How to Become a Master Herbalist: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 10, 2020

Find out how to become a master herbalist. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in herbalism.

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Should I Become a Master Herbalist?

Master herbalists study and utilize the natural properties of herbs to improve the health and well-being of clients. They may assess clients' lifestyles and health needs to determine which herbs might be beneficial. Master herbalists work in natural health clinics, herbal healing centers, chiropractic offices, physiotherapy offices and health food and supplement stores. Some grow herbs, sell dry herbs and formulate herbal products. Herbalists may face struggles in being accepted as credible healthcare providers since this is not a state-regulated healthcare profession.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Postsecondary certificate or degree program and/or professional mentorship
Degree Fields Herbal studies, clinical herbalism
Experience Clinical experience required for credentialing through the American Herbalists Guild
Certification Voluntary AHG certification available
Key Skills Expertise in herbs and their effects; good communication, bedside manner, analytical, and problem-solving skills; familiarity with human anatomy and physiology
Salary $73,960 (2018 median for all uncategorized health diagnosing and treating practitioners)*

Sources: American Herbalists Guild, I Have a Plan Iowa, Multiple school websites, *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

In order to work as a master herbalist, an individual will need to earn a postsecondary certificate or complete a degree program, or take part in a professional mentorship. The field of study for this career falls under herbal studies and clinical herbalism. Along with a degree, the American Herbalists Guild (AHG) requires clinical experience in order to receive the credentials of an herbalist. However, the available AHG certification is voluntary.

When considering this field, think about the skills that it will require:

  • Expertise in herbs and their effects
  • Good communication skills
  • A good bedside manner
  • Analytical and problem solving skills
  • Familiarity with human anatomy and physiology

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary as of May 2018 for all uncategorized health diagnosing and treating practitioners was $73,960.

Step 1: Complete a Degree

Earning a college certificate or degree in herbal studies, clinical herbalism or a closely related field is one way to prepare for work as an herbalist. At the undergraduate level, relevant associate's and bachelor's programs are rare, but a handful of schools offer certificate programs. Students in these programs explore the healing properties within herbs. They also learn how to identify different types of plants and create herbal remedies.

Students who already hold a bachelor's degree may find master's degrees and certificates in herbalism at a few colleges. In addition, certificates in Chinese herbal medicine are available, but they're often designed for licensed acupuncturists or students currently enrolled in acupuncture programs.

While working on becoming an herbalist, students should develop and strengthen their communication skills. Being able to communicate well with patients and colleagues is important for herbalists. College-level composition and speech communication courses may give students a strong foundation in effective communication.

Step 2: Complete a Mentorship

Many aspiring herbalists gain hands-on skills through mentorships with experienced herbalists. While the length and focus of these programs may vary, they often cover some of the same topics found in postsecondary programs. Students typically learn how to harvest and process herbs; they also learn which herbal remedies apply to different conditions.

Step 3: Experience and Credentials

Herbalists may gain experience by working directly with patients, providing diagnoses, and recommending herbal treatments. Some herbalists will grow and harvest their own plants. Self-employment is common in this field, and herbalists who can't treat certain conditions recommend patients to physicians or other medical professionals.

There are other career options in this field as well. Herbalists may work for herbal product manufacturers or health food stores; some even write about the profession or speak at seminars.

The American Herbalists Guild offers the Registered Herbalist (RH) credential to individuals who've completed at least four years of academic and clinical training. Clinical qualifications include at least 400 hours of hands-on experience with a minimum of 100 patients. Applicants must possess a solid understanding of at least 150 medicinal plants; knowledge of professional ethics, human anatomy and plant chemistry is also required. In addition, candidates must submit three letters of recommendation and three case histories.

Step 4: Maintain Registration

The RH designation is valid for two years. In order to renew this credential, herbalists must complete at least 20 hours of continuing education. This can include AHG-approved herbal medicine courses and relevant professional lectures or workshops. Credit may also be granted for teaching herbal courses or writing published articles related to herbalism.

Step 5: Advance Your Career

Experienced master herbalists can advance their careers by opening their own clinic or private practice. They can also expand their client base and offer a wider range of natural health services. Pursuing a master's degree or PhD in a related field will provide opportunities for becoming a professor or getting involved in research.

Individuals considering the field of herbalism will need a postsecondary degree in herbal studies or clinical herbalism, clinical or mentorship experience, and possibly RH credentials in order to provide the services of a master herbalist that include helping and improving the well-being of clients through the use of herbs and herbal products.

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