A bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition or similar fields of study is in many cases a minimum requirement to become a nutritionist in California. Obtaining a master’s degree, or even a Ph.D. specializing in specific fields of study like diet and disease, weight management, sports nutrition, nutrition through the lifecycle, wellness, etc are other paths that nutritionists tend to follow. Some nutritionists have backgrounds in other areas of medicine such as a general practitioner, nurse, or physician’s assistant. In this guide, you’ll find out how to become a nutritionist in California.
Nutritionists have to stay abreast with new trends and developments that occur regularly in the food and health industries, it is important for them to continue learning and to stay informed. A membership with a professional organization such as the California School Nutrition Association or the California Dietetic Association is a good way to be informed and stay up to date on the new challenges and practices in the field of nutrition.
Nutrition is a big part of one’s life and has an impact on many areas and activities. Nutritionists work in a variety of specialties in the private and public sectors to help establish a healthy connection between the quality of life and a balanced diet. For example, Government agencies employ nutritionists to assist and teach clients about basic nutritional needs of infants and children to help them grow without any nutrient deficiencies. Many schools utilize the knowledge and skills of nutritionists to help plan meals that are served to students every day. Other nutritionists take on clients who suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or obesity, etc and specialize to help them maintain a more healthy lifestyle.
Nutritionists work in fitness and wellness centers helping people reach their goals, get in shape and maintain a balanced lifestyle. They also work with elite athletes who are trying to maintain their form. Good nutrition correlates to the healthy functioning of one’s body and mind. Nutritionists also help clients balance their nutrient intake which then enables them to perform activities optimally, allowing them to fuel their bodies with energy for intense activity and/or recover quickly. Let’s
Certification and Licensing Requirements in California
A career as a nutritionist offers a multitude of opportunities to work in different scenarios, environments and workspaces with specific issues. Qualified nutritionists are in high demand as people become aware of the connection between a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet. California does not require you to be a licensed nutritionist. But a higher level of education and vast experience in the field makes you more credible and reliable and ultimately leads to a thriving and exciting career.
Nutritionist Salary and Employment Opportunity in California
The average salary of a nutritionist according to the BLS, is $71,870; with the upper range of salaries being more than $95,000. Based on the location of the position, the type of employer (private, government, independent), and of course, the level of education and experience, salaries can vary.
Californians are known to be health-conscious, leading balanced lifestyles with nutritional meals and plenty of exercise. Being a nutritionist in California promises to be a thrilling, fulfilling, and profitable career choice.
According to the State of California Employment Development Department, the projected demand for nutritionists and dietitians is expected to grow 20% in the state through 2020, which is about the same as the national average. The estimates account for almost 400 openings annually. The largest percentage of nutritionists and dietitians are employed in hospitals throughout the state, such as Scripps medical facilities and Adventist Health Central Valley Network. Other employers include schools, nursing care facilities, and government agencies.
Sample Job Descriptions for Nutritionist Positions
More than 7000 nutritionists practice in the state of California, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Listed below are a few job samples of the actual opportunities for nutritionists in several different cities in California:
- Public Health Nutritionist in San Luis Obispo – coordinates breastfeeding and nutritional services for various public health care programs in the area.
- Nutritionist with the YMCA of Silicon Valley in San Jose – provides individualized nutrition counseling, implements nutrition education for members; and guidance focusing on weight management, disease prevention, training enhancement, and health promotion.
- Program Specialist with Jenny Craig in Carlsbad – supports the development of clinical research, program materials, and market/pilot tests and manages other key projects.
Becoming a Health Coach in California
Here is the first step of how to become a nutritionist in California. Health coaches are in high demand even in the land that’s always inventing new health crazes. California’s fitness landscape has always had a place for independent health coaches who play a significant role in helping clients maintain a balanced lifestyle. But according to the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Wellness Plan Report, California is actually facing some serious health issues. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act government agencies and businesses see the value of health coaches. They are the key to maintaining the overall health of the state and economic stability.
We as a society have changed our perspective as we see the connection between fewer visits to the doctor’s office and actual lifestyle changes. This shift to maintain a balanced lifestyle has created a demand for qualified health coaches here in California.
Preventable Chronic Diseases are Draining California Resources
For a state known to be obsessed with clean eating, fresh foods, and experiments with various theories on healthy living, the numbers below are appalling.
- 80% of California’s health care expenditure goes towards people with chronic conditions
- However, most of these chronic illnesses are preventable
- The CDPH estimates that every $10 invested in prevention care per resident would result in a return of $4.80
This issue has literally become a battle between life and death and has the CDPH worried. The budget is no longer the focus. And as the famous saying goes “Prevention is better than cure”
Must Californians Die to get Better
- 80% of deaths are caused by chronic disease-related illnesses and injuries
- Except for 1 of the 14 top causes of death in California are directly related to chronic illnesses
- And 38% of Californians suffer from at least one chronic disease
As a Health Coach, you can be a part of the Solution
In response to these statistics, the past few years have seen public and private sector organizations take an interest in implementing wellness programs to curb rising costs for employees and residents. Some of these organizations include the Alameda County Public Health Department, Cisco Systems, and even the University of California. Why is that important to you? Because health coaching is a key element in many of these programs.
As a health coach, you have the opportunity to help alter the landscape of California’s healthcare system with a more personal, one-on-one approach to fitness and overall wellness.
Be sure to keep reading to find out how to become a nutritionist in California!
Degrees and Professional Certifications for California Health Coaches
Health coaches have been around for decades but it is likely you didn’t even know what a health coach was or that they existed. Currently, there are no state or national licensing bodies for health coaches. The recent growth of the field has resulted in a surge of new organizations designed to train and certify individuals, but there is a lack of standardized requirements.
A certified health coach brings in an annual income that is at least 40% higher than a non-certified coach (based on numbers from indeed.com, which is a job vacancy aggregation site). This is a significant factor to consider as you plan your path towards a career in health coaching. Higher levels of formal education equal higher pay in this field.
An education in food, nutrition, or any other health-related field of study increases your chances of securing higher pay. Your clients need to know you will be a hands on practitioner who understands their issues and helps them overcome their problems whilst achieving their wellness goals. They aren’t paying you to share some information you learned from the internet; they are looking to you for your guidance which has the potential to change the course of their health and lengthen their very lives and improve their quality of living.
On your journey towards becoming a health coach in California, you’ll have the opportunity to study a plethora of concepts which include:
- Integrative Wellness Coaching
- Fundamentals of Human Nutrition
- Health in a Diverse Society
- Medicinal Plants and Herbs
- Community Health Education
- Integrative Nutrition
- Sports Nutrition
- Motivational Strategies
- Physical Activity for Health
- Food In Disease Prevention Management
- Stress Management and Movement
- Nutritional Supplementation
- Contemporary Health Issues
- Therapeutic Cooking
Associate, Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree Options
There are many undergraduate programs that will help you prepare for a career in health coaching, these include:
- Nursing (RN, Nurse Educator, Nurse Practitioner)
- Nutrition Science
- Exercise & Sports Studies (Health & Wellness Certificate Addition)
- Health Education
- Health and Wellness
- Health Science
- Kinesiology (Health And Wellness Concentration)
- Community Health Worker
There are many graduate programs that are available in California to facilitate an in-depth study of the field as well. If you already have an undergraduate degree and are looking for a change of focus to health and nutrition, or if you want to do a Masters in Health Education you can consider the following:
- Master of Science – Nutrition for Wellness
- Certificate in Holistic Health
- Master of Public Health Nutrition
- Master of Science in Nursing – Public Health
Non-Degree Health Coach Certification Programs
A 4 year/graduate level degree is not a requirement for many employers. Many certification organizations that work with health and/or fitness coaches and experts to train other individuals in this area.
When coupled with a degree or some level of formal education in a health-related field, certification is often most respected. The certification process involves online courses followed by an exam to test the depth of your understanding of the concepts learnt.
American Council on Exercise (ACE) – The only Health Coach Certification program accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is offered by ACE. You can choose from one of the three options below to suit your specific career goals:
- Health Coach for Health Care Providers
- Health Coach for Workplace Wellness
- Health Coach for Fitness Professionals
The ACE Certification Candidate Handbook provides in detail the certification examination and maintenance process.
Other Ways to Become a Health Coach in California
There is no set rule or procedure to becoming a health coach in California. Many find their way to this career through the following methods:
- By using their own personal experience of overcoming health challenges to help others.
- Taking auditing classes, reading relevant materials, and staying up to date with the new trends in health and wellness.
- Fitness or Life Coaches who take related continuing education courses to keep p with the times.
Nutrtionist Career Paths and Job Opportunities in California
A recent report by the San Diego Union-Tribune says that more and more Californian businesses are incorporating Workplace Wellness plans and programs with the hope of reducing overall expenditures. Some businesses, like Carlsbad-based Life Technologies, offer reduced deductibles to employees who take part in their wellness initiatives, which regularly include health coaching. Many companies find it beneficial to host wellness programs with health coaches taking the lead, this helps with improving employee engagement, morale, retention, and health.
Health coaches play a key role in the public and private sectors. As a heath coach you may prefer to work in a corporate setup or with the state, collaborating with other team members, or you may prefer the flexibility that comes with being an independent health coach. Some health coaches also work as part-time consultants for large companies and also do private consulting on the side.
Your daily schedule as a life coach depends on the path you choose. Those working for corporates and state agencies usually work a standard 9-5 job while independent health coaches are more likely to meet with clients on evenings and weekends depending on the clients’ availability.
If you do decide to venture out on your own, there are some important steps you’ll need to keep in mind and take before acquiring clients, setting up your website and promotional materials.
- Register as a Sole Proprietorship with the applicable county agency.
- Make sure to file the appropriate tax documents.
- Explore the “General Business Information” category for your county to determine any additional requirements to open a business in your area.
As a health coach, it is important to explore the legal aspects of health coaching as well. You must know what is right by law and practice what you preach.
Companies in California that are known to hire health coaches include:
- Cisco Systems Inc.
- Orange County Government
- North East Medical Services
- California Schools VEBA
- Cenegenics Corporate Health
- Life Technologies (Carlsbad)
- Grand Rounds
- YMCA of Silicon Valley
- California Pacific Medical Center
- Blue Shield of California
- Magellan Health Services
- University of California – San Francisco
That is how to become a nutritionist in California!