Overview of Online Nutritionist Certification in California
With the growing importance of health and wellness in the U.S., nutritionists have become key members of the healthcare community. The state of California does not mandate the certification or licensure of nutritionists, but employers may require them to be certified. Nutritionist certification can be rigorous, but it's a way to demonstrate the aptitude of professionals in the field. Two notable organizations that certify nutritionists in California are the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND) and the American Nutrition Association (ANA), which offer the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist credentials, respectively.
Aspiring nutritionists must comply with the following educational prerequisites:
- A degree in nutrition or nutrition-related fields from an accredited school: Depending on the certification provider, this may either be a bachelor's or postgraduate degree.
- Specific courses from an accredited program: If the user has a degree that is unrelated to nutrition, he/she may opt to take specific courses to compensate.
- Supervised training: This is done at a healthcare facility and typically takes six months to a year.
After completing these requirements, users must pass the certification exam to obtain the RDN or CNS credential.
Nutritionist Certification Requirements
Since students are expected to have acquired the necessary knowledge to take the nutritionist certification exam from their educational experience, there are no official preparation programs. At most, study companions and practice exams are offered online (and in print) on a self-study basis.
Information and Requirements
Nutritionist certification exams are given onsite and online, depending on the credentialing body (the RDN is in-person; the CNS offers remote proctoring). A maximum of 200 multiple-choice questions make up the exams, which are three to four hours long and divided into four to six domains. Study guides, inclusive of tips, suggested readings, and practice exams, are available for purchase at around $60 to $75. Exam fees range from $200 to $300.
A PC and stable Internet connection are needed to access the study guides and take the online exam.
Nutritionist certification is valid for five years. To renew, users must earn 75 continuing professional credits (CPEs) through activities such as attending seminars and taking courses. Members may also need to pay an annual fee of not more than $100 and, in some cases, a separate renewal fee.
List of Credentialing Bodies for Nutritionists in California
The topics covered in nutritionist certification exams include the fundamentals of dietetics and nutrition, assessment and management of food programs, public health, and food service systems. Due to the aforementioned prerequisites, not all steps toward nutritionist certification are online.
California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) is the credentialing body for CAND and grants successful exam takers the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) title. The minimum educational requirement is a bachelor's degree, alongside supervised training in a program approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). CAND's study guide has a comprehensive outline, study tips, and vouchers for an online practice exam. The fee for the CDR RDN exam is $200. The RDN title must be renewed after five years by earning 75 CPEs, with one credit from an ethics course.
American Nutrition Association
The Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential of the ANA is conferred by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). There are three pathways to the credential, depending on the users' educational attainments, and the minimum degree requirement is a postgraduate degree. Other prerequisites include Accreditation Council for Nutrition Professional Education (ACNPE)-approved coursework and supervised training. The ANA offers a primer and reference list to guide users in preparing for the exam. The primer costs $75, while the exam and processing fee are $350. The CNS credential is valid for five years and can be renewed by accumulating 75 CPEs.
Career Outlook for Certified Nutritionists
Californian food and health businesses and institutions prefer to hire certified nutritionists, even though certification is not mandated in the state.
According to the 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nutritionists earned an annual median wage of $61,270. Because of the demand for health and diet coaches, the occupation is expected to grow at a rate of 11% from 2018 to 2028.
The preparation for nutritionist certification exams is self-paced and much of it can be completed online The exams cost between $200 and $300 and credentials must be renewed every 5 years.