Getting Your Nutritionist Certification

One of the most exciting trends in preventative health care is also one of the oldest. Treating and preventing disease and illness through diet is one of the concepts that both ancient and modern medical lore agree upon. The connection between diet and health has never been more scrutinized as modern medical scientists and economists have fixed on preventative medicine a sure way of reducing health care costs. Proper diet can help prevent chronic illness or major trauma such as a heart attack. Food can even be used to treat certain conditions. Nutritionists are experts in using food to prevent and cure disease. Nutritionist certifications are badges of expertise and competence in the field.

Nutritionist certification is accomplished in a number of ways. Many states offer certification through colleges and university degree programs in coordination with private associations. These private, sometimes not for profit, professional associations come up with and update the standards and requirements generally agreed upon by working professionals. They consult with members, teachers, and administrators from hospitals and universities about best practices and curricular requirements. They offer classes and training to their members to help them advance their skills and improve their practice. They also produce tests and programs to assess the skills of graduates and working nutritionists. Associations certify clinical nutritionists, dieticians, and nutritionists.

Nutritionist degrees vary to a great degree. The title nutritionist covers many job requirements, from clinical nutritionist or dietician to nutritional consultants. Clinical nutritionists generally have a bachelorís degree and often a masterís degree. All programs cover the basic science of nutrition, where students learn about vitamins, calories, nutrients, and other major concepts in nutrition. They learn old and new theories about weight gain and the relationship between food and illness. They may also learn tangential skills, from food service management to fitness training. Increasingly, they are taking courses in education to expand their skill sets. Every new skill opens up another door of opportunity. Many programs allow students to choose electives or otherwise individualize their degree to fit their own career goals. All degree programs will gear their education to end in certification for their students.

Certified nutritionists fill many job titles across a number of industries. In health care, they work in hospitals and other institutions. In this capacity, they design meals for widespread dietary needs. These range from gluten-free menus for those with celiac disease to specialty and liquid diets for patients incapable of normal mastication or digestion. It also includes ensuring a menu of healthy foods for the general population of patients. Increasingly, nutritionists are sought to devise menus that prevent obesity. They may be hired to do this by state and local governments for specific institutions, such as a fire department. By preventing obesity and its attendant health problems (diabetes, cardiac arrest, gout), a government can reduce its health care costs significantly. These health care benefits accrue to any large organization, so many in the private sector are looking for nutritionists to consult or work full-time.

More and more nutritionists are being called upon to teach. Training others how to eat food with a purpose is more effective than preparing food for them. They teach individuals and consult with education programs on how to instill good eating practices. They often work with early intervention programs to design menus and dietary information for clients. Those with nutritionist certifications can prove they have achieved a standard of knowledge, passed a test demonstrating that knowledge, and kept current with changing trends in the field through recertification.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014