How to Become a Nutritionist

How to Become a Nutritionist

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

To become a nutritionist you need a bachelor's degree in health, nutrition, dietetics, or food service system management. Before enrolling, make sure that the program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

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A degree program to become a nutritionist could look like the following:

Grade Level Example Courses
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus I
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Human Physiology
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Nutrition II
  • Microbiology I
  • Life Span Nutrition
  • Statistics I
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Physiological Chemistry
  • Foodservice Operations Management
  • Communication I
  • Medical Terminology
  • Technical Writing
  • Food Preservation and Packaging
  • Vitamins and Minerals
  • Energy, Metabolism, and Metabolic Integration
  • Humanities Requirements
  • Electives
  • Food & Nutrition in the Community
  • Foodservice Systems Management
  • Professional Issues in Dietetics
  • Clinical Nutrition I
  • Clinical Nutrition II
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Interpreting Current Nutrition Research
  • Remaining Requirements & Electives

During the undergrad program, or directly after, students must also complete an internship.

2. Earn the Required License & Certifications

Many states have formal licensing and certification requirements that nutritionists have to obtain to work in the field. Even if your state doesn't have specific requirements, employers and clients like seeing the credentials and will be more willing to hire you if you have them.

It needs to be noted that some states only require you to take a couple of tests. It's important to check your state's requirements, because everything is different depending on which state you live in.

The Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential, is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and meets the requirements for licensing in some states.

In order to earn this credential, you need to graduate from an accredited bachelor's degree program, complete an internship, and pass a national examination.

3. Consider Earning a Graduate Degree

It's not necessary, but nutritionists can continue their education and complete a master’s or doctorate degree program in nutrition.

Completing graduate school can prepare nutritionists to work as educators and researchers in the field.

These programs usually take an additional two years and includes courses like:

  • Medical nutrition therapy
  • Probability or statistics
  • Molecular biology
  • Public policy and health issues

If you want a Ph.D, you need higher level classes and more time. Doctoral programs require students to take graduate-level courses in the following nutrition, chemistry, and biology.

Along with these courses, you must perform fieldwork, complete a dissertation, and get more experience through working in the field. Once you graduate and complete 1,000 hours of fieldwork, you can earn the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential administered by the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists (CBNS).

4. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education

The continuing education hours vary by state, but if you live in a state where you need a license and credentials, you must maintain them every year. Check with your state to see how many continuing education units you need.