How to become a nutritionist

How to Become a Nutritionist: RD vs. CNS Pathway

Healthy eating is essential to keep your body healthy, happy, and strong. For overall health and wellness, regular exercise with a healthy diet is of the vital part. To encourage people for healthy eating, nutrition and health education is becoming more and more popular. In the front position of the movement are educators, nurses, dieticians, and nutritionists and dieticians.


There is a wide variety of positions that a nutritionist fills in various circumstances. The nutritionists are helping in motivating their clients with their practical knowledge of eating well. No matter where you are working, a dietician and a nutritionist are highly specialized in working with a particular group of patients. For example, one can work exclusively with an individual patient’s group. But in the case of a nutritionist, the career is broader than others because they are working for a more diverse group.

Nutrition is an area that is vitally important in different types of environments. For instance, from hospitals to schools, even in the offices, and of course, the gyms, you will meet a nutritionist providing practical information about healthy eating to their clients. No matter your field of interest, you will find a nutritionist busy in the noble cause of promoting food awareness and dealing with their patients.

 Besides, a nutritionist may deal with a small group of people like specifically with dialysis patients. But overall, a nutritionist has broad areas of duty. You might see him/her working in a hospital as a meal planner or as a child nutritionist in schools. A nutritionist’s role in schools is vital as he/she acts as a consultant to teach the students the value of healthy eating habits.

How are nutritionist and dietetics

Nutrition and dietetics is a field in which the specialists are directly responsible for enhancing their patients’ health and well-being. Once you get into this profession, you will steadily learn about your clients’ circumstances, their needs, and the best ways that can elevate the level of health and happiness in their lives.

As a nutritionist, you will be in charge to perform different tasks for your patients, as:

  • Assess and evaluate the dietary needs of your clients and what needs to be change
  • Monitoring their eating habits and get them in control
  • Stay connected with up minute researches on dietary science
  • Case management of any given scenario
  • Evaluating and preparing reports of your clients

How to Become a Licensed Nutritionist

The criteria to become a nutritionist vary and depend upon the career you would like to pursue. However, some steps would probably remain the same or may go a little in almost all cases. 

  1. Earn a certified Bachelor’s degree in dietetics or a Master’s degree in clinical nutrition.
  2. Must have the experience through supervision work or internship with a minimum of 900 hours or may vary with the State’s credentials. 
  3.   You have to pass the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) exams or (RDN) Registered dietician. 
  4. Find a job in a school, hospital, restaurant, or can do private practice.
  5. Maintain education credits by continuing the learning and stay active in the competition. 

Types of Nutritionists

A nutritionist is undoubtedly the best career you can adopt and is full of opportunities. But first, you have to decide the type of nutritionist you want to become before entering the field of a nutritionist.


The wide variety of certifications and career choices in nutritionist made it among the broadest careers. It is a free term and is probably confusing for potential clients due to its users with several different variations in their credentials, experience, and education.

In simple words, a nutritionist is a dietary expert who advises clients on the best way to meet their specific nutritional needs. A nutritionist doesn’t need to be certified with (BCNS) Boards for Certification of Nutritionist Specialists or (ACEND) The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics and Education.

Holistic Nutritionist:

A holistic nutritionist is also a nutritionist but has a more defined focus on using food and nutrients to heal, maintain, and keep a healthy body utmost energetic. Being a holistic nutritionist, you will regard your client as a whole while evaluating their dietary needs.

Likewise, when you prepare their diet plan, you use your practical knowledge to expect the best outcome and set goals. Another essential thing to note is that finding an authorized holistic nutritionist is challenging. The term is not officially set at the government level, so they cannot take any field insurance.

Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS):

A nutritionist who has the due certificate from the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists is a CNS. Varies and State specific, the Certified Nutrition Specialist is another mean to licensure than the RD. In some States, nutritionists with the CNS authenticity can avail insurance and readily work in any hospital as a practitioner. 

 Registered Dietician (RD):

Much like a CNS, a registered dietician, is a specialist who gets the premium certification from the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics Education. Similarly, owing to certificate and license, the RD enjoys highly paying positions and gets better advancement and promotion opportunities.

Note: From 2020, and onwards, all the future RD’s will have to pursue a master’s degree that will be a must for qualifying for the license.

No matter what position you opt from all these nutritionists, every situation is unique and has complete career options. Remember one thing, either you want to become a certified nutritionist or a registered dietician, every position requires honesty and effort. Of course, all of these options have advanced career options and the highest potential to earn when performed with devotion.

You cannot practice without specific authorized licensure and education, and it can be illegal to practice without it. Thus it is essential to have a nutrition credential that is recognized by your state government. 

Steps to Become a Nutritionist


The minimum criteria for becoming a registered dietician are to have a bachelor’s degree from a certified program. In the case of CNS, a masters degree is essential. For adapting the career in nutrition here are some majors that are widely accepted.     

  • Chemistry       
  • PhysiologyDietetics
  • Food Science
  •  Biochemistry
  • Sociology        
  • Nutrition
  • Microbiology

Majors and degrees in research, natural science, and critical thinking are strongly encouraged. 

Work Experience

Suppose you have a certification whether BCNS or ACEND there are the chances of increase in opportunities and more earnings. It is essential to have work experience by an internship to become a certified nutritionist. In the case of BCNS, you have to complete 1000 hours of work experience under accredited supervision. And to get licensed by ACEND, you have to complete an internship of about 900 to 1200 hours in a period of 6 and 12 months. Besides, the hour can vary with the difference in the states.


You have to pass an exam conducted by the Accreditation Council for Education In Nutrition and Dietetics Education (ACEND) to become an RDN. While becoming a CNS, it is essential to pass the nutrition specialist exam by the Board for Certifications for Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). These exams contain multiple choices having a fixed time and a scoring system of the pass and fail. 

Job Search

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the availability of jobs for dieticians are around 11,000 positions or in other words, about 16% from 2014 to 2024. When we compare it with the average, this growth is speedy due to the Americas increasing obesity pandemic and the ageing population.

Due to the awareness of healthy eating, this career is growing fast. As we know, healthy eating is essential for every single person, and that’s the main reason its job exists everywhere you see. For nutritionists, both the private sector and public sector jobs are available. If I name a few, you can find its jobs in hospitals, wellness programs, restaurants, public outreach programs, research labs, and schools as well.

Continuing Education

To become a certified nutritionist and a registered dietician, it is essential to have continuing education credits as a part of their education. The number of hours necessary for the RDNs differs and depends on the state they are practising. In most of the states, you have to complete about 75 education credits every five years. However, different states have different hours required in their renewal cycle.

If you want to maintain your certification, you must complete 75 educational credits in 5 years as a certified nutritionist.

Nutrition School Certification requirements for licensing

If you want to become a registered dietician, your programs must be registered by The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Diet Education. Besides, to become a certified nutritionist, you should graduate from regionally recognized undergraduate and graduate programs.

         There are some options to complete your undergraduate and graduate degrees in health science and nutrition. However, when you seek a degree in biology, biochemistry, or some other related fields, it is essential to attend the labs and must-have interactive learning. Besides, it is not possible to exclusively complete a degree online because your certification with ACEND requires completing some specific science courses. But in the case of Clinical nutrition, you can earn a master’s degree entirely online and qualify to sit in the Certified Nutrition Specialist exam. 

Internship & Practicum 


A 6 to 12-month internship is essential to become a registered and licensed dietician. Besides 900 to 1200 hours is necessary, and your training must be recognized by ACEND. 

         If you become a certified nutritionist with BCNS, you have to complete your 1000 hours of clinical work under supervision, and the board should approve it.

Licensing & Certification

Generally, there is no need for licensing. However, whether you have to depends on the type of field you want to work in and the State you want to work in. If you’re going to get the maximum opportunities for earning, advancement, and upward lifting, you must go for licensing and certifications.

BCNS regulates the continued education and licensing for certified nutritionists. A master or a doctoral degree is required for certification in nutrition and other connected fields. In case of licensing with ACEND, you have to earn continuing education credits in a specific period, and it varies from State to State. Here are some examples:

  •     You have to complete 30 continuing education credits after every two years in Maryland.
  •     In Arkansas, you have to complete the 12 continuing education credits after every year.
  •     You have to complete the 42 continuing education credits every three years in Puerto Rico.

If you want more details, you can visit ACEND or can also contact your regulatory board. 

Starting Your Career as a Nutritionist

There are wide varieties of career opportunities for a nutritionist even though which field of health and nutrition you are interested in as there is a specialization waiting for you. Following few specializations are in demand and require certification with ACEND:

  • Sport
  • Oncological
  • Sport
  • Renal
  • Pediatric

Furthermore, there are some specializations in this field in which there is a very little interaction with patients, and they include:

  • Community health
  • Research
  • Business
  • Education 
  • Foodservice

What to Expect in the Job Environment

Besides the wide range of career paths in dietician and nutrition, there are limitless opportunities available for you there. There are maximum chances that you will work sitting in an office but not if you are a travelling consultant. There are not many opportunities to work from home, but that’s not the only case because opportunities are created and found.

The career of dietician and nutritionist is very flexible, and in most cases, they enjoy a comfortable and low-stress office environment. They are not generally on call and don’t have to respond to patient emergencies. Beside this is the ideal career in which you can easily find your work-life balance. 

It is essential to continue your education to work as a registered dietitian or a certified nutritionist. If you are not registered or licensed, then the best thing is to get educational credits to fulfil the criteria. 

In the nutrition field, things are changing every day with new dietary released research. Thus, to be updated in this field, you have to attend conferences, seminars, and educational classes and make a habit of reading specific dietary magazines and newsletters.

Average Salary

The average salary was about $56,950 (BLS) in May 2014, whereas the outpatient care center gave them the average salary of $61,210. At the same time, there is about $75,430 of the average salary for diagnosing and treating practitioners. About 10% of nutritionists earn less than $35,040, and almost 10% earn above $79,840. 

The need for nutrition and dieticians is growing faster than average about 16% from 2014 to 2024, which adds 11,000 jobs in the market. The main reason behind the increase in these patients’ demands includes the rise in obesity percentages and the aging population. That means this profession has an unemployment rate of 2.9% that is below average.

Some states paying for this career in this career are Maryland, Connecticut, California, Nevada, and New Jersey. These states have the highest rate of employment in New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and California.

Is This Career Path Right for Me? 

There are some traits and skills that are important to succeed as a nutritionist. 

  • Reading Comprehension

By reading your patients charts and new research, you can quickly understand and comprehend further information. 

  • Active listening

During your meeting with your patients, you must have an excellent ability to listen, cooperate, and ask questions.

  • Critical thinking

There are almost the same basic dietary requirements that a body must meet. But the case of every patient varies from the other, and you have to find the solutions to give them a dietary plan that is ideal for their health and lifestyle. 

  • Monitoring

When a nutritionist works with a patient, then the large part of the works include keeping track of their progress report and diet. 

  • Speaking

When you are working in a hospital or any other place, you have to be good at speaking. Because all the time you are doing is interfacing the patients and helping them with their diet. 

Pros and Cons

Like any other profession dieticians and nutritionists also have some pro and cons that you must know.


Low stress

Although it is a type of medical profession, you are not on call for an emergency. Without any worry of an emergency, you can go back home in a relaxed way after your workday. 


This career is very flexible, that means it’s all your choice whether you want to work more or little. It is easier to make a perfect and ideal work-life balance. 

Help People

By adopting this career, you help many people go for a healthy lifestyle and get rid of many diseases’ risk factors. 

Ideal Work-life Balance

Due to the flexibility of this career, you can find your ideal work-life balance. 

Several Career Opportunities

If you compare this field and career with others, you will find out that it is growing faster than others. Dieticians and nutritionists are high in demand, but there are also many more industries in the health and medical field that can be adapted. 

Average opportunities for progress

When you have more educational credits, you have the opportunity of advancement in your field.

Like any other field, it also has some cons, and as an analyst, I find it necessary for my readers.


Unclear Requirements

There are some requirements, and you can’t be a certified or a licensed nutritionist without fulfilling them. But the condition varies from one state to another and with the field of nutrition you want to adopt. 

Lots of Knowledge

You will find the changes with every passing day in the nutrition field due to new research released every day. Therefore you have to study different things to keep yourself updated and know about the things that benefit you and the things that didn’t.  

Reward work Ratio is high

There are undoubtedly sometime when a nutritionist doesn’t get the out come in salary compare to the hard work he puts in his job.

Hard work

In nutrition, you have to complete a lot of paperwork and study hard to be up to date but with a little pay. 

Ability to Change or Expand Careers

As a registered dietician and nutritionist, you are also qualified for some specific health field positions. Besides, by gaining some other certifications, you can expand your career. For example, changing your work scope is very easy due to the availability of several career paths in this field. 

The dieticians and nutritionists also have the possibility of career changes; due to the background of health sciences, you can adopt consulting, nursing, education, and many more. Here are some closely related professions to nutrition. 

Registered Nurse

The profession of nurse is similar to the profession of a nutritionist that helps their patients improve their health and wellness.

Rehabilitation counselor

Rehabilitation counselors help the patient to overcome their mental or physical obstacles that are disturbing his everyday life. 

Health Educators

Health educators work in several different ways to teach the public about healthy diet, exercise, and good habits to improve their health. 

Your Nutrition Career starts Today

Once you have clarity on your state licensing requirement, you are ready to start researching your degree programs.