Nutrition Specialist Education Requirements and Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a nutrition specialist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Nutrition specialists may be dietitians or nutritionists, each of which require different certification and education. Registered dietitians must be certified nationally after acquiring a bachelor's degree in a field related to physiology, food service management, biochemistry or culinary arts. Certified nutrition specialists, or nutritionists, are health professionals specializing in diet, food and nutrition. National certification for nutritionists is only available after completion of a master's or doctoral program.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Licensure/Certification Registered dietitian status available after earning a bachelor's degree; Certified Nutritionist Specialist status available after earning a master's
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 21%*
Median Salary (2014) $56,950*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Registered Dietitian

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), dietitians are regulated by state agencies, and such regulations vary by state (www.bls.gov). Examinations and standards governing registered dietitians are administered by the American Dietetic Association (www.eatright.org).

Education Requirements

Anyone interested in pursuing the Registered Dietitian credential must earn a bachelor's degree from an institution of higher education accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Students are highly encouraged to focus their coursework on physiology, food service management, biochemistry and culinary arts. Master's and doctoral degrees in nutrition provide the most comprehensive education for a career as a registered dietitian.

Career Info

Registered dietitians will enjoy stable career prospects in the future. Information from the BLS shows a 21% increase in available employment opportunities for dietitians and nutritionists between 2012 and 2022. According to the ADA, salaries for registered dietitians vary depending on the specific nature of their employment. The median annual salary for registered dietitians employed as consultants was $60,008 in 2007. With a median annual wage of $48,006 in 2007, registered dietitians working in community health programs earned the least of their colleagues.

Certified Nutrition Specialist

Certified nutrition specialists, also known as nutritionists, are health professionals with expertise in diets, food and nutrition. While state agencies don't generally regulate certified nutrition specialists, national certification is available through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS).

Education Requirements

Individuals with a variety of educational backgrounds are prepared for a career as a certified nutrition specialist. Official certification from the CBNS requires a master's or doctoral degree in nutrition or a related field. Professional education in other health areas, including pharmacy and medicine, along with supplemental education in nutrition also qualifies candidates interested in certification as a nutrition specialist.

Career Info

Salaries for certified nutrition specialists vary depending on experience, education and location. For example, those in Maryland and Nevada earned in excess of $63,000 annually as of 2009, while those in North Dakota and Pennsylvania earned less than $50,000 around the same time, reports the BLS. Around the country, dietitians and nutritionists earned a median wage of $27.38 an hour in 2014, according to the BLS.

Physician Nutrition Specialist

Physician nutrition specialists are highly trained and educated individuals with expert medical knowledge of nutrition, food and health. Qualifications for professional practice as a physician nutrition specialist aren't regulated by any national or state agency. However, certification for physician nutrition specialists is available through the American Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists (ABPNS).

Education Requirements

All physician nutrition specialists with certification from the ABPNS are medical doctors extremely knowledgeable in nutrition. Before enrolling in medical school, candidates need a bachelor's degree in a natural science field. Doctors interested in becoming a physician nutrition specialist should complete a residency program in pediatrics, internal medicine or general surgery. To earn a certification from the ABPNS, candidates must also complete six months or 1000 hours of supervised instruction in clinical nutrition.

Career Info

As a result of extensive education and training, doctors enjoy stable salary and employment prospects. Data from the BLS reveals an 18% increase in the available number of job openings for all physicians between 2012 and 2022. A doctor's specific salary is based on specialty, education and total years of professional experience. Physicians and surgeons living in Minnesota, Georgia and Indiana earned the highest annual average salaries, reports the BLS.

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