Below Find an example of a completed “Research Questions List.”
Career Role: Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncturist
Does the career role you have imagined already exist in the real world? Yes.
If the answer is yes, proceed to the next question. If the answer is no, what career roles are closest to the one you have envisioned? Pick one.
How well will this career fit with your mission and work purpose statements? That is, at what level of depth and breadth will it allow you to pursue your life’s work?
This career is an excellent fit with my mission and work purpose statements. It allows me to directly express my purpose with plenty of room to expand and go deeper.
Who do people in this field serve on a day-to-day basis?
Anyone (from the very young to the elderly) who is interested in regaining or maintaining health in a natural way. From terminally or chronically ill patients to patients who are basically healthy and are seeking to optimize their health.
How well do your talents and interests match with what is required in this field?
My talents and interests match very well with what is required in this field. My talents in learning, teaching, perceiving, philosophizing and critical thinking will not only be well-used; but they are necessary to be successful. My interests in medicine, science, spirituality, entrepreneurship and all things Eastern have a great likelihood of being satisfied as a TCM [Traditional Chinese Medicine] practitioner. My concerns with regard to talents would be that I am generally not very comfortable with strangers and in particular being tactile with strangers. However, I am starting to view this as an opportunity to learn to open myself up to people and learn to connect with fellow human beings. Beginning to do this with more comfort, although challenging at first, could turn out to be one of the greatest gifts I give myself.
What values do people in this field generally adhere to? How well do they match with yours?
People in this field value life in general and specifically human life above all else. They tend to be more progressive in their thinking and their personal development, having moved into a stage of universal care and compassion. They tend to have inquisitive minds with a passion for learning. They have a nice balance between the life sciences, spirituality, psychology and sociology. All of this seems to fit very well with my own values.
What do people in this career role actually do in the course of a day?
They speak with people, ask questions, gather clues, create patterns in an inductive manner, thereby arriving at a treatment recommendation through the use of critical thinking. They physically touch patients in order to diagnose and treat them. They make herb, dietary and behavioral recommendations to improve the patient’s specific pattern of symptoms. They may also interact with other medical practitioners to exchange patient information or as part of practice development. They may also participate in the activities of running a business including making appointments, billing, accounting, marketing, managing inventory, regulatory compliance, etc.
What skills do they rely upon most?
Skills gained through their TCM training, largely medical skills, and also business skills.
Medical Skills Business Skills Patient Relation Skills
Diagnosing Marketing Interviewing
Presribing Advertising Listening
Needling Networking Educating
Moxibustion Record Keeping Motivating
Mixing Herbal Pharmalogical Formulas Promoting Consulting
What generally are their working conditions? (environment, independence, etc.)
Working conditions are typically a medical office type of environment. Some may work in clinics or hospitals. Some work with other medical practitioners, some alone. Some work in more of a spa setting. For the most part, they enjoy a great deal of independence since most tend to have their own practices.
What kind of training is required to work in this field?
One must be a licensed acupuncturist with requirements varying from state to state, but largely governed by a consistent requirement to pass a national licensing exam and to have received a degree from an accredited acupuncture or TCM school. The degree programs are typically 3-year programs for acupuncture and 4 years for Oriental Medicine. My interest is in the full Oriental Medicine program because I want to learn about the entire system with specific emphasis on herbs, not just acupuncture.
What additional credentials enhance a person’s credibility in this field?
The particular school that someone goes to doesn’t seem to make a big difference, especially with the public. Even within the community, there is no “Harvard” of TCM schools. However, there does seem to be some variance in the degree to which schools adhere to TCM curricula as taught in China. It’s been recommended to me that I study in a program that is true to TCM as it is taught in China.
Is there any area of the country where people who do this are especially concentrated? If so, where? If this applies, are you prepared to move there?
TCM practitioners can be found in every state, but currently 50% of practitioners are in California and New York. I think this represents an opportunity to expand the market in other states.
Who are the leading figures, companies, organizations and/or institutions in this field?
The Council of Colleges of Accupuncture and Oriental Medicine is a leader in advancing TCM education and is responsible for providing accreditation. There are a couple of other organizations that are involved with promoting TCM in other states.
How much do people in this field typically earn?
Entry Level: $45k Intermediate or average: $80k–100k Top level: $200k–300k
What professional trade, union, or other organizations do people in this field generally belong to?
There are state organizations. The Accupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance is one national organization. Also there is the American Association of Oriental Medicine and the Accupuncture and Oriental Medicine National Coalition.
Generally, what is the social status of people who are involved in this field? How are they viewed by others in the community?
I think this depends largely on with whom you speak. TCM is still viewed with skepticism by the majority of people in the US, but is seen as a viable means of healthcare by a growing segment of the population. Therefore, TCM practitioners are likewise viewed in different lights by different people. One must be prepared to get a variety of reactions.
What are the positive aspects of how these individuals are perceived?
I think they are perceived as people who really care about serving other people. They are viewed as true healers; in some circles, even more so than traditional doctors. They are viewed as being holistic and balanced. The good ones take on an almost mystical quality.
What are the negative aspects?
Highly conventional people, which is still the majority of the population, tend to see TCM practitioners as “witch doctors,” “quacks,” “not real doctors,” “people who couldn’t get into real medical school.” So, in general, the negative perceptions are largely the result of the acceptance level of TCM still being low (but growing). This will inevitably change as I have seen only good things written about TCM and the growing body of research confirming its value in Western terms.
What kind of lifestyle do people in this profession typically uphold?
People in this profession seem to be laid back. This is no doubt a result of the type of people the profession attracts as well as practicing what one preaches. They also tend to be largely in control of their own work volumes and operate out of a location where people come to see them. They people I spoke with don’t work long hours, probably in the 40-hour range at most. They also don’t seem to take work home with them or have to deal with many emergencies.
What is the current market demand for this career? What are its prospects for the future?
The consensus is that the field is growing very rapidly. It is widely accepted that the demand for natural cures and preventive health maintenance is growing. Acupuncture seems to be leading the way in natural cures, although the Chinese would maintain that herb therapy actually has broader applications. Chiropractors are often used as a model for the type of growth pattern that TCM practitioners can expect; some say even faster adoption rates. I happen to think that TCM is a more effective system with broader applications, more history and more internally consistent principles than chiropractic. Insurance coverage continues to grow also, which can only serve to help the demand grow.
What hours, generally do people in this field work?
It varies according to the person. The people I talked to work 4-5 days a week and less than 40 hours total. However, I have heard of other practitioners who have larger practices and/or clinics that work much longer hours. The point is that the number of hours a person works is mostly up to them.
What personal and family sacrifices do people in this field generally make?
The sacrifices are primarily in the beginning. First, during the 4-year program required to become adequately trained for the profession. Many of the schools offer evening and weekend classes to accommodate older career changers. This relieves some of the financial burden, but increases time pressures. After graduating, the sacrifices are largely financial while trying to get a practice off the ground and establish a stable patient base. More time is also required as a result of having to focus more on the marketing side of the business.
How is the game played in this field, that is, what does it take to get to the top of it?
“Playing the game” and “getting to the top” don’t seem to be goals. However, I have heard over and over again that the biggest problems that people run into are the result of not knowing how to manage a business. They are typically very good at what they do, but they tend to fall down when it comes to attracting patients and managing the business. They don’t tend to be interested or experienced in these aspects and it inevitably does them in. “Playing the Game” in this field then, is a matter of how financially successful you want to be and how you market yourself.