Aromatherapy is a treatment that uses essential oils to promote physical and emotional wellbeing. The typical responsibilities of an aromatherapist include:
- undertaking patient consultations
- identifying appropriate essential oils
- planning and explaining treatment requirements
- creating blends of oils
- applying oils (often via therapeutic massage) and undertaking treatment
- liaising with GPs and making referrals to specialists and other healthcare practitioners
- providing advice about diet, exercise and lifestyle
- keeping accurate confidential patient records
- keeping up to date with research and new developments in the profession
- managing stock levels
- marketing and promoting their practice
Most aromatherapists are self-employed, working full or part-time from home, from clients' homes or from their own practice. Many work as part of a team of alternative health practitioners for private practices such as specialist and complementary health care clinics and health farms. Some aromatherapists provide additional therapies including massage and reflexology. A very limited amount of contract work may be available with some GP practices and NHS trusts (in hospitals, hospices and community health centres).
There are courses available for those wishing to train in aromatherapy at a range of levels, suitable for either school leavers or graduates. Courses that meet the national occupational standards for aromatherapy typically take around nine months, and you usually need to be at least 18 to be eligible. There are also foundation degrees and degrees that cover aromatherapy, sometimes alongside other complementary medicines, and there are some courses at level 2 and 3 suitable for those aged 16 and 17, which may also cover beauty therapy.
If you're a school leaver looking for career ideas, you can find out more about careers that draw on science subjects such as biology from the science section of TARGETcareers, our website for school leavers, and if you're interested in careers helping people, you might pick up some ideas from the public service section of TARGETcareers.
Regulation of the aromatherapy profession is voluntary. However, it is highly advisable to register with an officially recognised professional organisation that covers aromatherapy, such as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) or Federation of Holistic Therapists. Before you can register with these organisations you will need an approved qualification. Details of approved qualifications can be found on the organisations' websites.
Experience of working in a medical, massage or beauty clinic will also be helpful. It is necessary to have a good understanding of anatomy and physiology in addition to detailed knowledge of essential oils and their preparation.
Excellent organisational, interpersonal, listening and communication skills are essential. Aromatherapists also need to possess a mature, confident, sensitive and empathetic temperament.