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How Can I Become a Certified Nutritionist?

Research what it takes to become a certified nutritionist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average salary and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Certified Nutritionist?

Nutritionists educate clients about nutrition and create customized diets and food plans. In most states, these professionals need to be certified, which usually involves completing a bachelor's degree in a food-related field, getting a certain number of hours of supervised training experience and passing a licensure exam. Practicing nutritionists can work with either individuals or groups to design meal plans that can help them maintain their health or meet specific diet-related goals, like weight loss, disease management or sports performance. Some also conduct nutrition-related research in order to advance knowledge in the field. The following table gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree; Master's degree recommended
Education Field of Study Nutrition, dietetics
Job Responsibilities Educate individual and group clients on proper nutrition; create tailored dietary plans for individuals with certain food restrictions
Certification Some states require licensure through state health board; voluntary certification is available through the American Dietetics Association
Career Outlook (2018-2028) 11% (for all dieticians and nutritionists)*
Average Salary (2018) $61,210 (for all dieticians and nutritionists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Certified Nutritionist?

As a nutritionist or dietician, you would use your knowledge of how the body interacts with different foods to educate clients and prepare dietary regimes in order to promote health and well-being. Your specific duties may vary depending on where you work. For example, you could inform clients of the general ways in which diet affects health, or you could work with patients who have certain dietary restrictions resulting from conditions such as diabetes and obesity. You could work in a hospital or nursing home to help patients get the nutrients their bodies need, or you could provide personal consultations in your own private practice. You might also find work in a number of other industries such as government and education.

What Education Do I Need?

To become a nutritionist or dietician, you need at least a bachelor's degree. The Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) of the American Dietetics Association (ADA) accredits bachelor's and master's degree programs in nutrition and dietetics that prepare you to take the ADA's registration examinations (www.eatright.org). In a 4-year bachelor's degree program, you may study anatomy, physiology, biology and chemistry in order to gain a firm understanding of the biological processes that govern human bodies. You will likely also take courses like English, management and social sciences to improve your communication skills. Courses in food and nutrition may include labs where you would analyze the biological impact of certain diets on disease and wellness.

How Do I Become Certified?

Though requirements vary by state, some dieticians and nutritionists may need to seek licensure, so be sure to check with your state's health board for specific rules and regulations via the ADA's Commission on Dietetic Registration (www.cdrnet.org). The ADA offers a voluntary certification -, the Registered Dietician credential. You are eligible to take the certification examination after you have completed a bachelor's degree program and a CADE-accredited nutrition practice program. The practice programs are included in the Coordinated Programs in Dietetics, but not in the Didiactic Programs, as defined by the CADE.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A related career option is a job as a community health educator. These professionals can work in public health departments or nonprofit organizations, where they advise community members about wellness and help connect them to medical resources. Health educators usually need to have a bachelor's degree. Another career where you could support people's health is nursing. Registered nurses (RNs) work closely with doctors and other medical professionals to diagnose and treat patients. They may also counsel patients about recovery and preventive health strategies, which can include dietary advice. To become an RN, you need to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree and pass a licensure exam.