Aromatherapy Certification: the Right Path for the Serious Aromatherapist

Apr 11, 2022

Aromatherapy courses vary widely in their level of education, recognition, and even in what you can do after you graduate. We’d like to explain what aromatherapy certification really means, and how to understand the different levels of certification and what they mean for you: what you learn, why it gives you a competitive edge, and how the right aromatherapy certification program can help you build credibility and a deeply satisfying career in aromatherapy.

What is a “recognized” aromatherapy certification program?

Certification in any field demonstrates an understanding of the facts and accepted best practices. The more advanced the certification, the more knowledgeable the practitioner.

In order for a school to offer a certified aromatherapy program, the school must be evaluated and “recognized” by at least one professional aromatherapy association. Recognition is proof that the school has met the association’s rigorous criteria, such as providing a minimum number of credit hours devoted to specific topics. Once the school is officially recognized, its graduates are eligible to use specific credentials or other trademarked designations as determined by the professional aromatherapy association.

Most professional aromatherapy associations offer several levels of recognition. More advanced designations signify a higher level of knowledge and competency in the field, as reflected in the hours and depth of a recognized program’s curriculum.

As of this writing, the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) and the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) each have 3 levels of recognition:

  • Level 1: a program that allows the graduate to add aromatherapy to an existing modality or practice, such as massage therapy. Level 1 programs are not always considered full aromatherapy certification programs, as they have less comprehensive curricula. Depending on the association, this may be a 50- or 100-hour program.
  • Level 2: an aromatherapy certification program with a minimum of 200 hours of learning and instruction, including specific subjects listed below. Level 2 programs prepare you for a focused career in professional aromatherapy.
  • Level 3: an advanced aromatherapy certification program (or combination of programs) with a minimum of 400 hours of learning and instruction, including specific subjects listed below. Level 3 programs typically provide a path to clinical aromatherapy practice.

The International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA) and the Canadian Alliance of Aromatherapy (CAOA) have similar requirements.

Do I need to be a certified aromatherapist?

If you plan to work professionally with essential oils, your clients and customers need to know why — and how — they can trust you. The credibility you earn from a recognized aromatherapy certification program, with a standardized curriculum that meets these agreed-upon professional standards, will earn their confidence and respect.

Aromatherapy certification also speaks to your professional commitment. As a certified aromatherapist, you demonstrate that you have fulfilled the requirements of your school and therefore the professional aromatherapy association(s) that recognize its courses, and that you are a legitimate, qualified, and insured aromatherapist. In order for you to retain your credentials and designation, you must provide proof of continuing education (CE) with each annual renewal.

In most countries, proof of aromatherapy certification is one of the requirements if you intend to obtain professional liability insurance. Professional liability insurance protects you financially if your client or customer is accidentally harmed through the course of your work together.

What will I learn in a recognized aromatherapy certification program?

An aromatherapy certification program is much more than a free course, short workshop, or internet source about essential oils, CO2 extracts, absolutes, concretes, hydrosols, and carriers. You will also study other subjects that support your understanding of how these plant extracts support physical and emotional wellness, and how to use them safely and effectively while being a good steward of our precious natural resources. This includes but is not limited to:

  • botany
  • chemistry
  • conservation and sustainability of essential oil-bearing plants and carrier-bearing plants
  • anatomy and physiology
  • pathologies
  • pharmacokinetics
  • pharmacodynamics
  • history of aromatherapy
  • quality assurance
  • safety
  • emulsifiers and preservatives
  • blending skills
  • application methods
  • communication skills
  • ethics
  • business and marketing
  • research skills

At Essence of Thyme, our advanced aromatherapy certification programs exceed the minimum requirements of the 5 professional aromatherapy associations that recognize our courses. We prepare you for a specialized career in aromatherapy that sets you apart in the field, with deeper training in focused areas such as working with certain demographics like children or the aging population, blending for specific conditions such as skin concerns, emotional issues or palliative care, using preservatives in natural products, developing seminars and workshops, sustainability/conservation, and business/marketing.

What can I do as a certified aromatherapist?

When you create your own specialized aromatherapy career, the opportunities are infinite. What are you most passionate about? What prior life or career experience can inform your goals?

Here are just a few examples of what you can do after you complete an Essence of Thyme aromatherapy certification program:

  • aromatherapy consultant for individuals, businesses, spas, medical centres, and more
  • provide aromatherapy in a hospice or care home setting
  • create an essential oil product line
  • essential oil importer, or distributor
  • operate your own aromatherapy retail store
  • teach aromatherapy
  • become an author: publish educational aromatherapy books and articles

Prior to becoming a certified aromatherapist, I was a training manager at a large financial institution, and my post-secondary education was in business and marketing and adult education. As my passion has always been adult education, it made sense for me to teach aromatherapy. Over time, I worked my way up to developing the aromatherapy certification programs we offer at Essence of Thyme. My work in banking was rewarding, but my work with aromatherapy fills my soul.

Learn more about aromatherapy certification and careers:

What aromatherapy goals and dreams do you have? What aspect of working with essential oils fills your soul? Your aromatherapy certification can help you achieve fulfillment while doing something you truly love.

Article by: Colleen Thompson, RA, MIFPA

For over 25 years, Colleen Thompson has been a passionate and highly respected aromatherapy educator. She has owned 3 aromatherapy stores and a holistic spa, and she founded Essence of Thyme in 1995, where she mentors budding aromatherapists from all over the world, helping them create their own thriving aromatherapy businesses.

About Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies

Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies offers 300- and 630-hour professional aromatherapy certification programs that help you grow a successful, fulfilling career by specializing and creating your market niche. Professional Level Certification prepares graduates to become aromatherapy consultants, launch product lines or retail businesses, or provide services as an adjunct to existing holistic health specializations. Master Level Certification and electives are ideal for certified aromatherapists seeking higher education or a path to clinical aromatherapy practice.

All Essence of Thyme programs focus on aromatherapy product development and advanced formulation, evidence-based research, spa and business management, international industry regulatory guidelines, and sustainability and conservation of essential oil and carrier oil-bearing plants.

Our comprehensive, evidence-based programs meet or exceed the criteria set forth by 5 international professional aromatherapy associations. Learn more about our aromatherapy certification programs.


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