Herbalist Degree Program Information

Aspiring herbalists can earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees in herbalism through accredited institutions in the United States. While such programs are relatively rare, both online and offline options are available.

Essential Information

Herbalists use plants and natural products to create medicinal remedies. However, the American Herbalist Guild (AHG) offers professional membership status to herbalists who meet educational and clinical experience standards set by the AHG.

  • Program Levels in Herbalism: Associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees
  • Herbalism Program Fields: Herbalism, herbal sciences, herbal medicine
  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED for undergraduate programs, bachelor's degree for graduate programs. Undergraduate science coursework sometimes required.
  • Online Availability: Online programs are available at all degree levels.

Associate of Science Degree in Herbalism

Herbalist associate degree programs provide an introduction to Western herbalism, plant identification, natural healing and holistic nutrition. Students gain training that can be used in a personal or professional setting as a family herbalist, retailer, writer, lecturer or consultant. Typical coursework for an associate degree may include:

  • Western herbalism
  • Remedies in homeopathy
  • Physiology
  • Biosciences and herbalism
  • Introduction to botany
  • Plant identification

Bachelor's Degree in Herbal Sciences

A bachelor's degree program in herbal sciences offers a comprehensive overview of botanical science and herbal products. Students work with master herbalists and learn about various aspects of herbalism, from plant cultivation and the preparation of herbal remedies to business operations, such as sales and herbal manufacturing. Programs also include hands-on training, laboratory work and internships. Some common required coursework may include:

  • Herbal sciences research methods
  • Biochemistry
  • Ethnobotany
  • Pharmacognosy
  • Interaction between herbs and drugs
  • Preparing herbal treatments

Master of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine

Master's degree programs in herbal medicine focus on expanding knowledge gained in undergraduate herbalist programs. Students learn about the effects of natural medicine and its relationship to pharmacology, science and physiology. Graduate-level herbalist programs typically include a strong clinical study component, while continuing to focus on health and wellness theory and practice. Students gain practical knowledge by working with herbs that were grown on campus farms, and they learn from experienced herbalists when participating in internships. Students also learn how to work in patient-care environments with licensed medical professionals. Typical graduate-level coursework includes:

  • Case assessment and management
  • Preparation of herbal remedies
  • Culture and medicinal plants
  • Herbal pharmacology
  • Phytochemistry and herbs
  • Biomedicine in herbal therapies

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

In 2007, the National Institute of Health (www.nih.gov) reported that 38% of American adults used some type of complementary or alternative medicine and that the most commonly used CAM treatments were non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products. As of October 2013, Payscale.com reported a median annual salary for herbalists of $43,920.

Popular Career Options

Bachelor's degree programs in herbal sciences qualify graduates for careers in herb cultivation, research, manufacturing, distribution and sales. Graduates are often employed by the nutrition, health and wellness industries. Career options may include:

  • Herb grower and cultivator
  • Wildcrafter
  • Herbalism instructor
  • Western herbalist
  • Chinese herbalist
  • Herb product sales representative
  • Herb retail store manager
  • Herbal medicine manufacturer's representative

Graduates of herbalist master's degree programs work with licensed medical professionals in a variety of settings. Careers may include:

  • Medical practice consultant
  • Academic researcher
  • Herbalism educator
  • Liaison between alternative and conventional healthcare professionals

Continuing Education Information

Some students who complete associate degree programs in herbalism may be eligible to apply for membership in the AHG; however, it may be necessary to complete a bachelor's or master's degree program in herbal sciences to meet AHG's clinical practice and laboratory experience requirements. In addition to at least four years of combined academic and hands-on training, AHG membership requires in-depth knowledge of 150 plants, human physiology and life sciences.

The AHG encourages herbalists to pursue continuing education throughout their careers. Herbalists who wish to become licensed patient-care professionals will need to pursue a degree in a related medical field. Many alternative medical practitioners earn degrees and become licensed as naturopaths, nurses, osteopaths and chiropractors.

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