If you’re interested in turning your interest in healthy eating into a career helping others, you have three basic options for becoming a nutrition specialist depending on how much time you’re willing to invest in education and training, what type of practice options you want, and how much income you’d like to earn. Understanding the different paths available for becoming a nutritionist will help you make the right choice for you.
Advising consumers on nutrition requires choosing one of three career paths, with some requiring more stringent preparation than others. One option includes getting certified as a nutritionist and advising clients as part of a small business, such as working as a personal trainer or fitness instructor. Another option is to assist registered dietitians as a dietetic technician, which might include working directly with their patients. The ultimate job in nutrition is working as a registered dietitian, which opens doors to counseling at hospitals, clinics and corporations, working with professional sports teams, colleges and universities or developing a personal practice.
Certified nutritionists study nutrition online, take a few college classes or attend seminars or workshops, as part of their work toward a nutrition certificate. Certified nutritionists are limited as to what services they can provide and advice they can give, depending on their state’s regulations. Adding nutrition certification to your skills as a trainer, instructor or coach can make you more employable and help you earn more income, but you probably won’t be able to specialize, start your own practice limited to nutrition counseling, land large clients and make six figures, advises Page Love, MS, RDN, CSSD, owner of Nutrifit Sport Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia.
A dietetic technician earns an associate’s degree in nutrition and then earns certification through the rigorous Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics training program. Dietetic technicians receive far more training than certified nutritionists and have many more opportunities to work in health care and corporate settings.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
A registered dietitian nutritionist earns a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, serves a nine-month internship and then sits for certification through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These professionals are legally allowed to counsel consumers and businesses in diet therapy, managing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol, obesity and coronary heart disease. They specialize in areas such as sports nutrition, weight loss and pediatric nutrition. RDNs work at hospitals and clinics or start their own practices. These are the nutritionists that professional sports teams and corporations hire to help with athlete training and employee wellness.
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