How to Become a Certified Nutrition Specialist

Research the requirements to become a certified nutrition specialist. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in the nutritional health field.

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Do I Want to Be a Certified Nutrition Specialist?

Certified nutrition specialists counsel people on maintaining healthy diets and lifestyles. They also organize nutritional programs that focus on promoting health and controlling diseases. Some of these specialists are self-employed, which sometimes offers more flexibility in work hours. However, nutrition specialists may need to work weekends and evenings in order to meet the needs of their clients' schedules.

Job Requirements

Most nutritionists have at least a bachelor's degree and many states require nutritionists to be licensed. The following table contains essential requirements needed to become a certified nutrition specialist:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Healthcare, nutrition science or food service**
Licensure/Certification Most states require licensure. Some states require only state registration*
Experience Some employers may require up to five years of related work experience**
Key Skills Speaking and written communication skills, organizational skills and analytical skills*
Computer Skills Medical software, spreadsheet software, analytical or scientific software**
Technical Skills Instructional, training and counseling skills**
Additional Requirements Supervised training or internships*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most nutritionists have earned at least a bachelor's degree in foods and nutrition, dietetics or a related field. Nutrition science programs use the concepts of biological and physical sciences to explain the relationship between nourishment and human health. Bachelor's degree programs in nutritional sciences include courses in nutrition, food preparation and service, nutritional therapy, microbiology, statistics, physiology, chemistry and biology.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Nutritionists are typically required to complete several hundred hours of supervised training. This training usually takes place in the form of an internship. Some college programs incorporate this training into their curriculum. However, students can also complete an internship following graduation.

Step 2: Obtain Certification or License

Most states require nutritionists to be licensed. A common license is the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential. Other states require only state registration or certification. In order to qualify for licensure, individuals must have earned a bachelor's degree in an area of nutritional science and completed supervised work experience. Individuals must also pass an exam offered by certification agencies.

Success Tips:

  • Prepare for the certification or licensing exams. Each state has different guidelines and exams. Be sure to review specific state requirements that are needed in order to qualify for the exam. Once these qualifications are met, be sure to take exam preparation courses to increase chances of passing the exam.
  • Earn an advanced degree. Many nutritionists have earned advanced degrees. In order to remain knowledgeable of the latest developments in the field and remain competitive in the job market, consider enrolling in a graduate program that offers advanced studies in the dietetics and nutrition field.
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