Where to train as a perfumer

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From specialised schools and university courses to in-house schools at composition houses, there are several paths open to anyone who wants to make perfumery their profession. The choices are often complementary, sometimes expensive, almost always very selective. We examine the different courses that can lead to a career in perfumery.

ISIPCA (Institut supérieur international du parfum, de la cosmétique et de l’aromatique alimentaire)

Founded in 1970 on the initiative of Jean-Jacques Guerlain, ISIP’s initial objective was to “train the employees that the industry was hoping for”.

In 1984, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Versailles-Val-d’Oise-Yvelines took over the school and it became ISIPCA. Then in 1993, the University of Versailles became a partner, making it possible to offer state-recognised diplomas. The ISIPCA Group now offers sixteen courses in the scientific and technical fields as well as in sales and marketing.

  • MSc Creation and Development of Perfumes, Cosmetics and Flavours

This Master of Science, which is a two- or three-year sandwich course, includes a perfumery option focusing on learning about formulation.

Location: Versailles
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +2 or 3 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: candidates must have obtained a scientific professional certification recognised at level 5 (Baccalauréat +2 years’ higher education) or completed a refresher course in sciences for non-scientists and students with a Brevet de Technicien Superieur (vocational training certificate), Diplôme Universitaire Technologique (undergraduate technical diploma) or two full years at university studying sciences and technologies. Candidates who have obtained a scientific professional certification recognised at level 6 (Baccalauréat +3 years’ higher education), a vocational or bachelor’s degree in science can join in the second year. Significant professional experience in the chosen option is required.
Admission process: examination of candidate’s application followed by test and interview
Course duration: 3 years or 2 years 
Language: French
Work-study: yes for the second and third years
Diploma obtained: level 1 professional certification 
Cost: 8,200 euros for the first year; the company where the work-study programme is carried out covers the costs for the second and third years

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  • European Fragrance and Cosmetics Master 

In partnership with UVSQ Université Paris-Saclay and the University of Padua, this programme is dedicated to both perfumery and cosmetics. Delivered in English, the courses aim to train students in evaluation, formulation, marketing, and management.

Location: Versailles for the first year, Padua in Italy for the second
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +3 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission:  candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, pharmacy or an equivalent scientific degree recognised by the Universities of Versailles and Padua, and be fluent in English (a minimum level of 80 in TOEFL iBT is required for candidates whose native language is not English).
Admission process: examination of the candidate’s application then face-to-face interview
Course duration: 2 years
Language: English 
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Cost: 21,200 euros for two years

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  • MSc Scent Design and Creation 

The programme of this English-language course, created in 2016 and fruit of a partnership with IFF, teaches the 800 raw materials and key accords in fine and functional perfumery as well as providing courses in chemistry, the history of perfume, marketing and an internship at IFF.

Location: Versailles
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +2 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in a scientific field (chemistry, biology, biochemistry, botany, pharmacy, etc.) and be fluent in English (a minimum level of 6.5 in IELTS, 85 in TOEFL iBT or 850 in TOEIC is required for candidates whose native language is not English)
Admission process: examination of candidate’s application followed by tests and interviews
Course duration: 3 years
Language: English
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: 15-20 students
Cost: 10,250 euros per year

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ESP (École supérieure du parfum)

Created in 2011, the school offers three training programmes in Paris and Grasse with the aim of “enabling young professionals to master the creative process while learning about production, quality, marketing and sales constraints.”

  • Creation et Management

Accessible at Baccalauréat level, the course teaches students about raw materials and formulation, but also provides training in chemistry, English, art history and marketing and several internships.

Location: Paris 

Entry requirements: Baccalauréat for entry into the first year and Baccalauréat +2 or 3 years’ higher education for
entry into the second or third year
Conditions of admission: candidates must have a Baccalauréat in general and technological subjects for entry into the first year, and have completed two or three full years at university studying chemistry, biology, pharmacy or medicine for entry into the second or third year
Admission process: examination of candidate’s application followed by test and interview
Course duration: 5 years
Language: French
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: 40 students
Cost: 8,600 euros per year for the first two years, 8,700 euros for the third and fourth years, 3,500 euros for the fifth year

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  • Development and marketing of plants, perfumes and flavours

The Grasse branch of the ESP, created in 2018, offers a training course that focuses on perfumery raw materials, with International Business and Aromatherapy/Phytotherapy options.

Location: Grasse 
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat for first year entry, Baccalauréat +2 or 3 years’ higher education for second- or third-year entry
Conditions of admission: candidates must have a Baccalaureate in general and technological subjects for entry into the first year, and have completed two or three full years at university studying chemistry, biology, pharmacy or medicine for entry into the second or third year
Admission process: examination of the candidate’s application followed by tests and interview
Course duration: 5 years
Language: French
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: about 20 students
Cost: 7,900 euros per year for the first two years, 8,050 for the third and fourth years, 3,500 for the fifth

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  • Master’s degree in Chemistry and Life Sciences – Formulation, Sensory Evaluation and Analysis of the Perfumery, Cosmetic and Food Aromatics Industries

This scientific and professional master’s degree in partnership with UVSQ Université Paris-Saclay is a two-year sandwich course in the cosmetics, perfume or food flavouring industry. The ESP provides all the professional teaching, while UVSQ provides the scientific teaching.

Location: Paris and Versailles
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +3 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: candidates must have obtained 180 ECTS credits as part of a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, physics-chemistry or a course recognised as equivalent
Admission process: tests then interview 
Course duration: 2 years
Language: French
Work-study: yes 
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: 22 students maximum for each of the options (perfumery, cosmetics, food flavours)
Cost: covered by the company

More info

Université Nice Côte d’Azur

This group of educational establishments is home to the main players in higher education and research on the Côte d’Azur and offers three master’s degrees.

  • MSc Management of the flavour and fragrance industry

This master’s degree in English offers a specialisation in flavour and fragrance chemistry through an interdisciplinary programme that combines flavour and fragrance science, management and marketing.

Location: Grasse
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +3 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: candidates must have completed 180 ECTS credits in law, marketing or science. Candidates with at least five years of professional experience in the field can also apply. As all courses are taught in English, an excellent level of English is required.
Admission process: examination of the candidate’s application followed by tests and interview
Course duration: 2 years
Language: English
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: about 20 students 
Cost: 4,000 euros per year

More info

  • Master’s in Formulation, Analysis, Quality

Created in 1997, this master’s degree offers students training in the fields of analytical chemistry, quality, regulatory affairs and formulation.

Location: Nice and Grasse
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +4 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: candidates must have completed the first year/both years of a master’s degree in chemistry, physics/chemistry, chemistry/physics or biochemistry. Also admitted are students who are chemical engineers, pharmacists or have a research master’s or Diplôme d’Études Approfondies (advanced studies diploma) in chemistry
Admission process: examination of the candidate’s application then interview
Course duration: 1 year
Language: French
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: about 20 students
Costs: covered by the company

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Université de Montpellier

This multidisciplinary university offers a specialised chemistry course in the flavour and fragrance sector in its science faculty.

  • ICAP Master’s in Flavours and Fragrances

This master’s degree in chemistry aims to provide students with skills in extraction, evaluation, and formulation of natural or synthetic raw materials, as well as teaching them about regulations.

Location: Montpellier
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +3 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: candidates must have a degree in chemistry or biology/chemistry or an equivalent European diploma
Admission process: examination of the candidate’s application
Course duration: 2 years
Language: French
Work-study: possible 
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: twenty students
Cost: 335 euros per year with the possibility of a scholarship

More info

Université du Havre

Created in 1984, the University of Le Havre Normandie has been offering a master’s degree in flavours, perfumes, and cosmetics for the past thirty years at its science and technology faculty.

  • ARPAC Master’s in Chemistry

This master’s degree combines theoretical, experimental, and methodological approaches to provide students with a solid training in chemical, physicochemical and sensory analysis of flavoured, perfumed, and cosmetic products.

Location: Le Havre
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +3 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a major in organic, analytical and macromolecular chemistry
Admission process: examination of the candidate’s application
Course duration: 2 years
Language: French
Work-study: no 
Diploma obtained: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Capacity: 30 students
Cost: 335 euros per year with the possibility of a grant

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GIP (Grasse Institute of Perfumery)

Founded in 2002 in Grasse by PRODAROM (national union of aromatic product producers), this internationally focused school offers courses taught in English by industry professionals. 

  • International technical degree in fragrance creation and sensory evaluation

The two-year programme dedicated to the evaluation and creation of fragrances is unique in that no previous training in chemistry is required.

Location: Grasse
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat +5 years’ higher education
Conditions of admission: 5 years of higher education, preferably in a scientific discipline, proficiency in English
Admission process:  examination of candidate’s application followed by tests and interviews
Course duration: 12 months + 6-months internship
Language: English
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: professional qualification recognised by Prodarom
Capacity: twelve students
Cost: 12,900 euros

More info

  • Technical assistant in Fragrance, Flavours and Cosmetics

This 6-month programme trains future perfume assistants in chemistry, analytical techniques, perfumery, cosmetics, food flavours and extraction techniques.

Location: Grasse
Entry requirements: Baccalauréat
Conditions of admission: Proficiency in English
Admission process: examination of candidate’s application followed by tests and interview
Course duration: 6 months 
Language: English
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: state-recognised RNCP certificate 
Capacity: twelve students
Cost: 7,500 euros

More info

Cinquième Sens 

Created in 1976 by Monique Schlienger, a perfumer at Robertet, Cinquième Sens is an independent creation house. In 1983, it became an approved training centre open to perfumery professionals as well as individuals with a passion for perfumes.

  • Perfume formulation

The training programme includes mastering the formulation of the different olfactory families, learning how to reproduce a perfume, and developing creativity.

Location: Paris
Entry requirements: no specific qualifications required
Conditions of admission: candidates must be proficient in French and have previously taken the Raw Materials and Laboratory & Quality Control Initiation courses
Admission process: open enrolment
Course duration: 126 hours
Language: French
Work-study: no
Diploma obtained: does not lead to a qualification
Cost: 8,280 euros excluding VAT

More info

  • Olfactive expert

This training course aims to help students develop their technical and olfactory knowledge of raw materials and learn how to evaluate an olfactory creation and coordinate the development process of a brand.

Location: Paris
Entry requirements: no specific qualifications required
Conditions of admission: Proficient in French
Admission process: open enrolment
Course duration: 203 hours
Language: French
Work-study: no 
Diploma obtained: does not lead to a qualification
Cost: from 11,020 euros excluding VAT

More info

In-house schools at composition houses

Some composition companies have their own in-house schools, where they take on a few students per year for free in exchange for an exclusive contract of several years in their teams. Candidates are selected after tests and interviews. Students with a background in chemistry and who have already studied at a perfumery school are favoured, but the olfactory sense and creativity of the candidates can have an impact. 

Created in 1946, the Givaudan perfumery school in Argenteuil, a suburb of Paris, teaches an average of three students per year for a period of four years. Since 2015, a branch of the school also teaches two students in Singapore. 

Symrise trains five to six students per year. The five-year course takes place in Holzminden, Germany for the first three years, and then continues at one of the Symrise design centres around the world for the next two years.

Mane trains its perfume students for at least two years, like Robertet, which selects three candidates per year.

Other composition houses, such as Firmenich, may offer training to young perfumers on a contract basis, without having a school as such.

And abroad?

It is possible to take various courses and modules at the Institute of Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles to learn formulation.

In the US, many independent perfumers teach creative courses, such as Mandy Aftel and Ayala Moriel

The Japan Flavour and Fragrance School offers a three-year perfumer/flavourist course.

Based in the UK, The Perfumery Art School offers aspiring perfumers the opportunity to take online courses (300 hours) to obtain a Certificate in Perfumery Art.

Cinquième Sens has partners offering training in 14 countries (Australia, Brazil, Columbia, South Korea, Dubai, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, China, Switzerland and the United States)

And you, what course have you followed to become a perfumer? Or what training course would you choose if you wanted to become a perfumer?

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