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What Education Is Required to Become a Nutritionist?

Nutritionists devise healthy eating plans to prevent or improve disease or illness. If you enjoy working with and helping people eat better, this career may be right for you. Read on to learn the steps you need to take to become a nutritionist.

An Overview of Nutritionists

Nutritionists are health and food science professionals who are trained in dietary balance and healthy eating. As a nutritionist, you work with individuals, families or institutions to make recommendations or modifications to diets or menus, either for overall health or due to specific illnesses or diseases. For instance, you might work with a diabetic individual to develop a food plan and help manage blood sugar levels. When creating menus, you'll take a person's food preferences and budget into account. You might also speak to groups of people and educate them on proper nutrition.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2018) $60,370 (for dietitians and nutritionists)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% (for dietitians and nutritionists)*
Entry-level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Environment Hospitals, schools, cafeterias

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required to work in this profession. Enrolling in a degree program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics will provide a comprehensive curriculum and prepare you to become credentialed. During a nutrition science or dietetics program, you might encounter coursework that covers human physiology and anatomy, nutritional assessment, food functions, supplements, nutrition therapy and counseling.

In addition to completing core coursework, degree programs require the completion of an internship or supervised work experience. The number of hours required for your practical experience can vary depending on the degree program and state mandates.

Licensure Overview

Most states require licensure, registration or certification and the requirements to earn these credentials vary. The most basic requirements include completing an approved degree program and supervised practice, as well as taking and passing an exam. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) oversees the Registration Examination for Dietitians, which leads to the registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential. You need to have earned a bachelor's degree and completed an internship to sit for the exam. The exam consists of five parts and covers topics in foodservice systems, nutrition care and counseling and communication.

Another option is to earn the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential, which is granted by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists. To be eligible to test for this certification, you need to have a master's or doctoral degree and at least 1,000 hours of experience. Depending on your state, earning registration or certification may fulfill licensure requirements. Renewal of your credentials commonly requires the completion of continuing education coursework.