By Dorene Petersen Chair Aromatherapy Registration Council
One of the most frequently asked questions I hear from ACHS students, graduates, and aroma enthusiasts is: How do I become a Registered Aromatherapist (RA)?
As you may already know, an RA is an aromatherapist who has successfully
demonstrated a core body of aromatherapy knowledge by passing the Aromatherapy Registration Council’s (ARC) Examination. The ARC RA Examination’s primary focus is the safe administration of essential oils and covers topics such as scientific principles, administration, and professional issues in aromatherapy. It is also available in Japanese and Korean as well as English.
Once you have successfully passed the ARC RA Examination, you are added to the online international database of ARC Registered Aromatherapists. The RA registration (which is valid for five years) confirms your high standard of aromatherapy education and demonstrates a commitment to the ethical, safe use and administration of essential oils when working with the public.
An additional perk: The ARC will also verify your registration status at the request of employers, government agencies, and anyone who needs to verify your professional qualifications.
But how do you become a Registered Aromatherapist (RA)?
Here are 10 essential steps to take to become a Registered Aromatherapist:
Step 1 – Ask Yourself: Am I Qualified to take the ARC Exam?
The first step before applying for any credential is to ask one simple question: Do I meet the qualifications?
All students, including international students, can sit for the ARC RA Examination if they:
- Complete a minimum of 200 hours in a Level II or III aromatherapy program that is in compliance with the current National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) AND Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) Educational Guidelines OR provide evidence of equivalent training (be sure you include your transcripts and/or syllabi in your application). If you are unsure that your school’s curriculum is covered in the “core body of knowledge,” download the ARC’s Candidate Handbook by clicking on the “ARC – Registration Examination in Aromatherapy link at: https://ptcny.com/test-sponsors/arc/
- Have a current membership in either NAHA or AIA.
- Agree to adhere to the full Disciplinary Policy.
- Agree to the online Candidate Consent Form.
- Complete and submit the online Application for ARC Registration Examination in Aromatherapy.
- Pay the required fees.
Step 2 – Check the Upcoming Application and Examination Dates
Next, you’ll want to ensure you’ve marked the upcoming Application Deadlines and Examination Window Dates on your calendar. The ARC has these dates listed on their website here: https://aromatherapycouncil.org/test-dates/
Step 3 – Download the Candidate Handbook
The Candidate Handbook is a must-have resource when preparing for the ARC Exam. As I mentioned above, you can download your copy from the Professional Testing Corporation’s (PTC) website by clicking on the “ARC – Registration Examination in Aromatherapy” link here: https://ptcny.com/test-sponsors/arc
The Candidate Handbook will help you understand the following:
- The ARC’s mission
- How to apply to take the Exam
- How the Exam is scored
- How you will receive your results
- The content of the Exam
- Instructions for a retake of the Exam
- How to schedule your Exam appointment
- Plus, it will give you examples of Exam questions!
Step 4 – Study and Prepare for the Exam
Once you’ve reviewed the Candidate Handbook, you’ll know what to expect on the Examination. You can also check out the recommended reading in the Candidate Handbook.
The ARC Examination is a computer-based examination comprising a maximum of 250 multiple-choice questions with a total testing time of four hours. Need some practice questions? Don’t forget to utilize the sample questions in the Candidate Handbook.
The content of the Exam will be weighted approximately based on the following topics:
I. Basic Concepts of Aromatherapy……………………. 20%
II. Scientific Principles……………………………………… 30%
III. Administration …………………………………………… 35%
IV. Professional Issues ……………………………………. 15%
As an educator, I know studying takes time and energy. Don’t forget to maintain your health and wellness while preparing for the Exam:
- Take a 10-minute break for every hour of study time.
- Reward yourself for a good study session.
- Diffuse your favorite invigorating essential oils in your study space (I love Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis (L.) and Bergamot Citrus aurantium (L.) var. bergamia).
- Maintain balanced, holistic nutrition.
- Drink plenty of water—hydration is good for the brain!
Step 5 – Complete Your Online Application and Pay Required Fees
To complete your online application you will need:
- The Candidate Handbook. (Be sure to fully follow the instructions outlined in the newest version of the Handbook.)
- The ARC Disciplinary Policy (You must agree to this policy on your application. It is also located in the Candidate Handbook.)
- Your valid ID
- Your diploma, certificate of completion, or transcripts and syllabi from your Level II or Level III aromatherapy program in PDF or JPG format to upload with your application.
- On the application, you can select your preferred language between English, Japanese, or Korean when you submit your online application. Note the proctored exam instructions and communications are in English only, and the Exam can be in Japanese or Korean.
Complete your application online at: https://ptcny.com/test-sponsors/arc/
The application fee for the exam is $370. You have a few options when paying your exam fee.
- Pay by check or money order: Make payable to PROFESSIONAL TESTING CORPORATION and follow the steps on the online application to select payment by check.
- Pay by card: Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are also accepted, and you can complete the Credit Card Payment section on the application.
DO NOT send cash—be sure to pay through one of the options listed above.
Step 6 – Schedule your Examination Appointment
Once you’ve submitted your application, PTC will contact you within 11 weeks before the testing period begins to send you a Scheduling Authorization.
The Scheduling Authorization will tell you how to schedule your examination appointment and remind you of the available exam dates. The ARC Examination is offered twice a year during established three-week testing periods, Monday through Saturday, excluding holidays.
Remember: Exam appointment times are first-come, first-served, so schedule your appointment as soon as you receive your Scheduling Authorization. This will increase your chances of being able to take the exam at your preferred location and time.
New in 2023, you can also schedule a remote proctored exam (note that instructions and communications with the remote proctor are only in English). Click here to find a testing center or schedule a remote proctored exam.
Once you’ve scheduled your appointment, Prometric will send you a confirmation email with the date, time, and location of your exam. Be sure to review this information carefully, and contact Prometric immediately if you notice any errors.
Step 7 – Sit for Your Exam
Now it’s time to take your exam!
Be sure to get plenty of sleep the night before, drink lots of water, eat a nutritious breakfast, and allow for adequate travel time, so you arrive at your examination center on time and ready to succeed! Don’t try to “study crunch” the night before. If you’ve taken the time to study in the weeks leading up to the exam, you’re already set up for success.
Remember to plan accordingly on the day of your exam: You are not permitted to take any paper, books, or Phones into the examination room. If you are in a testing center, somebody will check you in before entering the examination room at the beginning of your test and if you re-enter after taking a bathroom break.
If you are using a live remote proctor (LRP), find out in advance before you schedule your appointment if the computer you will use meets the requirements for LRP. On exam day, log on for the LRP appointment early to ensure the connection is ready ahead of the appointment. You will not be permitted to leave the room (even for a toilet break!) or have anyone (or pets) enter the room while taking the exam via remote proctoring.
Step 8 – Receive Your Exam Grades and Registry Notification
Once you have completed your exam, it will be sent to PTC for grading. You will need to correctly answer about 70% or more of the answers to pass the exam. The passing score is 72%.
Your score reports and registration packet will be emailed if you’ve passed the exam. PTC will prepare a Registration Certificate. This process can take four to six weeks. Be sure to check that all of your information is correct in the Registered Aromatherapist Registry. Once an RA has updated their information through ARC’s website https://aromatherapycouncil.org/updating-your-info/, PTC will update the Registry.
You can find the current Registered Aromatherapists (RA) listing here: https://aromatherapycouncil.org/find/
Remember, as a Registered Aromatherapist, you are responsible for ensuring your information on the Registry is accurate and up-to-date. If your information changes, you will find the form to submit updates here: http://www.ptcny.net/clients/ARC/RA/Member/DisplayRA.aspx
As I mentioned above, one perk of passing the Examination and becoming an RA is that the ARC will verify your registration status at the request of employers, government agencies, the public, or anyone with whom you wish to share your new credential.
The ARC will only release your RA status, the date your Registration was awarded, and any disciplinary actions taken by the ARC.
Step 9 – Utilize Your New RA Credential!
Now that you are a Registered Aromatherapist (RA), you can put your new credential into action.
As an RA, you can:
- Teach clients how to achieve and sustain good health daily by incorporating essential oils into their lives.
- Share other natural modalities to supplement their healthy lifestyle if you have the training.
- Empower clients to achieve improved health by addressing any imbalances caused by a lack of quality sleep, adequate pure water, exercise, fresh air, and relaxation.
- Help clients to evaluate their lifestyle choices to identify and change any potential causes of ill health and create a wellness plan.
But remember, unless you have previous qualifications and training, as a Registered Aromatherapist (RA) you are not a licensed physician. You must be vigilant and aware of the current legislation in your state on the practice of aromatherapy.
Here are a few basic things that an RA cannot do:
- Diagnose disease. An aromatherapist will always refer clients to their primary care physicians for a necessary diagnosis.
- Treat disease. An aromatherapist’s focus is on health and education, not on disease.
- Prescribe drugs or pharmaceuticals. Aromatherapists teach clients about essential oils.
- Perform invasive procedures. Depending on training and licensing, a natural health practitioner may use hands-on techniques, like reflexology.
- Practice unsafe administration techniques such as Raindrop Therapy, Raindrop Technique, or AromaTouch.
Step 10 – Maintain Your Credential with Continuing Education
Now that you have your RA credential, it’s important to meet the continuing education requirements. Here are a few things to remember to maintain eligibility as a Registered Aromatherapist (RA):
- Registration is recognized for a maximum period of five years.
- To maintain Registration, you must comply with the ARC Disciplinary Policy.
- You must also comply with other ARC standards, policies, and procedures.
- All RAs are responsible for maintaining continuing education records used for the Application.
Before your registration expires, review your options. There are two ways to reregister:
1) Meet the continuing education requirements (see the information below).
2) Reregister by taking and passing the then-current Registration Examination (the fee for this option is $370. This option is designed for any RA that has not accrued 100 hours of continuing education hours in five years. Make sure you have adequate time to schedule the exam.
What you need to know to Reregister using Continuing Education
Download your Reregistration Application here: https://www.ptcny.com/clients/ARC/#Reregistration%20Information
- Complete the renewal form.
- List all continuing education activities.
- Pay the $325 renewal fee.
To reregister with continuing education requirements, remember that:
- 100 contact hours are equal to 100 actual continuing education hours.
- Hours must be provided by any approved educational body or organization or by a NAHA- or AIA-approved school or educator.
- Training in AromaTouch, Raindrop Therapy, or Raindrop Technique is not eligible for CE’s as these are not approved as safe administration methods by ARC.
Here are some options for completing your continuing education requirements. All events must be related to aromatherapy:
- Professional development offerings
- Online or on-campus courses
- State or national conferences
- The preparation and presentation of a professional education topic relevant to aromatherapy
- An original article written by the candidate and published in a professional journal such as the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy (IJPHA)
Aromatherapists have taken the Registration Examination since its inception, and the number of Registered Aromatherapists (RA) continues to grow, even spreading across the globe. There are RAs in China, France, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea, and the United States.
There are tremendous benefits to becoming a Registered Aromatherapist (RA). This credential helps reinforce a standard of excellence in the profession of aromatherapy, and I am encouraged that more and more aromatherapists join the registry each year.
Do you have questions about the ARC or the Exam? Contact Dorene Petersen, Chair Aromatherapy Registration Council
*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. The FDA has not reviewed this article. Always consult your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making significant changes to your health and wellness routine.
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