Nutrition Certification
How to Become a Nutritionist/Dietitian

Interested in getting nutrition certification?

People ask me all the time about my path to becoming a dietitian, so I thought I'd share what I know about how to become a nutritionist.

Note: Although I'm using the word "nutritionist," you should know that "dietitian" or "registered dietitian," or "R.D." are the proper terms used to describe a true nutrition professional/expert.

The term Registered Dietitian ("R.D." for short), can only be used by practitioners authorized to use the credential by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Formerly called The American Dietetic Association).

(Also know that the correct spelling of dietitian is with a T, not a C: dietitian, not dietician.)

Individuals with the RD credential (like me!) have completed specific academic and supervised practice requirements, successfully completed a registration exam and have maintained (and continue to maintain) requirements for re-certification.

Some RDs call themselves "nutritionists". However, someone who calls him or herself a "nutritionist" is not necessarily an RD. The definition and requirements for the term "nutritionist" vary and are not legally defined.

You'll need the RD credential to be considered credible. What you call yourself after becoming a dietitian is up to you! I'm an RD and I refer to myself as either/both a dietitian and a nutritionist...depending on the moment!

If you're interested in nutrition certification and how to become a dietitian, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the best place to start gathering information about credentialing and requirements.

See a lit of Accredited or Approved Dietetic Education Programs here.

These nutrition certification explanations will describe the path to becoming an dietitian whether you're in high school or college, an international student, or simply changing careers.

Required classes include LOTS of science: chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, etc. An understanding of how the body works and how food and nutrients interact and impact your body's systems is invaluable. So pay attention in those science classes...especially biochem!

Once you have your nutrition certification as an RD, there are a number of areas you can work in/for including but not limited to:

  • hospitals
  • private doctors
  • food service operations
  • community nutrition programs (WIC, etc.)
  • nursing homes
  • schools
  • food manufacturing companies
  • grocery stores
  • gyms
  • health spas
  • professional sports teams
  • research laboratories

After becoming a dietitian (RD), you might decide on a particular area of nutrition that you want to further your knowledge in such as:

  • Pediatric Nutrition
  • Geriatric Nutrition
  • Bariatric Nutrition
  • Sports Nutrition
  • Diabetes
  • Weight Management
  • Behavioral Health Nutrition
  • Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition
  • Cardiac Nutrition
  • Oncology Nutrition
  • Renal Nutrition
  • Eating Disorders
  • Vegetarianism
  • Women's Health
  • Men's Health

You could:

  • Work individually with people in a private office or your own private practice (see why people may seek diet counseling)
  • Speak in large group settings on college campuses
  • Write the next popular diet book
  • Travel the world as a motivational speaker
  • Direct the nutrition education program for a cardiac rehab program at your local hospital
  • Direct the food service operation at a hospital or nursing home
  • Manage the diets of players on a professional sports team
  • Work as a dietitian in an outpatient eating disorder program
  • Work as a dietitian in a renal center

If you're creative and think outside the box, the sky is the limit!

If you asked me 18 years ago what I'd be doing now, I'd never have answered that I'd be managing my own private practice and writing my own website today! (Nobody even used the internet back then!)

Nutrition is an exciting, ever changing field and the opportunities are really endless.

I'm excited for YOU that you're thinking about and researching a nutrition certification and becoming a dietitian. Go for it!

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