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Learning how to become a nutritionist is the first step toward a fulfilling and rewarding career. These individuals work with people who want to lose weight, who have certain dietary restrictions, or who simply want to make sure they’re eating right. Here is all the information you’ll need to get started on this career path.
Most nutritionists have at least a bachelor’s degree in some nutrition-related field, which may include clinical or public health nutrition. Courses will include nutrition, psychology, biology, chemistry, and others. This degree takes about two years to earn in a traditional setting, but there are online universities that will allow you to complete your degree in as little as 18 months, depending on the amount of time you have available to you. Following your education, you’ll need to receive several hundred hours of supervised training in the form of an internship. You may perform this internship in a hospital, a clinic, or a public health facility.
Whether you’ll need a license or certification to practice as a nutritionist depends solely on the state in which you live. Most states do require licensure, and a bachelor’s degree and internship are necessary for obtaining that license. Some states only require a registration or certification to use certain titles, and a few states have absolutely no regulations, though this is rare.
Nutritionists can earn the CNS credential, which stands for Certified Nutrition Specialist. It shows that you have an advanced level of knowledge, and most employers would rather hire nutritionists who have this designation. Several states accept it for licensure purposes, too. To obtain it, you’ll need a master’s or doctoral degree, 1000 hours of experience, and a passing score on the credentialing examination.
As of May 2015, the median salary for nutritionists was $57,910 annually. Those who worked in outpatient care centers, such as clinics, earned the most, and those who worked in accommodation and food services earned the least. Only about 25% of nutritionists in the US work part-time, and some may be required to work evenings and weekends to satisfy their clients’ needs.
One of the perks of a career as a nutritionist is the job growth that is expected in the next several years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in this field is expected to climb some 16% by 2024, which is much faster than the average for all occupations nationwide. This growth will be fueled by the increased interest in promoting wellness through food and nutrition, and with more than one-third of Americans considered obese, diseases like diabetes and kidney disease are real threats. As people work to improve their health, the services provided by nutritionists will become invaluable.
Learning how to become a nutritionist is the first step in enjoying a very fulfilling lifelong career. It’s all about helping people learn what and how to eat to keep themselves healthy, happy, and fit. It’s also an opportunity for lifelong learning since research on foods and individual ingredients never stops.