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A certified nutritionist provides services that help people maintain their health. This is done by overseeing their eating habits and making sure they are getting proper nutrition. Anyone who wants to become a certified nutritionist or dietitian needs to have certain skills. A proper education and training, and the right license or certification are also essential.

Step 1: Developing the Needed Skills to Become an Effective Nutritionist

You’ll need the right set of skills to become a dietitian or nutritionist. People skills is very important, as they will need to listen to their patients carefully to understand their concerns and goals. Good speaking skills goes along with this, as nutritionists need to be able to explain complex topics so that their patients can understand them. Nutritionists have to be able to stay updated on recent research, understand scientific reports and translate this into useful nutrition advice. Being organized is a must-have skill as well.

Step 2: Getting Education and Training in Nutrition

Aspiring certified nutritionists and dietitians will need to have the right education and training. First, they will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, foods and dietetics, as well as in the management of food service systems or related area. Some programs include nutrition, biology, chemistry and physiology courses. After earning a degree, they need to participate in supervised training for several hundred hours. This is typically done through an internship, but some education programs include the training in the coursework.

Step 3: Earn an Advanced Degree

Many certified nutritionists and dietitians earn advanced degrees, even though this isn’t always a requirement.  For instance, in some states, like Washington, one can become can only become a certified nutritionist if they are a dietitian first.  However, another option is simply that they obtain a masters degree in a closely-related field.  Thus, one can ONLY become a certified nutritionist WITHOUT being a dietitian, if they have a masters degree. In any case, obtaining a doctoral or master’s degree will allow aspiring nutritionists to get recognized certification via the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists. Those who meet the board’s requirements and pass its exam will earn the Certified Nutrition Specialist title, which shows patients that they have undergone the proper education and training to help them.

Step 4: Obtain a State License and/or Certification

The requirements to obtain a license and/or certification depend on the state in which a certified nutritionist sees patients. A majority of states require nutritionists and dietitians to have a license, while some require them to register or certify. A few states, however, don’t have any regulations at all. States with regulations for certification or licensure require nutritionists and dietitians to have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or related area. On top of this, certification only comes after passing the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists exam. It costs $50 to apply to take the exam and $300 for the examination itself.

Step 5: Earn the Registered Dietitian Qualification

Some states require nutritionists to register, and earning the Registered Dietitian qualification is parallel to this requirement. This credential demands the nutritionist to complete Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics-endorsed programs for education and training. Continuing professional education courses are a requirement to maintain the Registered Dietitian credential.  This typically happens at the bachelor level.  However, many states have, or are moving towards requiring a masters degree just to become a dietitian.

Summary of How to Become a Nutritionist

Certified nutritionists have to have the right education, training and certification in order to give patients information to modify their diets in a way that will improve and maintain their health. Since every state has different requirements, getting an advanced degree is a great way to ensure licensure or certification.  But be sure to check the requirements of your state for specifics as each is different.