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Career Information for a Degree in Aromatherapy

Programs in aromatherapy typically cover anatomy, botany and chemistry. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for aromatherapy graduates.

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A degree in aromatherapy, although uncommon at traditional academic institutions, may lead to a career as a massage therapist or a manufacturer or retailer of aromatic products. A high school diploma is usually sufficient to become a general aromatherapist. Since aromatherapy is classified as a sub-specialty within the study of holistic medicine, training programs usually involve coursework in other topics as well, such as acupressure, Eastern traditions, massage therapy, and botany.

Essential Information

Aromatherapy is the use of highly concentrated aromatic compounds derived from plants, otherwise known as essential oils, in order to promote health and well-being. While degree programs in this field are few and far between, there are programs offered through training schools specializing in this field of study. Aromatherapists find employment in many types of alternative and holistic medicine settings.

Career Aromatherapist Aromatherapy Manufacturer/Retailer Massage Therapist
Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent Bachelor's degree Postsecondary training program
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 24% (for therapists, all other)* 6% (for sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products)* 22%*
Median Salary (2015) $56,010 (for therapists, all other)* $55,730 (for sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products)* $38,040*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Graduates of programs in aromatherapy may continue their education to advance their careers. In many cases, aromatherapy is a sub-specialty of a larger holistic medicine program that requires coursework in anatomy and physiology, reflexology, botany, chemistry, nutrition, massage therapy, acupressure, pathology or Eastern traditions. Upon completion of these programs, students may work as:

  • Aromatherapists
  • Manufacturers or retailers
  • Aromatherapy educators

Additional training and education can lead to careers in:

  • Massage therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic
  • Naturopathy

Aromatherapist

Aromatherapists use essential oils to bring about positive health effects in clients. They may apply oils directly to the skin, utilize inhalation techniques or rely on diffusion to expose clients to the beneficial effects of the aromatic compounds. A significant component of the aromatherapist's job is mixing different oils to create individualized compounds for specific needs, which requires knowledge of the effects of the oils to determine proper ratios. Most aromatherapists use their skills as a complement to another, full-time practice, such as chiropractic care.

Aromatherapy Manufacturer or Retailer

Aromatherapists may also work as manufacturers and retailers. Manufacturers create specialized blends of essential oils to be used by practicing aromatherapists or the public. They must have a strong understanding of plant chemistry and the properties associated with individual oil extractions. Some manufacturers also act as retailers.

Aromatherapy retailers may own and operate their own stores, or they might work at specialized counters within health food stores, cooperative supermarkets or related businesses. Their responsibilities include informing potential customers about the health benefits and effects of various oils, maintaining inventories and handling managerial or accounting duties. Legally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration can regulate an aromatherapy product if the manufacturer markets the product with a claim that it can prevent, diagnose, treat or mitigate a specific condition (www.fda.gov).

Massage Therapist

Massage therapists are among the most frequent users of aromatherapy techniques. They might use diluted oils to enhance client relaxation, reduce stress and bring about other positive health effects during massage sessions. Unlike dedicated aromatherapists, massage therapists are generally subject to legal oversight, and in most states they must pass certification exams before beginning independent practice. Massage therapists must have strong interpersonal skills in order to develop client relationships and to build up a customer base, which is generally necessary in order to make a living in this field.

Educational and licensure requirements for massage therapists vary by state. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), massage therapists must generally hold a high school diploma and complete a postsecondary training program of at least 500 hours. Some states require practicing massage therapists to have passed a state or national licensing exam (www.bls.gov).

The job growth rate for massage therapists was projected by the BLS to be 22% between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, massage therapists earned a median annual salary of $38,040.

After completing training in holistic medicine, further education might lead to even more advanced career options in this field, including chiropractics, naturopathy, acupuncture, and massage therapy. The career most commonly utilizing aromatherapy is massage therapy, which also involves state requirements pertaining to educational training and licensing. Alternatively, some aromatherapists manufacture their own aromatic products, which requires a solid understanding of natural oil extraction and plant chemistry.

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