Employment Prospects


Most Chinese herbalists and naturopaths operate private practices. Some form or join partnerships with other alternative health care practitioners. Professionals and clinics in other areas of health care, such as chiropractors, osteopaths, and M.D.'s and D.O.'s, may employ herbalists as consultants. As Oriental medicine and naturopathy become more accepted, there are growing opportunities with universities and within government agencies for research into herbal medicine. 

Major employers of professional herbalists are dietary supplement manufacturers, health food retailers, pharmaceutical companies, and educational organizations. The largest concentration of manufacturers is in California. Other employers can be found throughout the country. Herbalists who work as consultants, wildcrafters, manufacturers, educators, and writers are usually self-employed.

Starting Out

Herbalists who study naturopathy and Chinese herbology frequently get help from their schools for initial placement. When starting out, some herbalists find jobs in clinics with doctors or chiropractors or in wellness centers. This gives them a chance to start practicing in a setting where they can work with and learn from others. Some begin working with more experienced practitioners and later go into private practice. Both Chinese herbalists and naturopaths frequently work in private practice.

When you start out as a Chinese herbal therapist or as a naturopath, one of the most important considerations is having the proper certification and licensing for your geographical area. This is essential because the requirements for the professions, for each state, and for the nation are changing so rapidly.

For other herbalists, there are no formal career pathways. Networking is a major way to make the connections that lead to jobs. You can get to know people in the herbal community through the Internet, by joining associations, and by attending meetings.

For a career in retailing, identify health food stores and other retailers that offer herbal products, and talk to the store manager. If you are interested in the manufacturing and distribution areas, attend trade shows and send your resume to manufacturers. As in many other fields, finding a mentor can be extremely helpful.

Advancement Prospects

Most naturopaths and Chinese herbalists work in private or group practice, so advancement frequently depends on their dedication to building up a client base. As an herbalist in private practice, you will need a general sense of how to run a successful business. You will need to promote your practice within the community and develop a network of contacts with conventional medical doctors or other alternative practitioners who may refer clients to you.

Other herbalists advance by increasing their knowledge of the part of the industry in which they work. An individual who works in retail could become the manager of the department or store. An herb grower or wildcrafter might employ others and expand the business. Those in manufacturing and distribution may have opportunities for foreign travel. Some advance by starting their own businesses. 

Herbalists who become distinguished in their fields can become self-employed and consult, write, or teach. With the growing government interest in research into natural health care, more naturopathic physicians and Chinese herbalists will find opportunities for advancement as researchers.

Tips for Entry

Visit local health food stores or Chinese herb shops and talk to the people who run them to learn more about this field.

Join a horticultural society and participate in its meetings and events.

Search the Internet for organizations that offer classes in herbalism and sign up for the ones that most interest you.

Visit http://www.ahpa.org/Resources/JobBoard.aspx for job listings.