Does completing one of your programs make me a “certified” herbalist? Will I receive a certification upon completion of your program? Is your school accredited?
This is a common question for students new to herbalism. The short answer is: we do provide our graduates with a certificate which documents their class time hours and the subjects of study. That said, the long answer is . . . a little longer! Here we go:
The fact is, almost no herb schools are accredited in this country. The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism in Boulder is a notable exception. However, that accreditation is through the state vocational board, and is quite costly. Because not all states’ vocational boards will accredit herbal schools, and because of the expense, most herb schools just can’t afford or attain accreditation. Additionally, there is no certifying board for herbalism in this country – which removes the need for accreditation anyway.
It means that the responsibility is on the student to find out ahead of time whether the school they want to study at is reputable or not – which makes things more difficult in the beginning, but on the other hand, just going through that process is an education in itself!
In lieu of accreditation, there are a number of things you can investigate to evaluate a school. Referrals and reviews from previous students can be helpful. You can also find information about the school’s teachers – such as whether or not they speak at national conferences, teach for other organizations such as local colleges and universities, publish articles in herbal magazines and journals, and see clients regularly, as well as who they studied with. Learning something about the elders in the field of herbalism is also useful – when you interview teachers, you can ask them their opinions about the work of various elders. It’s a really good idea, also, to attend a drop-in class at the schools you’re interested in, to see whether you like the teaching style of the teacher(s) and whether you feel comfortable in the school space. Another thing is to check out the blog or other writings of the school’s teacher(s) – do you like the stuff they’re thinking about? If their writing resonates with you, that’s another good indication of whether or not it’s a good fit.
In our case, we both have published articles in Plant Healer Magazine and the Journal of the Northeast Herbalists Association, we have taught at the American Herbalist’s Guild Symposium, Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, Integrative Medicine for the Underserved Conference, and of course at Herbstalk, our local herb conference (which was founded by one of our graduates). We are also adjunct/associate faculty at MCPHS and Northeastern University. We have a fair amount of writing posted in our blog as well as a growing amount of free content posted to our Vimeo account.
Definitely beware of any schools that promise you will be a “certified” herbalist – there is no such thing in this country. It is appropriate to receive a certificate or some kind of documentation of your hours of study – and you can use that towards membership in the American Herbalists’ Guild, if you should decide to pursue that – but that certificate will only document your hours of study. We do provide such documentation to those who complete our programs.
It can seem a little intimidating, but to be honest, we like the lack of regulation. Even when clients come to see us, it is up to them to decide whether we are good practitioners and whether they should follow our advice – unlike a doctor who has a piece of paper on the wall saying you should trust him. Of course, not every doctor is good! But they all have that piece of paper.
In the end, it is actually each individual’s responsibility to decide for themselves whether or not their health practitioner is reputable, but we often forget that. Because there is no licensure or regulation of herbalists, people can’t forget it. And that’s the first step to taking responsibility for one’s own health, because of course in the end, no one can heal you except you! Your doctor can’t make you take your medicine, and your herbalist can’t make you drink your tea or change your diet – only you can do that. When people know that they themselves need to decide whether they agree with their herbalist’s recommendations, they also know that they are responsible for following through for themselves.
So, it’s more work, but we think it’s a good thing.
Can I join the Advanced Studies Program without completing the Apprenticeship? What if I have completed an herbal program at another school?
For students who are hoping to transfer in after completing a program at another school, we have an assessment exam. This covers the broad strokes of what’s learned in our first year program, and we ask anyone looking to come from another school (or from prior self-study) to complete it before we accept them into the Advanced program, because herbal schools and teachers differ substantially in what their programs include. If you’d like to take a look at it, just contact us!
What kind of job could I get if I finished your programs?
People do lots of different things! In this country, herbalism is neither licensed nor regulated, so there’s not exactly the same kind of career track that you would see if you went to a four-year college. However, if you’re looking to start your own business as a consulting herbalist, or producing herbal products, or herb farming, or teaching, or lots of other things you could dream up, you’ll be ready to go! As part of the Clinical Rotations program (“year three”), students work on their business plans, launch websites, get newsletters going, publish articles in magazines, and lots of other get-your-business-going activities, in addition to the herbal work.
Some people choose to incorporate herbalism into the jobs they already have, for example, massage therapists, psychotherapists, and other holistic practitioners who already have practices and want to expand their offerings. Some people want to open shops, or manage holistic health and beauty departments in existing stores, or work for supplement or herbal product companies.
While we don’t provide any kind of job placement services, we do pass along job postings to the student body when we receive them. Mostly, however, our students either want the information for their own betterment, or to go into business for themselves.
You can read about some of our graduates and their successes on our Students and Graduates page.