How long does it really take to become a perfumer?

We are halfway through the Perfumersworld 5 day course here in London and the students are really getting stuck in creating their first fragrances.

One of the questions Steve asked everyone on their first day was:

“How long does it take to become a perfumer?”

Of course the answers from the group varied and I’d like to ask you the same question.

How long do you think it takes?


There are lots of people in the industry who call themselves perfumers who don’t make perfume and lots of people who do make perfume yet don’t dare call themselves a perfumer.

If you are in the commercial fragrance industry or have a background in it you will probably answer with at least 7 years. Most industry perfumers nowadays study for 2 years at perfumery school after completing a chemistry degree. They are then considered to be a student perfumer and must spend years as an assistant or junior under a master perfumer’s mentorship. 

Most would not call themselves a perfumer until they are given the job title by their company. I know that I feel really uncomfortable calling myself a perfumer yet many of my past students happily do so – why is this? I think for me it’s down to the indoctrination of the industry I came from. I was an evaluator not a perfumer and didn’t go through the official industry route. Its amazing how hung up we get on labels and the ‘correct’ way of things.

Steve said a really interesting thing at the beginning of the course. “It only takes a second to make the switch in your brain. To decide you are a perfumer”.

Some people never make that switch, waiting until they know everything to say “I’m a perfumer”.  If you wait until you know everything, you’ll never make that leap.

Of course saying “I’m a perfumer” doesn’t make you a good one, that takes lots of practice and dedication as well as talent. But please don’t get hung up on labels, and don’t listen to the industry ‘rule’. Rules are made to be broken 😉

My advice is do a course, read some books, get some mentorship and most of all start blending. 

Learning alone will not make you a perfumer – doing will.


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