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Careers in Herbology: Employment Options and Job Outlook

Herbology is generally the study of plants, their health benefits and their medicinal qualities. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as job and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

According to the American Herbalist Guild (AHG), education options for studying herbology include correspondence courses, online education courses, apprenticeship programs, and there are a few degree and certificate programs available that may include some clinical training. Herbology is used in several different forms of holistic medicine, including Ayurvedic, Chinese and Western medicine, so training programs vary significantly. In addition, not all herbology related careers have standardized licensure or training requirements, which may add to the difficulty in finding comprehensive training from accredited institutions. Individuals may consider taking courses in physiology and holistic health, herb cultivation, herbal science, botanical medicine, herbal manufacturing, aromatherapy, basic botany, herbal nutrition and integrative herbal therapeutics.

Career Titles Herbalist Naturopathic Physician Acupuncturist
Education Requirements Certificate or associate degree Doctorate of medicine degree Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) degree
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) Health diagnosing and treating practitioners: +20%* Physicians and surgeons: +18%* Health diagnosing and treating practitioners: +20%*
Average Salary (2013) Health diagnosing and treating practitioners: $86,720* Physicians and surgeons: $187,200* Health diagnosing and treating practitioners: $86,720*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Career opportunities in the field of herbology vary based on candidate training and clinical experience. Herbalists require the least amount of training, and these professionals act as wellness consultants to patients and consumers. Naturopathic physicians and acupuncturists require postdoctoral training and clinical experience to become licensed in their professions.

Herbalist

An individual who has completed a certificate program or a 2-year degree program in herbology is qualified to work as an herbalist. Herbalists may specialize in indigenous, Ayurvedic, Chinese or Western herbology. Job duties may include treating patients, managing a holistic health clinic, selling herbal products, wellness consulting and herb cultivating.

Herbalists frequently pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, such as opening an herbal wholesale business or holistic clinic. Self-employed herbalists develop their careers by building and expanding a client base from within their local holistic health community. Others may seek employment as vitamin-supplement representatives, herbal consultants, herbal industry representatives or homeopathic clinic managers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not make projections specifically on herbalists, but they do have data on the broader field of health diagnosing and treating practitioners. During the years between 2012 and 2022, the BLS estimated that open positions for professionals in this broad category would grow by 20%. The average annual salary earned by professionals in this category was $86,720, as reported by the BLS in 2013.

Naturopathic Physician

These medical professionals are doctors who specialize in homeopathic remedies. Naturopathic physicians often prescribe herbal supplements and treatments as an alternative to chemically enhanced pharmaceuticals. Those who have dedicated their profession to herbology may gather enough training to be recognized as master herbalists. Master herbalists often instruct apprentices in developing health plans and supplying traditional herbal remedies to treat patients. These professionals may also work as researchers, consultants, administrators and educators.

According to O*NET Online, the majority of naturopathic physicians hold doctorate degrees, and these degrees may be in or related to such areas as herbal medicine, holistic medicine, naturopathy or herbal sciences. They may also hold traditional medical degrees, (M.D.s), as well as degrees in areas related to herbal sciences. To practice medicine in the states, the BLS points out that physicians must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and complete post-doctoral training through residency programs. Some states may have additional training and education requirements for the naturopathic specialty of medicine, and they may require individuals to pass additional examinations as part of the licensure or registration process.

Open positions for physicians in general, which does include naturopathic physicians, was expected to increase by 18% during the 2012-2022 decade, according to the BLS. Job prospects may be most prevalent in lower income districts. Physicians who have experience addressing the health problems associated with aging will most likely be in high demand. In 2013, the average annual salary earned by physicians and surgeons was $187,200.

Acupuncturist

People who study Chinese herbology can continue their studies to become acupuncturists. In Chinese medicine, acupuncture is the practice of inserting needles into pressure points on the body to improve the energy force known as Qi, which may result in improving a person's overall health. Many acupuncturists will prescribe herbal supplements to their patients, since the teachings of Chinese herbology posit that the body must be cleansed for Qi to be in balance, and such cleansing can be done through ingesting the right herbs.

One of the most common educational pathways for becoming an acupuncturist includes earning a Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) degree, which is a professional degree at the post-graduate level. Information from the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) indicates that the majority of states require acupuncturists to complete some form of registration or licensure process, and to do so applicants must meet training and education requirements prior to passing an exam. For acupuncturists who practice Chinese herbology, the NCCAOM points out that there are additional licensing requirements that must be met in addition to the acupuncturist licensing requirements.

Job growth predictions for acupuncturists are not available, but the BLS does estimate that available positions for health diagnosing and treating practitioners, such as acupuncturists, will increase by 20% between 2012 and 2022. As of 2013, the BLS reported that these health practitioners in general earned an average annual salary of $86,720.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics