Should I Become a Natural Health Dietitian?
Natural health dietitians develop balanced nutritional plans that consider all aspects of clients' lives, including their physical and emotional health. They assess and counsel their clients, develop meal plans, keep up on research and often promote healthy nutrition in the community. These professionals might be employed by healthcare facilities or be self-employed. Those who work on a freelance or contract basis may need to spend considerable time seeking new clients and might be required to work evenings and weekends in order to meet clients' scheduling needs.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required; master's degrees available|
|Degree Field(s)||Dietetics, nutrition or related field|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Licensure requirements vary by state; optional certification in holistic nutrition is available|
|Experience||Internship or supervised training is typically part of a degree program|
|Key Skills||Organization; critical thinking; communication; working with nutrition, word processing and medical charting software; working with testing equipment such as glucometers and impedance machines|
|Salary (2014)||$56,950 (Median annual salary for all dietitians and nutritionists)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O Net OnLine.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Students who want to pursue the title of Registered Dietitian (RD) through the ADA should enroll in a Bachelor of Science program in dietetics or nutrition that's been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). These 4-5-year programs generally cover food science, nutrition therapy, community health, diet preparation and clinical dietetic practice.
- Complete an internship. Whether they work in hospitals or nursing homes or with food management services or private clients, experienced dietitians must approach diet selection and preparation from a flexible, scientific standpoint. This requires considerable communication and organizational skills, which can be gained by completing an internship. CADE-accredited dietetic internships include at least 900 hours of supervised practice and can take 6-24 months to complete.
Step 2: Meet State Requirements
Many states require dietitians to have certification, licensure or registration. Qualifications vary, but a bachelor's degree in a dietetics-related field generally is the minimum education requirement. Some states require licensed, certified or registered dietitians to meet continuing education requirements.
Step 3: Earn a Registered Dietitian (RD) Credential
Dietitians can acquire the ADA's voluntary RD credential by meeting academic and experience requirements and passing the ADA national registration exam. RDs must meet continuing education requirements to keep their titles. Dietitians with the RD credential may find better employment opportunities.
Step 4: Advance Your Career With Education
Aspiring natural health dietitians may pursue a Master of Arts, Master of Science or graduate certificate program in holistic nutrition. These programs typically focus on clinical and applied research, nutrition with regard to a patient's life cycle and alternative healing philosophies, diagnosis and treatment. Students should enroll in a program that meets the educational standards of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP).
- Seek certification in holistic nutrition. Organizations such as the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board (HNCB) offer certification in holistic nutrition. To qualify for certification with HNCB, individuals must be members of NANP, have graduated from an NANP-approved program and have documented at least 500 hours of professional nutrition work.