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How Long Does It Take to Become a Nutritionist?

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
becoming a nutritionist

Have you ever been counseled by a top nutritionist? If so, you know the vast practical and theoretical knowledge these passionate experts possess. 

It’s then worth asking—given the expertise many nutritionists have—how long does it take to become a nutritionist? After all, developing such an impressive skill set and nuanced understanding of overall health and wellness can’t happen overnight.

Why Is It Important to Know How Long It Takes to Become a Nutritionist?

Say you want to enter the healthcare field as a career. It’d take 10 to 14 years to become a doctor. Combine that length of time with the annual tuition fees up to just south of $85,000, and a career as a physician seems out of reach for most.

There’s the option of studying to become a nurse, which doesn’t require as much education as becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, it’s a job heavily associated with burnout and high stress, especially since the pandemic.

Becoming a nutritionist allows you to enter into healthcare while being less time-consuming than becoming a doctor and less stressful than nursing.

Examining How Much Time It Takes to Become a Nutritionist

In this section, we’ll analyze the timeline of becoming a nutritionist.

Disclaimer: Nutritionist Is A Broad Term

“How long does it take to become a nutritionist?” is something of a trick question.

In the US, different states lack regulation on the term “nutritionist,” and it’s possible to call yourself one with zero training. However, this career path is rife with ethical issues and limits (geographical and otherwise) on the services you can provide.

It’s also possible to become a nutritionist through private associations and online academies like the ISSA, which can take as little as four weeks. Once again, however, your scope is limited by following such a path. These certifications prevent you from directly helping a client with specific illnesses because you lack sufficient education. 

Moreover, the above two paths mean you can’t call yourself a certified nutritionist, licensed nutritionist, or registered nutritionist. As such, you won’t get referred through healthcare insurance programs or be able to work in conjunction with doctors and other professionals in the medical field. 

While these two options might seem the most streamlined in becoming a nutritionist, they aren’t necessarily the most fruitful. Instead, the most lucrative, rewarding path to becoming a nutritionist is through becoming a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist (RDN). 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist?

nutritionist writing

To clarify any confusion, the difference between a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and a general nutritionist is as such: 

All nutritionists aren’t necessarily dietitians, but all Registered Dietitians are nutritionists. The term Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist involves broadening the dietitian discipline through a scope of wellness and improved overall health instead of only focusing on food.

Generally, it takes four to eight years to become a Registered Dietitian in the US, depending on your academic path and where you live. That said, we’ll get more into the specifics of the typical Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist’s journey to earning their certification and state licensure. 

Examining the Timeline of Becoming a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist

Becoming a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist often begins with four years in a Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) approved program. This can lead to entering a master’s degree program that requires an additional two years. 

However, a master’s isn’t always necessary. Often, after completing the appropriate CDR-accredited bachelor’s degree, many soon-to-be Registered Dietitians go right into their dietetics internship. 

These internships generally require 1200 practical hours. Then, there’s the need to pass the CDR exam. From there, it may require some extra time on a Coordinated Program and obtaining a state license. 

Benefits of the Timeline to Become a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist

Unlike becoming a doctor, you don’t need over a decade of training to become a Registered Dietitian and enter the healthcare field. While nursing requires a similar level of education as an RD, the latter isn’t nearly as conducive to burnout. 

Still, four to eight years isn’t a short time, but it’s a typical timeline for almost any specialty. Provided you decided to embark on this path after high school, it’s reasonable to assume your career could be up and running at 26 years old. 

Something else to consider is that your education doesn’t need to stop once you start working. Upon earning your initial RD certification and state licensure, you can keep upgrading your qualifications and specializations through any number of boards and academies.

For instance, on top of being a Registered Dietitian, you can become a LEAP-Certified RD. You can become board-certified as a weight loss specialist or in diabetes care. Perhaps you want to focus on gluten intolerance, in which case it’s possible to earn your celiac certification.

Final Thoughts

There are different types of nutritionists with varying levels of expertise and education.

Nutritionists with the best credentials are Registered Dietitians. They have four to eight years of post-secondary education, including internships and other certifications.

This information is also essential for those seeking Medical Nutritional Therapy. Clients and patients receive the best counseling from highly-accredited Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists, like those you’d work with at Top Nutrition Coaching.

In fact, you can get paired with a Registered Dietitian tailored to your needs by quickly filling out our quiz.

Take TNC’s Quiz Today!

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Editorial Team
Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.