like for you?', 'What do you do every day?'. It's four years of study, there's a lot to learn and it's quite intense, so before you embark on study you need to be sure. Most acupuncturists would be very open to explaining their profession to people, they're friendly people."
To become an acupuncturist you need to have a Bachelor of Health Science (Level 7) in either acupuncture or Chinese medicine. This degree is available from:
- New Zealand School of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
- New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine.
- New Zealand School of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine website - information about the Bachelor of Health Science (Acupuncture)
- New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine website - information about Bachelor of Health Science degrees
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
NCEA Level 2 is required to enter the New Zealand School of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine training. A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter New Zealand College of Chinese Medicine training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, Chinese, English and health education.
Acupuncturists need to be:
- patient and accurate
- clean and tidy
- observant and responsible
- good communicators
- good at problem solving
- well organised
- able to inspire confidence in others.
Useful experience for acupuncturists includes:
- work in traditional Chinese medicine or naturopathy
- work in the health sector
- counselling work.
Acupuncturists need to be healthy and have good upper arm strength for massage.
Acupuncturists may choose to be registered with one of the following:
- Acupuncture New Zealand
- New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority (NZASA).
- Acupuncture New Zealand website - information on how to join the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists
- New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority website - information on registration
Find out more about training
- NZ College of Chinese Medicine
- 0800 888 518 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.chinesemedicine.ac.nz
- NZ School of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (NZSATCM)
- - Auckland Campus
- (09) 630 3546 - email@example.com - www.acupuncture.ac.nz
- - Wellington Campus
- (04) 473 9005 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.acupuncture.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Numbers of acupuncturists steady, but may increase
Demand for acupuncturists has been steady but may start to grow. This is due to:
- ACC funding more visits to acupuncturists
- the growing acceptance of Chinese medicine in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 651 acupuncturists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Acupuncturists make own opportunities
Most acupuncturists are self-employed, so how much work you get depends on your ability to find clients.
Opportunities are best for acupuncturists who can promote their business well and find clients through agencies like ACC.
Most acupuncturists self-employed
Most acupuncturists are self-employed, but some work for:
- acupuncture schools
- hospitals and public medical practices
- private medical practices.
- Acupuncture NZ website, accessed June 2020, (www.acupuncture.org.nz).
- Haiselden, L, registrar, Acupuncture New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, October 2018.
- Nicol, R, 'Acupuncture may Become a Mainstream Treatment for Period and Endometriosis Pain', 15 September 2018, (www.noted.co.nz).
- Ryan, D J, 'Acupuncture, ACC and the Medicines Act', 1 December 2017, (www.nzma.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Acupuncturists may move into training, research or education roles.
Acupuncturists may specialise in:
- sports injuries
- fertility and pregnancy
- aged care
Last updated 3 April 2023