How do you become a nutritionist?

Question

Hi Rick, I’m looking for some direction on how one with an unrelated degree could become certified as a nutrition specialist. How do you become a nutritionist?

Answer

This is a very common question. There really is no easy or quick way to do it right. A good nutritionist has a science background in human anatomy, physiology, chemisty, biochemistry, and food science in addition to the science of nutrition. For credentialling, let me give you the breakdown as best I know it: 1) Registered Dietitians (RD): a minimum of a 4 year degree in dietetics, plus a 9 month internship and a national exam through the commission for dietetic registration (CDR). The Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) is also available from the CDR, but only requires an associate’s degree. 2) Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS): issued by the college of nutrition. Requires a masters degree in nutrition and a national exam. 3) Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN): issued by the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board. Requires a bachelor's degree or advanced medical degree. Some physicians go this route. These are the most reputable organizations - and I've seen both good and not so good nutritionists with each of these credentials. I lean towards the RD and CNS because the requirements seem to be the most difficult to obtain. However, the CCN credential is a good alternative. There are easier (and hence less reputable) "certificates" from organizations available. However, you are judged by other professionals by the company you keep. To prove the point that anyone can obtain these certificates, some have gone as far as to have their pets certified as 'nutritionists' and 'nutrition consultants'. Many authors, speakers, and radio talk show nutritionists are among those sharing these credentials. Some states in the US have issued legislation determining who can call themselves a nutritionist - but most do not. For that reason - consumers are on their own to determine the background and credential validity of the nutrition practitioner they chose to see.