Nutritionist Degrees: Programs Schools and Certificates

Learn about the different nutritionist degrees, programs, schools and certificate options you'll have to pursue your career in dietetics.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Career Facts

Nutritionist Degrees: Courses & Certification

This page will teach you the steps on how to earn a nutritionist degree and become a certified nutritionist or registered dietitian (also spelled registered dietician).

Nutritionists help clients achieve healthier mind and body and in some cases manage their diseases effectively. They craft customized menu plans which include the types of food to avoid, and then encourage their clients to follow those menu plans to improve their health.

Nutritionists work in several settings including private practices, health departments, hospitals, and schools. They also work with other professionals in the healthcare industry for the benefit of the client.

What Type of Degree Should I Take to Become a Nutritionist?

You need to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Your undergraduate program should be in the area of clinical nutrition, food and nutrition, dietetics, and public health. Apart from classroom training, you will also have to earn hundreds of hours of on-the-job training under the supervision of a licensed nutritionist. There are also certificate programs available for people who want to pursue a career in this field.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Finishing the four-year Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nutrition course will provide you with the foundation to practice your profession. You will be exposed to various disciplines and fields in the area of research, food manufacturing and preparation, communication management, and community health.

Although dietitians and nutritionists are sometimes mistaken for each other, there’s a significant difference between the two disciplines. While anybody can use the term nutritionist, you have to be certified to become a registered dietitian or RD.

Some nutritionist programs don’t make you automatically become a dietitian. But they are sufficient for you to pursue further education to become an RD.

What are the Types of Courses in BS in Nutrition?

A sample curriculum for a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition program has the following courses listed:

  • Community Nutrition
  • Food, Society, and Culture
  • Human Nutrition Science
  • Foodservice
  • Sports and Exercise Nutrition
  • Geriatric Nutrition

Master’s Degree Programs

You can also pursue graduate studies by going through the Master of Science in Nutrition (MS). The MS in Nutrition is not similar to the MS in Dietitian programs being offered today. Take note that the latter will prepare you to earn your certificate as an RD.

An MS in Nutrition would be best if you have a leaning toward holistic treatments and blending them with medical science. In contrast, the RD is more inclined toward the clinical rather than holistic principles.

Once you have your MS degree, it will open more opportunities for you to pursue a specialization. For instance, you can focus on geriatric nutrition, pediatric nutrition, food service, and sports or athletics.

Many Colleges offer several curriculums for you to pursue:

  • Nutrition and Public Health
  • Nutrition and Education
  • Community Nutrition
  • Exercise Physiology

When you take a two-year graduate program, you will be required to write and defend your thesis, conduct fieldwork, and complete practical training.

Here is the nutritionist course catalog when seeking a masters:

  • Food Science
  • Health and Wellness
  • Prevention and management of diseases
  • Research in nutrition
  • Sociological foundations and physiological principles of food

What Type of Certification is Required?

If you want to become a Registered Dietitian, then you need to pass the exam by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

Check with your state since each one has different rules and regulations for practicing nutritionists.

Before you can secure a license in holistic nutrition, you first need to pass the exam by the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board (HNCB), which operates under the umbrella of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP).

Depending on the certification route you pursue you will have to pass your exam before getting your certification even if you secure the certificate issued by the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNBC).

You need to pass the exam given by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC) if you want to pursue a career in nutritional consultancy.

What Accreditation is Needed?

Schools with Nutritionist and Dietetic programs are accredited to ensure national standards in education and training are met. Completing a program from an accredited school shows employers and clients that you have obtained the quality of education necessary to perform the job.

Check with your state if it has laws regulating dietitians. Remember that of the 46 states with existing laws governing dietitians, 30 require that you secure a license first before practicing. In order to obtain these licenses you must graduate from an accredited school.

Most schools earn accreditation from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

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