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How Do I Become a Nutritionist?

By Merrilee Willoughby
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A nutritionist is a qualified expert trained in the field of nutrition whose expertise will vary depending on the specialty that they have chosen. Some nutritionists work in a public health setting or clinical research environment while some become educators and others choose to work with animals, athletes, or food manufacturers. There are a number of different career paths that one might choose as a nutritionist and the educational requirements often vary by geography. Different countries have specific licensing and certification requirements and in the United States, the requirements to become a nutritionist vary by state. The requirements to become a nutritionist also vary by specialty. For example, an individual interested in cardiac health will need to pursue different certifications than someone interested in gut health.

Generally speaking, someone wanting to become a nutritionist would need a four-year degree from an accredited nutrition degree program. These programs will likely require coursework heavy in the sciences such as biology, chemistry, food science, nutrition, and physiology. It is also suggested that students take related courses in statistics, mathematics, psychology, and sociology. Along with the required coursework, many programs will require supervised practical experience completed during an internship or apprenticeship. It is also possible to enroll in an accredited graduate program and earn a master’s degree in an appropriate field of study to become a nutritionist.

After obtaining a degree, an aspiring nutritionist would need to become certified or licensed in the country or state where they plan to practice. This often requires passing examinations and completing a number of supervised hours of experience. It is best to determine what these requirements will be before starting a degree program because some programs will incorporate internships that can help meet these required hours. Along with local certification and licensing, it may also be helpful to earn a national credential such as the American Dietetic Association (ADA) Registered Dietician credential by meeting specific academic requirements and passing a registered exam.

Jobs for licensed and certified nutritionists can be found in a variety of settings. Often hospitals, nursing facilities, hotels, restaurants, school districts, and public health departments hire nutritionists to plan and organize meals and implement nutrition programs. Some individuals choose to become a nutritionist in a private practice or as a consultant working with a specific segment of the population. Food service companies and manufacturers also hire nutritionists to develop and evaluate food products and programs.

Additionally, some people find work as online nutritionists and provide services to clients through a virtual platform. By working virtually, nutritionists can connect with a broader range of clients and establish a more flexible work schedule. Working as an online nutritionist is an excellent option for those who are parents, live in a rural area, or are interested in working in a hyper-specific niche. You can provide your clients with one-on-one appointments, or provide pre-recorded videos or content that they can access at any time.

It is also possible to continue with postgraduate studies in the nutrition sciences and to become a nutritionists working in a research or teaching position in the academic, public, or private sector. Some universities offer Ph.D. programs in areas of nutrition science that will prepare students for these types of positions. Requirements and coursework vary by educational institution, but many require students to prepare a doctoral dissertation.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon353244 — On Oct 29, 2013

Thanks for all of the great advice. I think I would love getting my nutrition certification and doing something with that. It's something I'm really passionate about!

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