Aromatherapists treat a range of physical and emotional problems by applying essential oils, usually through massage. An essential oil is an aromatic substance extracted from plants such as rosemary, lavender, peppermint and tea tree.
You could be:
discussing lifestyle, diet and emotional wellbeing with your client
selecting and preparing (blending) the mixture of oils to use in treatment
massaging the oils into your client's face and body
preparing a bath with drops of oil or mixing oils into base creams, gels or lotions for self-administration
working with patients, providing holistic health care
selling essential oil products to clients and advising how to use them
advising your client to see a doctor or another therapist if required
keeping records of clients and progress
buying your oils from suppliers.
Most aromatherapists are self-employed and work on a freelance basis so their earnings will vary. They normally charge an hourly fee or sessional rate which can range from £25 to £70 an hour. At first you may have to supplement your income with some other work.
You may work in a treatment room in a clinic, health centre or beauty salon.
You might work from your own home.
You may visit clients in their homes, so you might have to travel.
There are HNC and HND courses in Complementary Therapies at several Scottish colleges. Many courses include a unit in aromatherapy.
Entry requirements for an HNC or HND are usually 1-2 Highers plus subjects at National 5. Contact the individual institution for details.
The SVQ in Spa and Massage Therapy at SCQF Level 6 includes units on different massage therapies.
The HND in Beauty Therapy includes units in aromatherapy and you can sometimes take individual HN units, which are accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).
There are also courses run by private companies.
You should check that your course is accredited either by SQA or by the Aromatherapy Council and meets the standards of the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Aromatherapy and Aromatherapy Core Curriculum. This will qualify you to register with the British Register of Complementary Practitioners (held by the Confederation of Healing Organisations), or the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Registration is voluntary, but useful when looking for employment or promoting your service to clients.
You should check that courses have enough work placements to give you the skills and experience you need to practise as an aromatherapist rather than just the theory.
Entry requirements vary – for some full time courses you need 2 Highers including a science subject. Knowledge of anatomy is useful.
You might find work in the National Health Service (NHS) or private healthcare but most aromatherapists are self-employed.
What Does it Take?
You should be:
able to work well with people from a wide range of backgrounds
well organised and able to keep clear records
understanding and sympathetic
tactful and reliable
able to apply varying pressure with your hands for massage.
You should have:
stamina, as it can be tiring work
in depth knowledge of the properties of a large number of essential oils
excellent communication skills, especially listening.
Once you have gained your qualification, training is on the job, with short courses to keep you up to date.
With experience you might be able to increase the size of your business.
You might train in more than one complementary therapy – many aromatherapists also qualify in reflexology, Indian head massage, shiatsu (Japanese massage therapy) or allergy testing.
You might combine your work with teaching, research or journalism.