How to Become a Certified Aromatherapist

By Beth Greenwood; Updated July 05, 2017
Woman Having A Back Oil Massage
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Aromatherapy is the practice of using plant oils to prevent disease and promote and maintain health. The essential oils can be dissolved in a neutral carrier oil and then inhaled, used for massage, or added to bathwater or soaking solutions. Although you can be trained as an aromatherapist and receive a certificate for your education, to become a certified aromatherapist, you must complete either a professional or clinical aromatherapy course and pass the certification examination offered by the Aromatherapy Registration Council, or ARC.

Choose an Aromatherapy Program

Aromatherapy certificate programs are classed as foundation, professional and clinical programs. Professional and clinical programs must offer a minimum of 200 or 400 hours, respectively, according to the Alliance of International Aromatherapists. Although both types of courses cover similar subjects, the clinical course includes much more material and goes into the various subjects in depth. Most programs offer a certificate, although some offer a diploma, and many offer online training. Choose a program approved by either the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy or the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.

About ARC Certification

The ARC certification examination is available twice a year -- once in the spring and once in the fall -- over a period of two weeks each. The examination is provided by the Professional Testing Corporation, an organization that specializes in online testing procedures. The test is offered online, but it also available in paper format for those who speak Japanese or Korean. The paper format is not available in English. The PCT has several hundred testing facilities located throughout the United States, and you must travel to one of those facilities to take the examination. The test may take up to four hours to complete.

The Application Process

Once you complete your education, you must complete the application form, sign an agreement to abide by the ARC disciplinary policy and complete a Candidate Consent Form. The application package must include a copy of your aromatherapy transcript. You must also pay a non-refundable examination fee of $325. Access the online tutorial for the testing program to practice using the testing software. The ARC will send you an eligibility notice within six weeks prior to the start of the testing period. The eligibility notice will tell you how to schedule your examination appointment. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Taking the Test

You must take a paper copy of your eligibility notice and have some form of government-issued photo identification to enter the testing site. If you arrive late, you may not be able to take the exam, so allow plenty of time, especially if the testing site is in a location with which you are not familiar. You cannot eat, smoke or drink during the testing period, and except for going to the bathroom, you may not leave the room during the test period. Your test will be scored by computer and the test results should be available within six weeks after you complete the examination. If you pass, you will receive a certificate from ARC and can use the initials “RA” -- for Registered Aromatherapist -- after your name. Your certification is good for five years. To recertify, you can take the examination again or submit proof of continuing education.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.