An herbalist is a type of alternative healer who uses natural plant materials and herbs to promote healing. A bachelor's degree may be required, but is not always necessary. Some states mandate professional licensing, and requirements vary.
An herbalist is an alternative health practitioner trained in the therapeutic uses of herbs and other medicinal plants. Individuals can receive herb training through both degree and certificate programs. Students can focus on Western herbalism, Eastern herbalism or both. Currently, there are no training standards specifically for herbalists, although some states require herbalists to be licensed medical practitioners in related fields.
|Required Education||Bachelor's and graduate degrees are available, but there is no traditional education route for herbalists.|
|Other Requirements||Related healthcare experience; licensing required in some states|
|Projected Growth (2014-2024)*||24% (healthcare practitioners and technical occupations classified as 'therapists, all other)|
|Average Median Salary (2015)*||$56,010 (healthcare practitioners and technical occupations classified as 'therapists, all other)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Herbalist Training Programs
Individuals can obtain herb training through completing degree programs in majors such as herbal sciences, holistic health or Chinese medicine. Many programs only focus on one school of herbal medicine, such as Eastern or Western, but students can choose to specialize in one or both methodologies. Herbal science degree programs cover courses in organic chemistry, anatomy physiology, herbal treatments, botany and homeopathic remedies. Some degree programs may also require students to participate in externships where they assist professional herbalists in the field.
For individuals who already have undergraduate and graduate degrees related to health sciences, certificate programs in herbalism provide additional herbal medicine training. Several certificate programs are graduate level programs and require students to have already earned an undergraduate degree in a related field, and many certificate programs also have other prerequisite requirements. Some certificate programs may also require students to be licensed medical practitioners. Certificate programs related to herbal medicine include coursework such as herbology and nutrition, herbal pharmaceuticals, herbal benefits and herbal formulas.
Herbalist Job Requirements
In some states, herbalists cannot become licensed or registered to practice until they gain enough work experience. Most degree programs provide students with opportunities to gain experience in the field, including externships with local herbalists or on-site clinical experience at research medical facilities. Some certificate programs require an extensive amount of hours spent practicing herbal science training on real patients, but not all certificate programs provide such in-depth experience. While in school, students may choose to gain additional experience by approaching professional herbalists about apprenticeship opportunities.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), each state has different licensing procedures for herbal medicine practitioners. For instance, some states, such as Maine, may not grant herbalists licenses unless the herbalists are also licensed alternative medicine practitioners, such as acupuncturists or naturopathic physicians. Other states may have licensing protocols for herbalists specifically, and some states may not even require any form of licensing or registration for this career. The NCCAM explains that of the states that do require herbalists to be licensed, most states have minimum education and experience requirements that must be met prior to applicants taking licensing examinations.
Career and Salary Information
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide information for herbalists, it does classify these workers among the broad classification of healthcare practitioners and technical workers, therapists all other. The BLS reported the average annual median salary for such workers was $56,010 in 2014, and $62,610 for workers in all healthcare practitioners and technical occupations. This group was projected to see 24% growth from 2014-2024.
While herbalists are not required to follow a strict educational outline, undergraduate degrees in health or science can be beneficial, and further training, internships or exams may be included in the prospects' career path outline. Some states require herbalists to be licensed, which calls for meeting the state's training standards. As the overall field of natural medicine continues to grow, herbalists can likely expect an increase in job growth for the foreseeable future.