How Can I Become an Aromatherapist?

Research what it takes to become an aromatherapist. Learn about certification, career options, education requirements and job duties to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is an Aromatherapist?

An aromatherapist is a recreational therapist who specializes in the use of essential oils to promote health and wellness. They may provide services to patients who are suffering from a particular medical condition, such as bacterial infections or chronic migraines, or they may work with individuals who wish to improve their general wellness. Before beginning treatment, they meet with patients to discuss their individual health concerns and goals. From there, they develop a treatment plan that may use inhaled, ingested or topical essential oils. Over time, they monitor the patient's condition and make changes where necessary. In most cases, aromatherapists practice in healthcare settings. For instance, they may work in holistic health clinics, or they may practice independently.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Education/Training Required Professional certification requires the completion of a professional training program
Educational Field of Study Aromatherapy
Licensure/Certification Licensure is not required, but most practitioners demonstrate their qualifications by fulfilling professional registration requirements
Key Responsibilities Consult with clients about their health needs; prepare and administer essential oils; monitor client progress
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12% (for all recreational therapists)*
Median Salary (2015) $45,890 (for all recreational therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Work as an Aromatherapist?

In order to become a registered aromatherapist, you need to pass the registration exam offered by the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC). To become eligible, you need to complete a postsecondary training program that has Level II approval from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) or the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA). This includes at least 200 hours of coursework. In these programs, students learn about the uses of essential oils, the history of aromatherapy, the methods for preparing essential oils and research trends in the field. They also study more practical topics, such as remaining in compliance with legal regulations and determining when to refer prospective clients to licensed medical professionals.

It is important to note that there are several other approval levels for training programs, so you should be careful to select one that meets your needs. For example, the AIA has three levels of approval. Clinical Level schools are ones that have 400 or more hours of study per graduating student. Professional Level schools are ones that have 200-400 hours of study, and Foundation Level programs have 100-200 hours of study per student. The NAHA has two levels of approval for programs. Level I programs are considered basic, with around 30 hours of study focusing on an introduction to aromatherapy and its components. Level II programs must have at least 200 hours of study and are considered professional-level programs.

Get Certified

After completing a Level II program, you can register with the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) ( For this, you will need to pass an exam that covers the basic concepts of aromatherapy, fundamental scientific principles, administration and professional issues. If you pass, your registration will be recognized for a maximum of five years. To maintain your status, you will need to complete continuing education requirements and pay a renewal few.

Begin Your Career

As an aromatherapist, you might find work in salons, spas, hospitals, clinics, massage therapy offices, acupuncture offices, and in other complementary and alternative medicine environments. Some aromatherapists choose to work directly with clients, while others choose to manufacture essential oils, work in a retail setting, become an educator, or even become part of the perfume industry.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you are interested in a career where you can help clients improve their overall health, you could also work as a massage therapist, which involves manipulating soft tissue to relieve pain, reduce stress and improve circulation. Massage therapists must be familiar with human anatomy and muscle structure, and they may specialize in a particular modality, such as sports massage or deep tissue massage. Like aromatherapists, massage therapists must complete a professional training program; licensure is also required in some states. You may also be interested in becoming a skin care specialist, which requires the completion of postsecondary training program and passing a licensure exam in all states except Connecticut. Skin care specialists provide various skin treatments to clients, like facials, scrubs and wraps. They also give clients skin care advice and help them develop skin care regimens.

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