If you are interested in helping people stay healthier through what they eat, you may be interested in becoming a certified nutritionist. Many people use the terms dietitian and nutritionist interchangeably. This is not entirely accurate since the former is required to complete certain educational courses and become certified while requirements for the latter vary by state. More than a dozen states require nutritionists to be certified, but in many others, there are no such requirements. However, by becoming certified, your training is similar to that of a dietitian, and you can help ensure that the advice you give to people is grounded in the latest research.
What are the Steps?
First, you should find out what your state requirements are. At minimum, you will usually need to pursue a two-year associate’s degree, but a bachelor’s degree would be even better. Most likely, you will then need to get some clinical experience and pass whatever exam your state requires for certification. If your state does not require certification, you may want to look at the options for certification and choose the one that seems best for your situation. Although it is not necessary for getting a job as a nutritionist, you can also pursue a master’s degree. Those who want an executive position at a research facility or who wish to go into academia can get a doctorate. You can also become a certified nutritional specialist with a graduate degree and further training and testing.
How Do I Pay for School?
Savings, scholarships, grants and loans are all ways that you might pay for your education. It’s easy to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online to see what you might be eligible for, and once you know, you can also look into private student loans to make up the difference. Be sure to do some research to find out where the best interest rates and repayment plans are being offered. If you have a job, you should also find out whether your employer pays a portion of educational expenses.
What Courses Will I Take?
While courses vary from program to program, there are certain topics they will all cover, such as what the essential nutrients are and how to do a nutritional analysis. You may also learn about how changing eating habits can help with certain medical issues, how to counsel patients about nutrition and how eating and fitness are related.
What Will My Job Be Like?
You may work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes or for the government. You might also go into business for yourself. If this is your ambition, you may want to take some business classes as well. In this capacity, you might work directly with patients, counseling them about their diets, or you may work as a consultant to larger organizations. As an employee, you may also work with individuals on improving their diets, but if you go into a community health setting, you might work on educating the public in a more general way about nutrition.