Becoming a certified tarot reader: Do credentials really matter?

MeSo you want to learn tarot – great! Personally, I think everyone can benefit from learning how to work with the cards, or from exploring other divinatory systems. It all leads to deeper self-awareness and unexpected awakenings.

As an aspiring reader, you might be wondering if taking a tarot workshop or course will be a good investment.

There are a lot of options out there to help you learn. But like anything, it’s smart to know who’s teaching the class, and what they’re promising you’ll get from it.

There is no one, true governing body for the tarot world. Unlike academic institutions that can create standards and processes, tarot is different. This is work that has been handed down through the centuries. It’s intuitive, personal, spiritual, esoteric, and highly subjective.

To get “certified” as a tarot reader really means you have completed a certain tarot program to the instructor’s satisfaction. While a class curriculum might promise to bring you through certain lessons, the real work begins after class is over.

Why am I mentioning this? Recently, I saw that a local venue was offering a free (yes, free) tarot certification course for five weeks. The topics included marketing yourself as a reader, and charging for readings.

Hold up, I thought. Tarot can take some people years to learn – are you telling me that in five weeks, students can go from newbie to pro?

#sorrynotsorry to say it, but: I don’t think so.

(Also: While free might sound like a bargain, I can’t help but wonder about the quality and energy behind it. If an instructor isn’t feeling they are getting a fair exchange, they might not put the same effort into a class as they would for paying customers. So yes, you do get what you pay for, though I don’t think tarot classes should break the bank, either.)

Here’s what you might want to keep in mind if you are looking to take a tarot class.

1. Certification doesn’t make you a good tarot reader

Certification overall is a bit of a controversial subject in the tarot world, again because there is no one true way to do it. There are many styles, techniques, and approaches out there. Personally, I’m not a big believer in institutions as it is. I think real learning comes from experience. Education can give you a foundation, but eventually, you have to put your own energy into it.

It’s like any other path. A lot of people become certified personal trainers, yoga instructors, reiki healers, but the piece of paper doesn’t automatically make them good at those things. Even people who spend years training to be doctors and lawyers don’t necessarily cut it in the real world.

I don’t think certification is bad – I just think it’s important to remember that it’s not the be-all-end-all. A lot of great tarot readers – and a lot of well-known readers – are not certified.

In tarot, the work speaks for itself.   

2. Clients don’t really care

Everyone learns tarot in their own way. For me, my path has been a blend of self-study, classes, and old fashioned practice.

Since I went the professional route, I noticed that clients aren’t really interested in who I studied with, or what tarot books I’ve read. Most people who come for readings aren’t necessarily concerned with who’s who in the tarot industry anyway, so naming names doesn’t mean much.

I bet no one will ask if you’re certified, but they might ask how long you’ve been reading for. That’s a big one. So when I see offerings for short-term certification classes that promise to build your business skills as a reader, a red flag goes up. Do you really want to tell someone that you just learned tarot a few months ago?

There is no rule for how long you should wait before you go pro. That has to be up to you. But I would caution you to take your time with this work. It’s a process. There is a lot to learn, and charging for readings creates a whole other level of trust and integrity that must be in place.

Clients will want to know that you have a good track record. Experience and dedication come before certification.

If you do want to read professionally and rush into it too soon, you risk blowing your credibility altogether.

3. Tarot is always changing

Get to know the history of tarot (which all readers should do) and you’ll see that tarot, which started as a card game in Italy in the 1400s, been rediscovered, reinterpreted, and re-corrected time and time again

little-red-tarot-3

The Jean Noblet Tarot de Marseille (circa 1650) is an early example of what tarot cards looked like before the Rider-Waite-Smith style came along.

Tarot as we know it today is actually quite young. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck, which formed the foundation for contemporary tarot, was released in 1909. Throughout these periods, occultists speculated on and invented different origin stories for tarot. They also created correspondences to astrology, Kabbalah, and more.

Because tarot has evolved through various interpretations throughout centuries, and because the occult world forced certain meanings onto the cards, there is a certain fluidity to it that makes this system hard to put into a box. Today, we are seeing a resurgence in tarot with many traditional images being reinvented or removed altogether in favour of more artistic, inclusive approaches.

If you are seeking a mentor, or want to sign up for a certification program, make sure that the teacher or school at least offers a style and approach that resonates with you. Take your time in checking it out first. If you end up with a mentor who insists that their way is the only way, you might want to take your business elsewhere.

4. The real learning begins once class is over

The truth is, tarot isn’t something you can master in a matter of weeks, or months even. It’s an ongoing practice that deepens in time. Your confidence with it grows year after year. The more you use it, and the more you push yourself to get better, the stronger your skills.

This might not be what an aspiring reader wants to hear, but it’s true.

Nearly a decade into my own tarot practice, I still take new classes, read books about tarot, listen to podcasts, and meet with friends and peers to talk about our work with the cards. You have to stay humble with tarot, and the best way to improve as a reader is to give practice readings.

Be willing to be wrong, and stay humble throughout the process.

5. Know your intentions  

I know there’s a lot of pressure out there to figure out a career path, to build a business yesterday, and to find your “true calling.”

If you go into spiritual or intuitive work with the goal of making money from it, it can force the process. I’m not saying money is a bad intention – we need it, that’s for sure, and why not make it doing something you love? Even if you have good intentions of reading tarot as a way to help people, it’s still not a path that you can fast track your way through.

Personally, my journey to reading professionally was very organic. I learned tarot because I wanted to. I did it for myself. It was years before I even thought of it as a professional path, and even when the thought first crossed my mind, I wait another year before I acted on it.

Not all journeys will be so slow, but I think patience is a big part of it. This work requires a tremendous level of responsibility, and that’s not something you can be certified in.

Sure, classes might teach you about the ethics of reading professionally, and you might learn some business basics. But sitting with someone face to face, having someone put their trust and faith in what you are doing, and offering counsel in times of distress are things that come with time, experience, and perspective.

Reading tarot is real work, and it’s not always easy.

Remember:  

There isn’t one way to learn tarot. Overall, I think it’s important to keep in mind that taking a class isn’t going to turn you into a tarot pro overnight – no matter what the instructor is promising.going-beyond-liz-worth

But I do think courses and workshops add a lot of depth to your knowledge and help your confidence grow. Just keep in mind that if a course sounds too good to be true, it probably is – and at the end of the day, you’re the one who actually has to show up and put the work in.

Don’t go chasing after certification if you think it’s going to be a make-or-break for your tarot journey. Find a teacher you like, a good book or two, and get some friends you can practice with.

And: If you think I might be the teacher for you, you might like my book, Going Beyond the Little White Book: A Contemporary Guide to Tarot.

Until next time,

Liz xo

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