The steps to becoming a nutritionist are similar to those of a dietitian. Both assess their clients' and patients' health and medical conditions, and create diet plans for them to lose weight or overcome illnesses. They work for insurance companies, hospitals, nursing homes and government agencies, researching the latest studies on health and diet. If you have people skills and an interest in nutrition, you already possess a couple qualities of nutritionists. A formal education and licensing are also necessary.
Most nutritionists have bachelor's degrees in food and nutrition, dietetics or food service systems management. In this field, you take courses such as nutrition, food management, physiology, chemistry and microbiology. If you decide to teach nutrition or similar subjects at a college or university, you will need a Ph.D. in nutrition or a related field. Nutritionists who have master's degrees improve their chances for advancement in major corporations. For example, you may work as a nutritionist with a cereal manufacturer that requires master's degrees for those in management or executive positions.
Nutritionists usually train through internships. In this role, you apply what you learned in classrooms to working with patients under the direction of a licensed nutritionist. As a nutritionist, you are required to spend several hundred hours working as an intern, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Your internship is typically part of your college curriculum and required for your bachelor's degree.
License and Certification
Most states required nutritionists to be licensed. A few just require either state registration or certification. As a nutritionist, certification is optional but it can increase your number of employment opportunities. If you want to be certified in nutrition or a related field, you need to pass a written test. Additional coursework may also be necessary. State licensing also involves passing an exam. To get licensed and certified simultaneously, obtain the Registered Dietitian, or RD, credential through the commission on Dietetic Registration, advises the BLS.
Organizational and communication skills acquired on previous jobs also are steps toward becoming an effective nutritionist, especially if you are changing your career to that of nutritionist. You must be organized as a nutritionist so you can keep track of diets and nutritional programs you recommend to multiple clients. As for communication skills, you must explain diet and nutritional plans in terms clients can understand. For example, you may explain how a diabetic can improve her health by losing weight, and how a change in diet affects her body.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Dietitians and Nutritionists Do
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: About ACEND
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Qualifications of a Registered Dietitian
- DC Metro Dietetic Association: Dietitian vs Nutritionist
- MyPlan.com: Dietitians & Nutritionists
- ASU School of Nutrition & Health Promotion: Nutrition Programs - Bachelor of Science, Nutrition
- Clinical Nutrition Certification Board: The Purpose of Certification
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