How Can I Become a Natural Health Dietitian?

Read on to learn more about the job duties of natural health dietitians, and find out what kind of education this career requires. Learn details about internships, licensure and continuing education as well as relevant salary data. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Natural Health Dietitian?

Natural health dietitians help clients maintain or improve their health by creating nutrition plans for them to follow. They may work for individuals or groups. First, they evaluate the client's needs, which can include nutritional goals like weight loss, optimal sports performance or management of a disease or chronic condition, like celiac disease or lactose intolerance. Dietitians may also take budget into account. Based on the client's requirements, they develop meal plans, which can include both real food and supplementation. They may also counsel their clients about food-related lifestyle habits, like meal-scheduling and exercise.

The following chart describes career expectations for these dietitians.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Dietetics, nutrition, food service management or a similar field
Licensure Required Licensure or certification usually required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% (for all dietitians and nutritionists)*
Median Salary (2015) $57,910 (for all dietitians and nutritionists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is a Natural Health Dietitian?

A natural health dietitian is a specialist in the field of food and nutrition who helps patients to achieve optimal health through proper diet planning and preparation. You will generally work in medical settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, doctor's offices, wellness centers and outpatient facilities; however, you may also consider opening up your own practice. You will need to complete a minimum of bachelor's degree in the field of diet and nutrition for this career, which will also prepare you for the licensure, certification or registration that may be required in your state.

What Types of Programs are Available?

To become a natural health dietitian, you generally need to earn a bachelor's degree in dietetics, nutrition, food service management or a similar field. You may consider a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) and offers dietitian specific coursework (www.eatright.org). Bachelor's degree programs, such as the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Nutrition or B.S. in Dietetics, often include a mix of science courses like physiology, anatomy and biochemistry along with more general studies in business, sociology and communication.

Will I Need to Complete an Internship?

If you choose to pursue the title of Registered Dietitian (RD), after earning a bachelor's degree you will need to complete a supervised internship; however, an internship can also help gain experience for any dietitian career. As an intern, you will apply the knowledge gained in coursework from your bachelor's program. The internship generally lasts a semester and can take place at a hospital, nursing home or public agency, giving you the opportunity to interact directly with patients, as well as refine communication and client interaction skills while putting scientific principles into practice.

How Can I Gain Licensure?

The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) offers a national exam for prospective RDs who have completed an approved internship (www.cdrnet.org). If you choose not to become registered, you will need to consult state regulations to determine what credentials are required to practice in your state. Though each state has its own rules regarding certification, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated that as of 2015, most states required some type of licensure, certification or registration (www.bls.gov).

What Are My Continuing Education Options?

You may choose to earn a graduate certificate, master's degree or doctorate for an advanced dietitian career, such as director or self-employment. You have a number of program options for advanced dietitian studies, including Master of Science in Nutrition in Dietetics and Doctor of Philosophy in Nutrition and Health Sciences. You may also consider a specialization, such as holistic nutrition, where you can refine your focus and learn to use diet, supplementation and lifestyle changes to affect individual biochemistry and improve patient health.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of becoming a dietitian, you could pursue another position in the healthcare industry, such as a job as a registered nurse (RN). Nurses work alongside doctors and other health professionals to help diagnose and treat wide variety of diseases, injuries and conditions. They may also offer counseling on recovery and preventive health strategies, which can include general dietary advice. To become an RN, you need to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program and pass a licensure exam. Another health support option is a career as a community health worker. These professionals offer informal counseling on many issues, including diet and lifestyle, and they help connect community members to the medical resources they need. Community health workers need at least a high school diploma.

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