How to Become a Natural Health Dietician: Career and Education Info
Research the requirements to become a natural health dietician. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in natural health dietetics.
Be a Natural Health Dietician
Natural health dieticians develop balanced nutritional plans that consider all aspects of clients' lives, including their physical and emotional health. They assess and counsel their clients, develop meal plans, keep up on current research and often promote healthy nutrition in the community. These professionals might be employed by healthcare facilities or be self-employed. Those who work on a freelance or contract basis may need to spend considerable time seeking new clients and might be required to work evenings and weekends in order to meet clients' scheduling needs.
Those seeking to enter this field should earn a bachelor's degree in dietetics or nutrition and pursue state and American Dietetic Association (ADA) credentials, in addition to pursuing a master's program or certification in holistic nutrition. Licensing requirements vary by state. The following table shows the requirements typical for becoming a natural health dietician:
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree*|
|Degree Field(s)||Dietetics, nutrition or related field*|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Licensure requirements vary by state, optional certification in holistic nutrition is available*|
|Experience||Internship or supervised training is typically part of a degree program*|
|Key Skills||Organization, critical thinking, communication**|
|Computer Skills||Nutrition software, word processing software, medical charting software**|
|Technical Skills||Testing equipment such as glucometers and impedance machines**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O Net OnLine.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Students who hope to eventually pursue the title of Registered Dietician (RD) through the ADA should enroll in a Bachelor of Science program in dietetics or nutrition that's been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). Lasting 4-5 years, programs generally cover food science, nutrition therapy, community health, diet preparation and clinical dietetic practice.
- Complete an internship. Whether they work in hospitals or nursing homes or with food management services or private clients, experienced dieticians must approach diet selection and preparation from a flexible, scientific standpoint. This requires considerable communication and organizational skills, which can be gained by completing an internship. CADE-accredited dietetic internships include at least 900 hours of supervised practice and can take 6-24 months to complete.
- Pursue graduate education in holistic nutrition. Aspiring natural health dieticians may pursue a Master of Arts, Master of Science or graduate certificate program in holistic nutrition. These programs typically focus on clinical and applied research, nutrition with regard to a patient's life cycle and alternative healing philosophies, diagnosis and treatment. Students should enroll in a program that meets the educational standards of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP).
Step 2: Meet State Requirements
Many states require dieticians to have certification, licensure or registration. Qualifications vary, but a bachelor's degree in a dietetics-related field generally is the minimum education requirement. Some states require licensed, certified or registered dieticians to meet continuing education requirements.
Step 3: Earn an R.D. Credential
Dieticians can acquire the ADA's voluntary RD credential by meeting academic and experience requirements and passing the ADA national registration exam. RDs must meet continuing education requirements to keep their titles. Dieticians with the RD credential may find better employment opportunities.
- Seek certification in holistic nutrition. Organizations such as the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board (HNCB) offer certification in holistic nutrition. To qualify for certification with HNCB, individuals must be members of NANP, have graduated from an NANP-approved program and have documented at least 500 hours of professional nutrition work.
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