As a rule, professional astrologers are an independent lot. That’s probably to be expected from those who practice in a field that has little official recognition – after all, no guidance counselor tells a high school student that they should become an astrologer.
And there’s this: astrology is not a monolithic discipline with only one accepted set of techniques and methods of interpretation. Like many other professions – psychology, for example – there are different schools of astrology, and each practitioner within each school will have their own perspective to a greater or lesser degree.
Yet the field of astrology is hardly in chaos. And, despite the many differences among astrologers and schools of astrology, there are standards that are generally recognized by most professionals.
There are a number of professional astrology associations, including the American Federation of Astrologers (AFA), the Association for Astrological Networking (AFAN), the International Society of Astrological Research (ISAR), the National Counsel for Geocosmic Research (NCGR), and the Organization for Professional Astrology (OPA). Certification programs for professional astrologers are offered by AFA, ISAR, NCGR and OPA.
Certification programs vary by organization, but typically include an education component and one or more certification exams. The required coursework may include learning how to cast a chart by hand (a real challenge in the age of computers), interpretation of birth charts and the ongoing changes to them (transits), and advanced techniques like rectification (determining birth time using life events). NCGR-Professional Astrologers Association (NCGR-PAA) requires that applicants for its highest level of certification as a consulting astrologer record a client consultation for an assigned client that is evaluated by two certified astrologers.
Although astrology is a diverse field and some astrologers hold tightly to a particular school of thought, most certification programs require a degree of knowledge in at least several of the major approaches.
How do the organizations handle the different – not to say competing – schools of astrology? Shirley Soffer, Education Director for NCGR-PAA says that the four levels of certification exams in that organization include questions on a variety of astrological traditions. But other perspectives are not part of the certification process because they “usually are specialties that are developed by experienced and practiced astrologers, whether post-certification or through an astrologer’s particular slant or predilection.”
While NCGR-PAA has four levels of examinations, other organizations take a different approach. ISAR’s certification requires one exam, but also has required courses that are given by the organization in addition to study that students do with their own teachers. ISAR has courses in both Consulting Skills Training and an Ethics Awareness Training Course, which applicants must pass before taking the association’s competency exam. AFA also has competency exams at two levels – student and professional. Each exam is an estimated eight hours in length. The organizations may offer courses or expect students to find a competent teacher on their own.
A Different Approach
OPA, the Organization for Professional Astrology, doesn’t focus on education of astrologers, as the other organizations do. Rather, OPA assumes that professional astrologers will already have the skills they need and are active and competent in the field. To be certified with OPA, astrologers need to be practicing for at least three years, have presented at an OPA retreat and at least three other conferences, and must participate in three peer group workshops.
The diverse certification requirements of these astrological organizations are complemented by schools such as Kepler College, the International Academy of Astrology, and a number of others. At present, a single, national or international certification remains elusive. However, not all astrologers are convinced that such a standard is possible or even desirable, and the complexities of the matter are often discussed within the field.
Prospective clients who are confronted by the vast number of people offering services as astrologers may find it useful to consider one who is certified by a major astrology organization or school as part of the search for competence and professionalism. As in any field, certification in astrology means that the professional has at least the minimum level of competence to practice, as judged by their peers.
Finding a certified astrologer doesn’t guarantee an excellent experience for the client. As the AFA website points out, clients “should look to the astrologer’s specialties to make sure that they will meet their needs.”