Q: I want to become a perfumer but have no idea what it is about. Can you please guide me?

Perfumers are the scientists, artists even, behind incredible smells. They are the experts who create perfume blends, trained professionals focusing on the concepts of fragrance aesthetics, using their uniquely fine-tuned olfactory senses to create mood around scent compositions.

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Being a perfumer does not come easy as it immediately requires that you have a sensitive sense of smell. Building upon this, perfumers need to have a large knowledge of the many varieties of fragrance ingredients, their unique smell, and be able to tell blends apart from individual ingredients (by smell). Traditionally, perfumers did not require any standard training and instead, would apprentice with professional perfumers. However, the first official school of perfumery opened in 1970 and today, perfumers undergo an intensive curriculum, including courses in organic chemistry.

In 1970 the Institut Superieur International du Parfum (ISIPCA), became the first official school specialising in the art of perfumery. To gain admittance, students would have to pass an entrance exam and must have completed university-level organic chemistry courses.

Perfumer World, founded in 1998, is another major school of perfumery, offering courses on not only crafting fragrances, but also the business and marketing of the perfume industry. This school offers courses through existing colleges located in the US, UK, Dubai, Hong Kong, Germany, New Zealand and Thailand. 

Later, in 2002, the Grasse Institute of Perfumery was born. Attendees are required to have a background in chemistry or pharmacy. Some perfume companies also offer their own schools of perfumery, but they more often than not require that students are already employed with the company.

After completion of a degree in chemistry, perfumers would spend about two years in a perfumery school, learning about this specialisation, then spend years as an assistant, an apprentice, studying under a professional before they are given the opportunity to shine independently. 

There are only about 1,000 official perfumers worldwide. This allows the opportunity for higher salaries. Entry-level positions may begin on the lower end of the spectrum, around $35k per year, but those who have been in the game for a longer time and have a resume that includes the creation of some popular fragrances can earn six-figure salaries.

Sanjeev Verma is an international education counsellor (sanjeev@intelligentpartners.com, www.intelligentpartners.com). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com.