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Herbology Schools and Colleges: Tips on Choosing a School

Herbology colleges and schools are institutions where students learn about the discipline of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), an alternative to the study of western medicine. The Accreditation Council for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the accrediting body for graduate certificate, diploma or degree programs in TCM.

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The study of western (North American and European) herbology has no formal accreditation body. The American Herbalists Guild (AHG) is a professional association that promotes education and standards for herbal therapy practitioners in the U.S, and currently no distance-learning or short-term programs meet its standards, which include 400 hours of clinical practice.

Herbology Colleges

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees 2015-2016
California School of Herbal Studies Forestville, CA Private Certificate $6,795 **
Bastyr University Kenmore, WA 4-year, Private Bachelor's $24,275*
Maryland University of Integrative Health Laurel, MD 4-year, Private Certificate, Master's $18,605*
Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine Denver, CO 4-year, Private Master's $49,875 (total program cost)**
Texas Health and Science University Austin, Texas 4 years, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $14,100 (undergraduate and graduate)*
Five Branches University Santa Cruz, CA 4 years, Public Master's, Doctoral $14,906*
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Multiple Locations 4 years, Public Master's, Doctoral $8,825*
East West College of Natural Medicine Sarasota, FL 2-4 years, Public Master's $11,154*
Institute of Clinical Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine 2-4 years, Public Master's $60,000 (total program cost)**

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics', **School websites

College and School Selection Criteria

These are some important considerations to keep in mind when choosing a school:

  • Several institutions in the U.S. offer intensive training programs or apprenticeships in western herbology. Because the AHG does not recognize any of these programs, students should weigh the other benefits of completing a traditional program.
  • Oriental medicine programs should be accredited by the ACAOM and prepare students who want to become independent practitioners to sit for the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) examination.
  • It may be beneficial for students to look for programs that allow them to cultivate the herbs they will study and work with.

Bachelor's Degree in Herbology

For the vast majority of practicing health care herbalists, the minimum educational requirement is a master's degree. Very few programs in the United States offer a bachelor's degree in herbal sciences, and students who do graduate from these programs aren't authorized to practice in health care. At the undergraduate level, aspiring herbalists might choose a degree program in medicine, nursing, nutrition science, botany, horticulture or biology.

Master's Degree in Herbal Medicine

Aspiring herbologists can choose from master's-level programs in acupuncture and oriental medicine, TCM or herbal medicine. Programs preparing students for clinical practice typically place a heavy emphasis on a clinical practicum or internship. Students may also choose to focus on research or, in some cases, develop an individualized program of study to match their career goals.

Doctoral Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM)

Although a doctorate isn't a prerequisite for a license to practice herbal medicine, some students choose a doctoral program to gain additional knowledge and clinical preparation. Doctoral candidates prepare to become leaders in their profession. Doctoral programs also allow students to develop a clinical specialty, such as women's health, pain management, oncology or psychotherapy.

Herbology programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate degree levels. Students who are interested in becoming independent practitioners of oriental medicine should look for accredited schools that prepare them for licensure, and schools that offer internships or clinical experience should also be considered.

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