How to become a Certified Nutritionist

how to become a nutritionist

Becoming a nutritionist provides various exciting career options to explore.

How to become a Certified Nutritionist

If you have interest in food, health, and fitness and are excited about helping others to be healthy and fit eating the right food, then you can look at becoming a nutritionist.

This post shows you the steps you can take to become a certified nutritionist, including the needed training, courses, and certification you need to complete to be qualified to practice.

It also shows you the duties and responsibilities of a nutritionist you should expect to perform when you start work as one.

You will learn a great deal about the various nutritionist careers so you can properly prepare for any of them.

Read on…

Who is a Nutritionist?

Nutritionists are food and nutrition professionals who help patients to select the most appropriate foods for positive health results, and also render advice on the hazard of some poor nutritious foods.

In the process of examining a patient’s dietary habits and needs, they help the patient know and understand healthy eating habits, follow up on them and write down progress of the process.

In the meantime, nutritionist certification requires completing and passing specified course programs and exams.

There is a big advantage of becoming certified in your nutritionist career pursuit, regarding the fact that a certified nutritionist gains more job opportunities than a non-certified one.

Nutritionist Educational Requirements and Career Pathway

To become a certified nutritionist, you need to meet the educational requirements according to your area of study and interest.

Whether you like to pursue an associate degree to easily get started or move higher for a doctorate degree, you must consider the importance of attending a degree program, what it entails and the need for completion.

The completion of any degree program is to pass the program exam, and then you can think further about certification.

Associate Degree Nutritionist Program

The Associate of Science degree in nutrition brings the students to the basic training for initial preparation.

This move gives the students the initial preparation of working in the field of nutrition as dietetic technicians with a dietician or registered nutritionist supervising.

Students in associate degree program are expected to excel in mathematics, writing, and public speaking.

Nutrition courses include cultural foods, community nutrition, sports nutrition, sustainable food systems, herbal sciences, and weight management theory.

It typically takes two years to complete an associate degree program, which has the possibility of providing on-the-job training.

Courses offered under an associate degree program include:

  • Normal Nutrition: This gives the students the overview of nutritional work experience and the basic principles of nutritional science, bringing their knowledge to conducting food lab experiments, understanding essential nutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and completing nutrient analysis.
  • Modified Diets: This course elaborates on the relationship between nutrients and body functions, giving the students the ability to understand the effect of diet on medical conditions, the dietary recommendations to meet certain needs of patients suffering from various illnesses, and suggesting dietary modifications based on a patient’s health history.
  • Nutrition and Fitness: This course emphasizes on diet, vigor and physical performance. The students are taught how to determine someone’s body fat composition, identify different dietary supplements, and understand the diets needed for exercising.
  • Foods for Healthy Lifestyle: The Foods for Healthy Lifestyle course describes different ways that eating habits can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. The students are taught how to prepare healthy foods and understand the health benefits of various nutrients.

Bachelor’s Degree Nutritionist Program

The nutritionist bachelor’s degree is a course that requires a space of four years to complete, being a program that gives students more detailed experience than it would in an associate degree program.

The nutrition theory study is accompanied with practical training of dealing with patients.

Students of this program will be able to educate a community about the health benefits of good eating habits.

Examples of courses that students can take during their stay in a bachelor’s degree program are as follows:

  • Cultural and Social Aspects of Food: This course relates culture and eating habits together. Students will learn how to develop a clue of various ethnic groups, prepare popular recipes in different cultures and make proper use of the ingredients used in various regions of the world.
  • Introduction to Food Science: This course lays emphasis on the physical and chemical food properties. The students are taught how to make different foods and recognize their physical and chemical properties.
  • Introduction to Human Lactation: In this course, the students will get the full knowledge of nutritional benefits of breastfeeding. They will learn how to give help to nursing mothers, understand the different challenges associated with breastfeeding, and promote the health benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Nutrition Counseling: Nutrition Counseling analyzes how to use nutrition to counsel the patients and add value to their lives. Students of this course learn how to develop nutrition education resources and how to use developed communication skills to interpret various conditions.

Master’s Degree Nutritionist Program

Master’s Degree Nutritionist program takes about two years to complete and it is a program for nutritionists pursuing continuing education. It gives wider experience and knowledge to students.

Examples of courses taught in nutrition master’s degree programs are:

  • Nutrition Research Techniques: This course throws light on how nutritional research is done. Students of this course are expected to use various research techniques, break down research studies and interpret the outcome of different studies and experiments.
  • Epidemiology: Due to the high increase of diseases around the world, epidemiology was introduced to examine and prevent various kinds of contagious diseases. This course provides knowledge for understanding how diseases are spread, educating the public about diseases and employing epidemiological statistics method.
  • Wrong Eating Habits: This is a course program that elaborates on the wrong eating habits of different individuals. Students should be able to recognize eating wrong foods, have full knowledge of abnormal weight gain and treat patients with wrong eating habits.
  • Statistics: This course examines the use of statistics in understanding health problems of the public. Students of Statistics are able to assess public health problems, carry out population research and use statistical methods to resolve healthcare issues.

Doctorate Degree Nutritionist Program

A doctorate degree is a program relating research and training, and emphasizing on teaching mainly at post-secondary level.

The program grows experts and professionals in managerial positions, and it requires a period of five to seven years to complete.

The skills that students in doctorate degree programs are looked up to acquiring include:

  • Research ability: The research skills help students conduct studies on various clinical nutrition topics. After graduation, they develop the ability for research studies and present the results of their coursework in understandable format.
  • Assessment of Nutrition: This course gives the students the ability to assess different diets. The doctorate degree program provides knowledge of how to assess various dietary habits and correct poor eating conditions for effective purposes.
  • Clinical decision: Nutritionists should be able to investigate the physical and mental health conditions of their patients, deciding the next treatment for them. Their body nutritional contents should also be checked, as this can help fight sicknesses and diseases.
  • Easy communication: Easy communication gives nutritionists the ability to communicate to the public the necessity of good nutrition. The communication skills will make complicated ideas appear understandable to the people who are to eat right for better health condition.

Training Requirements for Nutritionists

Going to school and getting a degree is the foundation for a career in nutrition, however, school alone will not give you the required practical experience of this career, so you also need to get trained by a specialist nutritionist who has been in the field with years of experience.

You may rather decide to find your way through involvement in food business affairs to get the necessary practical experience of the job.

Two ways to gain nutritionist training experience while still in school are as follows:

  • You should be involved within your community: This involves volunteering for hotels, hospitals, local food centers and places of food and nutrition. By doing so you are gathering as much experience as you need in your career.
  • Become a member of ADA: Becoming a member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) will give you updates of upcoming conferences and events. By participating in these events and conferences you will gain tremendous experience.

How to Obtain Nutritionist Certification

Certification is very important in your nutritionist career, considering the level of employment it will give you.

You can be recognized in your career as a nutritionist only when you are certified, if not no individual or company may notice your existence.

It will never be so easy to go for a certification program (online or offline), but it’s worth the money, time, and energy spent.

Some recognized bodies in nutritionist careers that offer certification programs are:

  • The Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS): The Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) is a credential administered by the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists for nutritionists who have completed one thousand hours of experience and graduated from a doctorate or master’s degree program.
  • CNCB: The Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) requires you to choose five out of these eight courses: Nutrition and Disease, Nutrition Assessment, Introduction to Nutrition, Nutrition Counseling Strategies, Nutrition II, Nutrition and Aging, Nutrition and Supplementation, and Herbology. You must submit your credentials and college transcripts to the CNCB. Your PGSCN course begins immediately after obtaining credential approval from the board. After taking all the PGSCN courses and have submitted all your paperwork, you can apply for the CNN which costs $450 with three hours duration. This is a test you need to clear once.
  • The AFPA Nutrition Consultant Master Level Certification: Master Level certification course program is the uppermost level of nutrition certification offered by AFPA, and it includes all AFPA Nutrition certification programs.

List of all AFPA Nutrition certification programs are as follows:

  • Holistic Nutritionist Certification: Individuals taking this certification program are trained in natural complimentary nutrition. They identify and check the nutritional causes of diseases, and create personalized diet and lifestyle programs that promote health.
  • Weight Management Specialist Certification: This certification comprises education and training on sound nutrition, safe and efficacious physical activity, lifestyle changes and psychological aid.
  • Sports Nutritionist Certification: The AFPA Sports Nutritionist Certification program is good for strength trainers, personal trainers, group fitness instructors, athletes and associated health practitioners. Students are educated on how to enhance their clients’ exercise and fitness activities and improve their performance results with proper nutrition, safe and efficacious sports supplements, vitamins and minerals.

Licensing for Nutritionists

You can only work as a licensed nutritionist in the state where you got licensed, but moving to a new state requires another licensing according to the licensing requirements of the state.

Nutritionist Duties and Responsibilities

There are various roles and responsibilities of certified nutritionists, who are obliged to render specified services to the public and patients under their custody.

Nutritionists should be able to know and understand their duties and responsibilities in their profession.

Certified nutritionists are expected to offer the following services:

  • Developing health plans
  • Educating the public about food and nutrition
  • Helping patients and the public plan menus and nutritional programs
  • Consulting the doctor during diet-planning process
  • Supervising food preparation
  • Serving prepared meal to ensure that dietary requirements and safety are met
  • Providing information about how to implement new diet plans
  • Serving as instructors in dietary courses and training programs
  • Preparing curricula
  • Gathering educational materials
  • Lecturing students and trainees
  • Checking blood chemistry, neurochemistry and other indicators of patients
  • Ensuring that amount of calories, vitamins and sodium are correct.

Duties and responsibilities of nutritionists may vary depending on their work environment and field of work.

For instance, clinical nutritionists are responsible for providing nutritional menus and services to hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes; evaluating patients’ needs, preparing dietary schemes, and providing report on the progressive health situation of patients.

The duties and responsibilities of community, management and consultant dieticians or nutritionists working for public healthcare facilities include:

  • Developing and sustaining nutritional eating habits
  • Planning menus in large facilities such as corporations and prisons
  • Advising clients on nutritional and dietary issues

Where can certified nutritionists find jobs?

Industries where nutritionists can find jobs include:

  • Office administrative services
  • Federal executive branch
  • Insurance carriers
  • Grant-making and giving services
  • Local government
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Special food services
  • Food corporations
  • Home health care services
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Sports organizations
  • Colleges and universities
  • Athletic clubs
  • Government agencies
  • Schools

What are the Salaries of Certified Nutritionists?

The 2014 average annual salary research for nutritionists in U.S. which resulted to $56,000, showed that $45,000 was made yearly by those at the bottom end of the salary scale while $68,000 was made per year by 10 percent earners at the top.

In 2012, earners in supervisory services made $56,300 per year or $27.00 per hour. The bottom scale showcases entry level workers to be making $17.00 per hour or $33,950 per year, while the top scale 10 percent earners were paid $37.50 per hour or $77,800 per year.

Nutritionists have the opportunity of attracting bonus payments depending on the capacity of employer. Some employers may decide to add up an annual bonus pay to make their employees happy, which could reach up to $5,500 to $6,000.

2014 highest average wages of some states include:

  • Maryland earned – $66,340
  • New Jersey – $64,910
  • California – $72,010
  • Nevada – $65,600
  • Connecticut – $64,970


The decision to become a nutritionist can launch you into an exciting career where you can develop valuable skills to provide solution to various health and fitness issues.

Did you find this post useful in becoming a certified nutritionist and learning about the nutritionist career? Please make your comment in the box below, including other things you may want to say about the nutritionist career not treated here.