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Nutritionist Education Requirements

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” No one knows this better than nutritionists. Poor diet can be linked to a number of physical ailments, and even mental health problems. An unhealthy diet, for example, can increase the risk of at least 13 types of cancers, cause tooth decay and depression, and has even been found to cause more deaths than smoking. Still, it’s important to note that both hunger and obesity are forms of malnutrition. Eating nourishing foods can ward off illness and improve overall quality of life. Nutritionists are key to the education and care of clients who require guidance in this area of their lives. But becoming a nutritionist doesn’t happen overnight. It requires specialized training and, in some states, certification.

Nutritionist Degree Requirements

It is technically possible to label yourself a “nutritionist” after you’ve received a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition or a related field, such as Health Science. However, for those candidates who are interested in becoming licensed professionals, a master’s degree is preferred. Below is a breakdown of nutritionist education requirements, by degree level.

Bachelor’s Degree
If you’ve yet to earn a degree, it’s suggested that you begin with a bachelor’s degree in majors such as Food Science, Dietetics, Nutrition, or Health Science. After earning your bachelor’s degree, you’ll be qualified to sit for the certifying exam administered by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. After passing this exam, you can label yourself a “Certified Nutritional Consultant.” As a Certified Nutritional Consultant, your primary role will be to educate clients on how they can adjust their lifestyle and dietary habits. You can help them create a nutrition plan that they’ll be able to implement on their own. However, those who are interested in working in a clinical environment, advising patients on how to prevent and manage disease through their diet, should continue on to graduate study.

Master’s Degree
Individuals who are heavily invested in the idea of providing clinical care to patients should pursue a master’s degree in Nutrition. Graduate work prepares students to work in a variety of areas in the nutrition field. As an MS in Nutrition degree holder, you will be qualified to teach, provide clinical care in private medical practices, hospitals, and government agencies, and to conduct research. You may also pursue opportunities working for community health organizations and nutritional companies. Most importantly, you will be eligible to earn licensing as a Certified Nutrition Specialist.

Nutritionist Licensing Requirements

Upon graduating with a master’s degree in Nutrition and fulfilling the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists’ supervised experience requirement, you will be eligible to sit for the CNS exam and earn licensure.

Requirements Vary, State to State
The requirement of a license to practice is governed at the state level. Currently, only nineteen states require clinical nutritionists to earn licensure. For those students who plan on practicing in Connecticut or New York, it is recommended that they check with their state Board of Health to make sure they’re up to date on the most recent regulations. Currently, both New York and Connecticut certify dietitians and nutritionists. However, there is no license required for providing general nutrition care. That being said, only state-certified individuals can use the title “Certified Nutritionist.”

Job Opportunities: Why Licensing Matters
As a Certified Clinical Nutritionist or Certified Nutrition Specialist, you will be afforded greater job opportunities than those who do not earn their licensure. Earning certification is an indication to employers that you’ve received advanced medical nutrition training and developed your skills, while working under supervision. Nutritionists who lack licensure are less likely to find employment in a medical setting or in a research facility. This limits their earning potential, in addition to their marketability in the job market.

What is a CNS?
Certified Nutrition Specialists are experts in nutrition who have earned CNS board certification after earning at least a master’s degree from a reputable nutrition school. In addition to earning their master’s degree, they must also complete 1,000 hours of supervised experience.

Clinical Nutrition Specialists have an array of career options. They are able to work in hospitals and clinics providing nutritional advice and developing care plans. They can also work advising school systems and government agencies, developing community programs, and providing care in rehabilitation facilities. Their expertise allows them to treat patients who have been diagnosed with a variety of conditions including diabetes, disordered eating, and high blood pressure.

Nutritionists are uniquely qualified to assess patients’ nutritional needs, develop nutrition programs to prevent disease, and promote overall health through diet. Becoming a nutritionist takes hard work, time, and an abiding passion for an evidence-based approach to care. If becoming a skilled nutritionist is your goal, earning a master’s degree in Nutrition and becoming a Certified Nutrition Specialist is the path forward.

Interested in pursuing a career in clinical nutrition, or learning more about the nutritionist education requirements? Contact us online to get more information about University of Bridgeport’s online MS in Nutrition.