Herbology: How Can I Become an Herbalist?

Learn about the steps for becoming an herbalist. Explore the required education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as an herbalist. View article »

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Video Transcript


An herbalist uses a variety of plants to foster health and healing. Many herbalists are also licensed practitioners of other disciplines, such as acupuncture, naturopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine. Most are self-employed and must spend considerable time seeking new clients. Many herbalists may find great reward in the act of helping others.

Career Information

Degree Level Graduate or professional degree for licensed health practitioners
Degree Field Herbology, naturopathy, or traditional Chinese medicine
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required in some states
Key Skills Active listening, critical thinking, judgment, decision making, problem solving, and computer skills; a service-oriented attitude
Hourly Wage (August 2016)* $52.50 an hour (certified herbalist with 10-19 years experience)

Sources: *PayScale. com, O*Net Online, American Holistic Health Association, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and University of Maryland Medical Center

Now let's look at the steps involved in becoming an herbalist:

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

Prerequisites for graduate and professional schools typically include a bachelor's degree program. Aspiring herbalists may want to consider a major in botany, biology, or a related science.

Step 2: Get Trained

Prospective herbalists can choose from among a variety of different training programs. For example, some schools offer non-degree programs, self-study courses, and workshops in herbology. For those strictly interested in advising clients, great care must be taken, as an herbalist cannot diagnose conditions or prescribe treatment when acting in an advisory role.

If a career practicing herbal medicine is the ultimate goal, one in which the herbalist can diagnose and prescribe herbs, then students must undergo more intensive training. Graduate schools offer master's and doctoral degree programs in traditional Chinese medicine that may include an introduction to botany and herbology, herbal treatment used to treat dermatological diseases, and integrated East/West medicine. Students interested in becoming naturopathic doctors must complete a 4-year training program that includes courses in botanical medicine, homeopathy, and pharmacology. Allopathic physicians, who go to medical school to study traditional Western medicine, may seek board certification in complementary medicine, including herbology, through the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine.

Step 3: Get Licensed

In order to practice, an herbalist may need to be licensed in a particular healthcare field. State licensing requirements for practitioners of naturopathy and traditional Chinese medicine can vary but often include a passing score on a national or state exam. All allopathic and osteopathic physicians in the U.S. must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination. Some states do not include Chinese herbology as part of the scope of practice for traditional Chinese medicine. To prescribe herbs, practitioners must take a separate test.

Step 4: Get Certified

Voluntary certification may be available to herbalists who specialize in certain types of herbal medicine. In some cases, earning voluntary certification can open the door to new job opportunities. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) offers the Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl.O.M.) and Diplomate of Chinese Herbology (Dipl.C.H.) designations to candidates who complete formal education requirements and pass an exam. Certification through the NCCAOM is a prerequisite for licensure as a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine in some states.

The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) offers the Registered Herbalist (RH) designation to its members. Professional-level AHG membership is given to herbalists who provide three case studies and meet the requirements, which include four years of educational and clinical experience.

Let's review. Herbalists who prescribe herbs will need to complete a graduate program in allopathic, naturopathic, or traditional Chinese medicine and meet state licensing requirements, depending on where they live. As of August 2016, experienced herbalists earned a national hourly wage of $52.50.

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