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How to Become a Certified Nutritionist – A Complete Guide

Do you want to learn what it takes to become a certified Nutritionist? If YES, here is a complete guide plus requirements needed to become a Nutritionist online.

You may have heard the saying that goes; ‘you are what you eat’. If indeed you have, then you will come to realize that there will always be the need to eat healthy foods. This is one of the reasons why there are nutritionists. They are experts who learn of the types of foods that we eat, and its nutritive benefit to man.

We rely mostly on professionals of different fields to live a healthy and fulfilling life in this world, which is why we need the help of an educationist in the nutrition field, to help us get a grasp of what to eat and what not to. The job of a nutritionist is an occupation that requires the practitioner to have undergone some training and get a certificate from a formal education to enable him practice as a qualified professional nutritionist.

The job requires the practitioner to master the course of human health and public health. A good nutritionist must have an adequate knowledge on all the various foods, their classes and how they can contribute to human’s health. He or she is a professional expert that knows both positive and negative effect of foods on people. The craze for being healthy and eat nutritious foods at all times has made people to employ the service of nutritionists because a nutritionist is the only professional that is certified in that field.

What is a Nutritionist?

A nutritionist is a professional diet planner who is specialized in foods and nutrition impacts on human’s health. He gives advice on different types and classes of food and their effect on human’s health. A nutritionist has various ways of propagating his work, he can work in an hospital, as a public health nutritionist, he can work in the society as a community health nutritionist and he can as well work in a tertiary institution as a facilitator or researcher. A nutritionist works majorly in a hospital to assess patient’s dietary habits, advices them on necessary diet oriented foods to consume, design a healthy eating habits and menus for people to follow.

Before someone could be referred and confirmed as a professional nutritionist, he must have had trainings and qualifications from a number of fields that include; food science, public health, nutrition, community health etc. The major aim of a nutritionist is to help people achieve a sustainable healthy life by providing information and advice about health and food choices. They can help patient’s choose the right things to eat, help them plan their balance diet weekly menu and advise them on healthy eating habit.

They can also speak to groups like youths, children or housewives on good nutrition schemes and how to protect them against health and nutrition challenges. The pre-requisite for practicing as a certified nutritionist varies with different countries policy and criterion but in some countries like, United State of America, Australia, Canada and U.K, the minimum entry into the profession is by having a degree in health, nutrition or a related field like dietetics or food and health management.

The profession of a nutritionist is a good and favorable profession to embrace but one really need to know all what the profession really entails before venturing into it.

Duties of a Nutritionist and their Job Description

  • Promoting Good eating habits

The first major duty of a nutritionist is to promote a healthy eating habit in the community. A nutritionist can promote and prescribe a healthy eating habit for people in his locality by developing a beneficial health plans for them. You don’t necessarily have to be sick before a nutritionist can give you a healthy food menu to follow. We now have nutritionist that are established and stand independently on their own in different communities.

Community people, groups, institutions or individual can employ the service of nutritionist in this case they oversee menus and meal programs for them, as the nutritionist will offer them an excellent eating habit that will fit their lifestyle .

  • Clinical functions

A nutritionist can be employed in a hospital to help people manage their health challenges. A nutritionist can be of help to people suffering from chronic health disease like diabetes, high blood pressure and appetite’s problem by prescribing nutritious diet to them. Nutritionists have adequate knowledge on the biochemistry of foods, how the body reacts to different types of food.

They advise people on the foods to avoid, the food that would help people to correct their nutritional failure and deficiencies. As the struggle to burn fats and get rid of excessive weight is a common challenge for many countries of the world, more nutritionists are now getting employed in hospitals to prescribe foods and diet that would help people get rid of excessive fats and maintain a healthy weight.

  • Educating the public

Another important duty of a nutritionist is to educate people, especially communities, groups, organizations or schools on various nutritional issues and challenges. Nutritionists provide people with nutritional counseling and teach them the factors of healthy eating habit and diet monitoring. Some families and clients often employ the service of a private nutritionist to inform and advise them on how to implement new and healthy diet plans in their homes.

Nutritionists can also serve as instructors to students in schools by giving them lectures on dietary lectures and he may gather educational materials in his field to lecture students and trainees.

  • Performing Research

Some nutritionists are purely researchers, as they prefer remaining in the academia to pursue research career in nutritional courses and diet challenges and solution. Many universities conduct researches on various nutritional and health topics and it is the duty of the nutritionists to do the research on such topics. Nutritionists research are of great need to most countries of the world because bit is through their research that diet problems are often open to curable solutions.

Tools of the Trade for a Nutritionist

  • Calorimeter: A calorimeter is always used by a nutritionist to measure the amount of calories present in different types of food.
  • Glucometer: A glucometer is an instrument that is often used by a nutritionist or dietitian to measure the sugar content present in human’s blood. A nutritionist can also use this equipment to guide and protect his client from consuming and having higher percentage of sugar that can lead to diabetes in his bloodstream.
  • Bioimpedance meter: This is a nutritionist equipment that is often used to measure the human’s body composition during a nutritional test called Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA). The equipment is often used to measure and know the amount of fats present in human’s body.

How to Become a Certified Nutritionist – A Complete Guide

Facts, Figures and Labor Market for Nutritionist

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the employment of nutritionists is projected to spur into 21 percent from 2012 to 2022. This occupation is said to be elevated and increase faster that an average profession could be. The reason for the expected higher demand of nutritionists can be predicted to occur due to the role of nutritionist is scheming and advising people on food that can curb and treat some illness like diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure. More nutritionists will be needed to provide necessary health care for patients with various medical challenges that could be associated with nutrition.

The need to get rid of obesity is growing in some countries like Australia, United State of America, U.K and Canada, especially in the United State of America where one third of the country’s population are struggling with obesity. This has necessitated the need to employ nutritionists in those countries and that is a singular reason why the profession of nutritionist is flourishing in those countries and other countries of the world.

Pursuing the path of becoming a nutritionist might tend to be challenging and daunting; especially with the rigorous task it requires to become a professionally registered nutritionist, but there is tendency of securing a good job with a top-notch salary later on.

Impact of the internet on the profession of a nutritionist

The whole world is agog with the innovations and inventions of internet and technological equipments; in fact every profession is trying hard to face the reality of life by adopting the full usage of internet and technology to practice their profession and the nutritionists are not left out in this perspective.

There is no doubt that the nutritionists have fully adopted the full course of internet and technology in carrying out their profession in an effective way. The nutritionists now direct their clients to the internet to seek professional healthcare findings and excellent result oriented diet. The nutritionists are also finding information with new and useful nutritional innovations from the internet on the profession and they as well do researches on the internet to remain relevant in the nutritional field.

Apart from the judicious use and positive impact of the internet on the profession of a nutritionist, a nutritionist also uses some technological equipment to carry out his work efficiently. Nutritionists now use technological equipment such as glucometer and calorimeter to gauge and measure the body composition and calories present in foods respectively.

Career ideas / Sub-sectors That Exists Within the Nutritionist Profession

  • Public Health
  • Clinical Nutrition / dietetics
  • Food Industrialist
  • Nutritional Researcher
  • Exercise Nutritionist
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Public Health Nutritionist
  • Teacher

Professional Bodies and Associations for Nutritionists

  • Association for Nutrition (AfN)
  • Associate Public Health Nutritionist (APHNutr)
  • Registered Public Health Nutritionist (PRHNutr)
  • Federation of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners (FNTP)
  • British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT)
  • Naturopathic Nutrition Association (NNA)
  • Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC)
  • Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT)
  • Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)

Although the above professional bodies monitor and regulate the profession of nutritionist in various countries. But the Nutritionist profession is not formally monitored in the United Kingdom, which means that anybody can call themselves a nutritionist in the U.K.

Benefits of Becoming a Nutritionist

  • Service to humanity: if you are looking for a good profession to practice in order to touch and have a good impact on people’s lives, then you have got to go for the profession of a nutritionist. There is always an opportunity of rendering a magnanimous and immeasurable service to humanity when you are working as a nutritionist.
  • Enhancement of Knowledge: there is no how you can practice the profession of a nutritionist without been blessed with the knowledge of how to relate with people and how to solve diets problem. The profession of a nutritionist enhances and improves the knowledge of the practitioner, as the practitioner always strive to remain relevant in the field and by doing so, he would lay his hands on books and ventures into researches that would enhance his knowledge.
  • Healthy diet: Nutritionist with the knowledge they acquire are often aware of healthy diet and its importance because it is their profession and that is why they always prepare healthy diet that would be of help to them and their families.

Factors Discouraging People from Becoming a Nutritionist

  • The Nutritionist’s profession: Nutritionists, though important are not really recognized in the society. This is due to the fact that unlike medical practitioners or other professionals like Accountants, Bankers etc. many people feel that they are certified nutritionists. Because of this, they look down on those who practice the profession, and it is thus a factor which discourages many people from venturing into the profession.
  • Job Availability: while it is projected that Nutritionists will be in high demand in the United States especially by the year 2022. It is instructive to state that in many countries of the world, there are no readily available jobs for these specialized professionals. Due to this, many people are discouraged from practicing or venturing into the profession.
  • Lack of Job Prestige: In many countries of the world, Medical Doctors and some other professionals like the Accountants etc. are usually held in high esteem and are well honored. This is not so of nutritionists, as they do not have the prestige that these other professionals command. Due to this, many people are discouraged from the profession.
  • Societal Influence: In many societies of the world today, many parents, guardians, wards etc. feel they have the “know-how” of this profession. Many people, who do not know that nutrition goes beyond all that meets the eye, feel they can be their own “nutritionist”. In the process, discouraging friends and others who have genuine interest in the profession from venturing into it.

How Much Do Nutritionists Earn Monthly/Annually?

According to a 2013 poll by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 27.1 percent of Americans are classified as obese. While nutritionists and dietitians cannot wave a magic wand to solve this problem, they can help people learn how to eat better and change unhealthy habits, such as not doing enough exercise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that by 2022, nutritionists and dietitians will see 21 percent growth in their job opportunities nationwide, which is well above the average for all careers combined.

From the above statistics, it can be deduced that Nutritionists are becoming one of the most demanded professionals in the world today, and thus, it will definitely reflect in what they earn.

  • In the United States

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2013, the average annual salary for nutritionists was $56,300. Likewise, non-salaried nutritionists earned an average hourly wage of $27.07 in that same year. While the highest paid nutritionists receive up to $68,330, the lowest paid ones receive about $29,860 per annum.

Meanwhile, the median salary of nutritionists employed in outpatient care centre is about $49,950, while the ones employed in surgical and other medical hospitals is approximated as $47,320. Some states in the United States that offer the highest salary package for these professionals are: New Jersey $60,280, Maryland $60,500, Hawaii $59,390 and California $60,250.

  • In Canada

The average pay of these professionals in Canada is not quite different from what can be obtained elsewhere. Though in Canada, nutritionists’ salaries are usually based on hourly rate, as the average pay for a Nutritionist is C$18.01 per hour. A typical full-time annual salary for this profession is in the region of $65,000 – $75,000.

According to the latest figures, the highest hourly average (median) wages are earned in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta at $39.09 per hour and the lowest average (median) wages are earned in Prince Edward Island at $21.60. Thus, most people move on to other jobs if they have more than 20 years’ experience in this field.

  • In Australia

Nutritionists in Australia also earn moderately well, though not as high as some of their counterparts in other countries. Thus, in Australia, The average pay for a Nutritionist is AU$50,096 per year. Though on the average it ranges between AU$38,263 and AU$ 76,978. In Australia, people in this job generally don’t have more than 10 years’ experience.

  • In the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the pay scale of nutritionists is not quite different from what can be obtainable in some other countries too. The pay scale according to the National Career Services (NHS) which is called Agenda for Change (AfC) indicates that as a nutritionist working in the NHS you will usually start on Band 5 with a salary between £21,692 and £28,180 a year. In the food industry your salary will depend on your experience and your role. You will usually earn around £20,000 to £50,000 a year.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Certified Nutritionist?

The path to becoming a nutritionist depends largely on education, experience and location. Regarding the latter, many states have formal licensing and certification requirements in order to work in the field. Even in states that do not have specific requirements, employers and clients may give preference in hiring to people with these credentials.  Thus, becoming a Nutritionist is not a day’s job and can typically last for about 6-8 years to complete, which can be further broken down as follows:

  • Obtaining a bachelor’s degree which usually lasts for about 4 (four) years
  • Completion of relevant training, this usually includes a one year internship program
  • Obtaining of the applicable license, certification and registration.

Generally, making it as a Nutritionist can take about six (6) years at the minimum, which can usually go beyond that, based on some reasons.

Educational Requirements to Become a Nutritionist

Typically, nutritionists only need a bachelor’s degree related to food science or nutrition to practice, though most states require licensure or state registration as well. Both on-campus and distance learning bachelor’s degree programs in many areas of health and nutrition science are available.

These programs usually involve an internship that provides the clinical training needed to work in the field. After graduation, students may pursue certification as a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist, which requires having supervised training, possessing a bachelor’s degree and completing a state exam.

Therefore, the educational requirement/path to follow in becoming a nutritionist can be classified as follows:

  • Obtain a bachelor’s degree: Most nutritionists and dieticians possess a bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition, clinical nutrition, food service systems management, dietetics, or a related field. Many dieticians and nutritionists also possess advanced degrees. A minimum of a master’s degree is required for those who aspire to become Certified Nutrition Specialists or Certified Clinical Nutritionists.
  • Complete relevant training: Most schools require nutritionists and dieticians to undergo a 1-year internship of supervised training following their completion of a bachelor’s degree; while other schools include the supervised training in their coursework.
  • Obtaining the applicable license, certification, and/or registration. Requirements for state licensure, certification, and/or registration vary by state. While most states require nutritionists to be licensed, others only require state registration or certification, and even some have no particular regulations for this profession.

Certifications Required to Become a Nutritionist

Just like other professionals in all countries of the world, becoming a certified Nutritionist requires some certifications. This is a norm to distinguish a person who has really learnt and can practice the profession, from the one who can’t. These certifications for state licensure vary by state.

While most states require nutritionists to be licensed, others only require state registration or certification, and even some have no particular regulations for this profession. These certifications are also applicable to many other countries too, but in the United States, and some similar countries it is as follows:

  • Obtaining the registration from the Commission on Dietetics Registration (CDR) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This usually requires a bachelor’s degree accredited by the ACEND and passing a national exam.
  • Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) which is usually granted by the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB)
  • Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential which is granted by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS)
  • CCN applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree, specified hours of internship, and a post-graduate program or master’s degree in human nutrition with focus on how the human body reacts biochemically with food, to be qualified to take the national board exam given by the CNCB.

Can You Become a Nutritionist by Taking Online Courses?

Yes, you can become a Nutritionist by taking online courses. These Online nutrition degree programs prepare students for careers as licensed nutritionists, dietitians, health educators, food service managers, public health professionals, and other roles that combine an understanding of nutrition science with basic communication skills.

These online Programs explore topics such as public health nutrition, structure and functions of the human body, biochemistry in nutrition; metabolic disease; proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates; nutritional therapy; and vitamins and minerals. These online degree programs are available for enrolment at the Bachelor’s, Masters’ and Certificate levels.

While A bachelor’s degree in nutrition online is the entry-level requirement to begin a career as a nutrition consultant, nutrition educator, or dietitian. Online bachelor’s programs may have concentrations in nutrition science or dietetics, or they may be health sciences degrees with a nutrition or health and wellness specialization.

These Bachelor’s programs online take approximately four years and require the completion of 120 credits. Graduates from these online bachelor’s programs may be qualified to work as a nutritionist for a non-profit organization, a hospital or clinic, a gym, or for a private dietary counseling center.

Career Opportunities and Industries a Nutritionist Can Work in

A professional Nutritionist has a wide range of industries where he/she can successfully work in. thus, the following are perfect industries in which a Nutritionist can work in, and they include:

  • Hospitals, healthcare centers and clinics
  • Amateur and professional sports team
  • Food product developers
  • Home healthcare providers
  • Nursing homes
  • Diabetes care clinics
  • Government agencies
  • Public or private research
  • Exercise or fitness centers
  • Pharmaceutical companies

Therefore, career opportunities available for a nutritionist includes but not limited to the following:

  1. Clinical: A nutritionist can be a specialist in clinical nutrition by working in clinical settings and having an often one-on-one situations with patients, as well as with their families in assessing, designing, and implementing nutritional therapies.
  2. Community: The community service provision is another opportunity for nutritionist to work in. This could include schools, recreational centers, government agencies etc. In this case, the specific nutritional needs of children, elderly, and at-risk families are targeted and resolved.
  3. Management: Institutions that depend on large-scale food-service operations to feed employees, patients, and/or the public need nutritionists to help manage and optimize the performance of these facilities.

Skills and Traits Needed to Become a Successful Nutritionist

  • Nutritionists carry out research and use scientific knowledge to provide information and advice about the effects of food and nutrition on health and well-being. They can also be known as community nutritionist, public health nutritionist and food for health adviser.
  • As a nutritionist, you would work closely with dietitians and other health professionals, such as pharmacists, and hospital or community diet and nutrition teams. Therefore, just like other professionals, a nutritionist must be skilled and must possess some traits and characters to make him successful. They include:
  • Excellent communication skills: A nutritionist must be able to communicate simply and excellently in ways that will ensure that people understand him/her. Communication is essential as they will have to work as part of a team always
  • Ability to relate to people from all backgrounds: A nutritionist will get in touch with many people by virtue of his profession. Therefore, a nutritionist must be able to relate well with people.
  • A non-judgmental attitude: A nutritionist must never be judgmental rather he must be willing to help and provide solutions.
  • Ability to inspire and motivate people: The nutritionist should also be a motivator and someone who inspires people to become better.
  • Keen interest in healthy eating
  • Good knowledge of the impact of diet on health evaluation
  • Reporting skills
  • Good time management and organization skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team and with other professionals.

Career Tips and Advice Needed to Become a Better Nutritionist

  • Be passionate
  • Start the learning process of your profession early
  • Be prepared for opportunities
  • Lead by example, by having a good nutritious life
  • Actively acquire new skills
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