What Qualifications Do I Need to Be a Nutritionist?

In order to become a nutritionist, candidates must obtain a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics or a comparable area. As noted on Allalliedhealthschools.com, nutritionists are sometimes referred to as dietitians, however; registered dietitians are required to undergo more education and training than nutritionists. To ensure that all criteria for becoming a nutritionist is met, enrol in a school that offers programs accredited by the American Dietetic Association or ADA.

Classes & Prerequisites

The curriculum for students pursuing a degree in nutrition includes the following: anatomy, biology, biochemistry, business, chemistry, computer science, dietetics, health, food management systems, physiology, psychology, statistics and sociology. Once the education requirements are completed, students may have to complete a certain amount of hours at different facilities, as part of their training. This is known as an internship or supervised practice.

Credentials

To work as a nutritionist, individuals need to meet the specific certification, licensures or registration requirements that are dictated by the state they intend to practice in. Because these requirements can differ, it's important to know the particular qualifications for the state you intend on working in. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are 46 states and jurisdictions with laws governing dietetics. Out of those, 33 require licensure, 12 require statutory certification, and 1 requires registration. You must be licensed to work or practice nutrition under the conditions in any of the 33 states, as indicated above. In the 12 states where statutory (legal) certification is needed, those without certification may still be employed as a nutritionist; however, their use of occupational titles is limited. According to bls.gov, "Registration is the least restrictive form of state regulation of dietitians and nutritionists. Unregistered people are permitted to practice as a dietitian or nutritionist."

Advanced Degrees & Certification

Those that meet the criteria and hold an advanced degree from an accredited institution (master's and doctorate) in nutrition or a like field are permitted to take the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) exam. The exam is overseen by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS) and those who pass gain the occupational title of Certified Nutrition Specialist. This prestigious title leads to increased earning potential and occupational advancement. In order to keep the certification valid, CBNS requires all Certified Nutrition Specialists to complete an average of 15 continuing nutrition education credits (CNE) per year, or 75 credits per five-year recertification period.

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About the Author

Serena Spinello holds two master’s degrees and is pursuing her Ph.D. in medical science. She has been a professional writer and researcher for over 10 years and is an active member of the American Medical Writers Association, Academy of Medical Educators, and the National Association of Social Workers.

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