Aromatherapy Certification: A Cautionary Word

If you are planning to become an aromatherapist, a number of schools offer aromatherapy certification. Before you choose a school though, it's essential to understand what is meant by "certification."

There is no standardized certification for aromatherapy in the USA. A practitioner who has aromatherapy certification has completed a course of study that granted him a certificate of completion. Since there's no standardized curriculum either, there's no way to know what this "certification" means.


This lack of standardization is a problem for professionals. Because there is no core knowledge for aromatherapy, it's difficult to communicate with other professionals, and it's nearly impossible to do the research necessary to build a body of knowledge for aromatherapy. There's no way to assure the public that aromatherapists are legitimate, recognized complementary health care practitioners.

In the United States, "hands on" professionals, such as nurses, physical therapists and beauticians, are licensed or certified by each state. Some states prohibit any kind of "hands on" practice without a license, but do not license or certify aromatherapists. In those states, you can prepare and blend essential oils, sell them, teach about them, but you cannot apply them to a client. As a practicing aromatherapist, you must know what your state's laws allow you to do.

The lack of standardization is a problem for the public, too, because they have no way to evaluate what aromatherapists do. With no standardized curriculum, and no core body of knowledge, anybody with a scented candle can claim to be an aromatherapist. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens.

Making Improvements

The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists (NAHA) is a relatively recent, non-profit professional association for aromatherapists in the US. Their mission is to educate the public about aromatherapy and to improve academic standards for aromatherapy. They publish a journal, have established a code of ethics, and have approved two levels of aromatherapy education. NAHA is taking steps toward standardizing aromatherapy certification in the US.

The Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists has established standards for aromatherapy certification in Canada. They also have standards for safety and professional conduct, and a public directory of certified aromatherapists.

If you decide to pursue aromatherapy as a career, compare and evaluate several schools that offer aromatherapy certification. Compare their curricula against the standards approved by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists. Make sure you understand what your state laws allow or prohibit.

When you become an aromatherapist, join the NAHA, and work toward standardized curricula and certifications. Work to make aromatherapy certification a professional designation you can be proud of.

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