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Nutrition Specialist Education Requirements and Career Info

Aug 16, 2019

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

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What education do you need to be a nutritionist? Nutritionist prerequisites generally include at least a bachelor's degree in nutrition science or in a related science or health field. After earning a bachelor's degree, a nutrition specialist must seek further certification and accreditation, depending on the focus of their work. For example, a dietitian must be registered, while a certified nutrition specialist must first earn a master's or doctoral degree before they can practice.

Essential Information

Nutrition specialists may be dietitians or nutritionists, each of which requires 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, at minimum
Licensure/Certification Registered dietitian status available after earning a bachelor's degree; Certified Nutritionist Specialist status available after earning a master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026) 15%*
Average Salary (2018) $61,210*

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).

Registered Dietitian Degree Requirements

Anyone interested in pursuing a 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. There are registered dietitian online education options available for those interested in pursuing certification as a dietitian. Master's and doctoral degrees in nutrition, while not required for certification, provide the most comprehensive education for a career as a registered dietitian.

Certified Nutrition Specialist

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

Nutritionist Degree Requirements

Individuals with a variety of educational backgrounds may pursue 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 benefits candidates interested in certification as a nutrition specialist.

Dietitian and Nutritionist Job Outlook and Salary

The BLS combines dietitians and nutritionists into one category for purposes of reporting job statistics. The BLS predicts a 15% increase in available employment opportunities for dietitians and nutritionists between 2016 and 2026. According to the BLS, salaries for dietitians and nutritionists vary depending on the specific nature of their employment. For instance, the average annual salary for those working in nursing care facilities was $60,230 in 2018. Dietitians and nutritionists working in grantmaking and giving services earned an average annual wage of $73,910 in 2018, the highest in the field.

Salaries for this field also vary based on location. For example, dietitians and nutritionists in California and Alaska earned an average annual wage in excess of $71,000 as of 2018, while those in Arizona and New Mexico earned an average of less than $56,000, according to the BLS. Around the country, dietitians and nutritionists earned an average wage of $29.43 an hour in 2018, according to the BLS.

If you are interested in the field of nutrition, you may pursue a career as either a registered dietitian or certified nutrition specialist. When deciding which career choice is best for you, it's important to consider the different educational requirements needed for both occupations, as well as the duties involved with each job.

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