Steve Woods

Becoming a Certified Nutritionist

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Steve Woods

Basics

A certified nutritionist, also referred to as a dietitian, plans meals for patients in health care environments from hospitals and nursing homes to clinics and private practices. Certified nutritionists work alongside massage therapists, homeopaths and acupuncturists in holistic centers that offer alternative medical treatments. School systems and prisons also employ certified nutritionists.

Education

A four-year degree in food service management, diet and nutrition or other related area is a minimum requirement for nutritionists. Many go on to earn a master's or doctorate in nutrition to increase job opportunities and to broaden their expertise. Nutritionists also specialize in various fields such as community dietary programs, clinical, management or consulting work. They earn designations and additional degrees in these fields. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48 states have laws governing the licensure of nutritionists. The Commission on Dietetic Registration lists the requirements and contact information for individual states through its website. Certifications are awarded through the American Dietetic Association. The Registered Dietitian (RD) certificate is awarded after fulfilling the group's educational requirements and internship hours and passing an examination. The RD status does not replace state license requirements. Registered Dietitians must maintain their designation by completing 75 hours of approved continuing education credits every five years.

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Certification

Certifications are awarded through the American Dietetic Association. The Registered Dietitian (RD) certificate is awarded after fulfilling the group's educational requirements and internship hours and passing an examination. The RD status does not replace state license requirements. Registered Dietitians must maintain their designation by completing 75 hours of approved continuing education credits every five years.

Disciplines

Certified clinical nutritionists primarily work in health care facilities where they oversee the dietary requirements of individual patients. They assess the patient's needs and medical condition, prepare a menu for the patient while in the facility and report on the follow-up care they provide. They work closely with doctors in determining the needs of the patient. Clinical specialties for nutritionists can lead to work with obesity patients, kidney and diabetic patients, and the critically ill. In a hospital or nursing home, the clinical nutritionist often supervises a kitchen staff. Community dieticians primarily serve as educators as they work within community programs to prevent disease and promote healthy eating. Home health agencies use the services of community dieticians to teach homebound patients how to shop and prepare for their special dietary needs. Nutritionists interested in working in the alternative medicine arena can find courses and training through organizations such as the Global Institute for Alternative Medicine. Many holistic nutritionists work as entrepreneurs in their own practices and help people arrive at the most healthy diet for their lifestyle and health needs.

About the Author

Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."

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