Herbalist Degree Program Information
Herbalists use plants and natural products to create medicinal remedies. There are very few accredited herbalist degree programs in the U.S., and there is no legal recognition or licensing for the occupation of herbalist; however, the American Herbalist Guild (AHG) offers professional membership status to herbalists who meet educational and clinical experience standards set by the AHG. Herbalist degree programs are offered at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels.
Associate of Science Degree in Herbalism
An herbalist associate degree program provides an introduction to Western herbalism, plant identification, natural healing and holistic nutrition. Students gain training that can be used in a personal or professional setting as a family herbalist, retailer, writer, lecturer or consultant. Educational prerequisites vary by institution, but admission to associate degree programs typically requires a high school diploma or GED. Admission requirements may also include a demonstration of interest in the program and a statement of personal goals.
In addition to writing, public speaking and basic business courses, herbalist associate degree programs also cover basic alternative medicine concepts as well as botanical and human sciences. Coursework can include:
- Ayurvedic medicine
- Western herbalism
- Remedies in homeopathy
- Biosciences and herbalism
- Introduction to botany
- Plant identification
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
In 2007, the National Institute of Health (www.nih.gov) reported that 38% of American adults used some type of complementary or alternative medicine and that the most commonly used CAM treatments were non-vitamin, non-mineral natural products. As of October 2013, Payscale.com reported a median annual salary for herbalists of $43,920.
Continuing Education Information
Some students who complete associate degree programs in herbalism may be eligible to apply for membership in the AHG; however, it may be necessary to complete a bachelor's or master's degree program in herbal sciences to meet AHG's clinical practice and lab experience requirements. In addition to at least four years of combined academic and hands-on training, AHG membership requires in-depth knowledge of 150 plants, human physiology and life sciences.
Bachelor's Degree in Herbal Sciences
A bachelor's degree program in herbal sciences offers a comprehensive overview of botanical science and herbal products. Students work with master herbalists and learn about various aspects of herbalism, from plant cultivation and the preparation of herbal remedies to business operations, such as sales and herbal manufacturing. Programs also include hands-on training, lab work and internships.
Admission to herbalist bachelor's degree programs may require completion of lower-division college-level coursework in psychology, algebra, biology, English and humanities. Some programs may also have higher average grade requirements for science courses.
Program coursework is focused on herbal sciences and botanical medicine. Students learn to identify plants and prepare herbal medicines used in the treatment and prevention of illnesses. Course topics may include:
- Herbal sciences research methods
- Herbs and nutrition
- Interaction between herbs and drugs
- Preparing herbal treatments
Popular Career Options
Bachelor's degree programs in herbal sciences qualify graduates for careers in herb cultivation, research, manufacturing, distribution and sales. Graduates are often employed by the nutrition, health and wellness industries. Career options may include:
- Herb grower and cultivator
- Herbalism instructor
- Western herbalist
- Chinese herbalist
- Herb product sales representative
- Herb retail store manager
- Herbal medicine manufacturer's representative
Master of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine
Master's degree programs in herbal medicine, which are rare, focus on expanding knowledge gained in undergraduate herbalist programs. Students learn about the effects of natural medicine and its relationship to pharmacology, science and physiology. Graduate-level herbalist programs typically include a strong clinical study component, while continuing to focus on health and wellness theory and practice. Students gain practical knowledge by working with herbs grown on campus farms, working with experienced herbalists and participating in internships. Students also learn how to work in patient-care environments with licensed medical professionals.
A bachelor's degree and college transcripts are generally required for admission to master's degree programs in herbal sciences; however, some graduate programs make exceptions for students who attended unaccredited undergraduate programs and international students with a background in alternative medicine. Prerequisite coursework may include several semesters of undergraduate-level anatomy, physiology, herbal sciences, organic chemistry and cell biology.
Master's degree programs in herbal medicine often include instruction in Materia Medica, which is the study of the effects of medicinal remedies on the human body. In herbalist master's degree programs, this study often focuses on herbal medicine and homeopathy.
- Case assessment and management
- Preparation of herbal remedies
- Culture and medicinal plants
- Herbal pharmacology
- Phytochemistry and herbs
- Biomedicine in herbal therapies
Popular Career Options
Graduates of herbalist master's degree programs work with licensed medical professionals in a variety of settings. Careers may include:
- Medical practice consultant
- Academic researcher
- Herbalism educator
- Liaison between alternative and conventional healthcare professionals
Continuing Education Information
The AHG encourages herbalists to pursue continuing education throughout their careers. Herbalists who wish to become licensed patient-care professionals will need to pursue a degree in a related medical field. Many alternative medical practitioners earn degrees and become licensed as naturopaths, nurses, osteopaths and chiropractors.
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