Learn how to become a nutritionist (RDN) without a degree and grow a private practice in minutes while having LOADS of fun!!

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How to Become a Nutritionist (With or Without a Degree):

With a Degree

i. Get a bachelor's degree in a health-related field.

ii. Meet the requirements by national certification

iii. Complete a dietetic internship

iv. Pursue an associate degree

Without a Degree

i. Earn professional certification

ii. Complete a dietetic internship

iii. Pass your exam

iv. Get licensed or certified in your state.

So, you are looking to become a nutritionist and possibly start your own private practice? Bravo! That is where all the great and respected nutritionists get started. We will dig deeper into everything you need to know to kick start your journey, but first, let's clear a few things! A registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) is not the same thing as a nutritionist. Anybody can call themselves a nutritionist, including a stay-at-home mom who watches nutrition shows all day long. There is no certification or licensure needed to call yourself a nutritionist. However, if you want to practice, at least in many states, you need to be registered by a recognized national body. We will get to that.

1. What Is a nutritionist?

Deciding to start a career in nutrition and dietetics is a decision that requires keen research as the job title you choose will determine the formal program you need to undertake. A nutritionist is generally an expert in food and nutrition. A certified nutritionist is a professional who is highly qualified in the structure of diets and how food affects our daily lives.

A nutritionist works closely with patients with eating disorders. They may consider metabolic issues, immune function, digestive functions, and even how the brain of the patient responds to different diets. A nutritionist helps their clients in selecting the right menus, choose the right diets, and educate them on healthy eating diets.

2. How to become a professional nutritionist

It's possible to become a professional nutritionist with and without a degree. What you need is the right education to ensure that you can advise your clients with the right guidance on food and how it affects their health. Here is how to become a nutritionist.

With a Degree

i. Get a bachelor's degree in a health-related field.

If you have a degree already, you have already completed the first step. There are many bachelor's degrees being offered in the market today that result in a nutritionist job. As an entry-level nutritionist, you will need to extra careful to ensure you are picking a program that leads to earning a degree. A suitable bachelor's degree is one that is in health or nutrition-related field such as dietetics.

Some undergrad programs that guarantee a career as a nutritionist include:
• Food and science

• Biochemistry

• Microbiology

• Community nutrition

• Nutrition

• Dietetic

• Food science

• Clinical nutritional care, etc.

There are a whole lot of undergrad programs that can lend to a career in nutrition. You can check others online or consult with someone who is already in that field. You should also ensure that the degree program you undertake is accredited by a recognized college or university.

A bachelor's degree generally takes 3-4 years to complete, after which you are granted your degree as evidence of having completed the course work.

ii. Meet the requirements by national certification

The requirements for license and certification will be different depending on the state you are in the country. Some states such as Oklahoma, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, and others do not require nutritionists to be licensed or have any formal certification to practice.

Even though it's not a requirement by some states, your employer may require you to see that you are licensed before you can practice. Some states may also require nutritionists to obtain an updated special certification while others require the candidate to complete and pass exams to prove their knowledge and skills in the specific field.

There are other certifications which increase your chances of being certified and licensed by the state. They include:

• Certified nutritional professional (CNP)- this program is eligible for individuals who already have a bachelor's degree or higher educational background. CNP applicants must also have completed at least 1200 hours of fully supervised clinical experience and a minimum of 3 full-time years. If you meet these requirements, most states allow you to sit for a licensing program.

• Certified clinical nutritionist (CCN)- this program is suitable for those who have already pursued a bachelor's degree in a nutrition-related field but are looking to practice in medical-based settings. The program specializes in biochemical science and the science behind nutrition and physiological function. Qualifying for this certification also makes you eligible for your state's license exam.

• Registered dietician/nutritionist (RDN)- this certification program is suitable for nutritionists who are also interested in being dietetics. The certificate grants a board-certification in a nutrition specialty. This program increases one's career opportunities by earning certification to practice in dietetics. Meeting the criteria for qualification also qualifies you to receive a license in most states.

iii. Complete a dietetic internship

A dietetic internship is optional, but it's an important step towards becoming a successful professional nutritionist. Internships are generally unpaid full-time jobs where you get to put your knowledge to practical work. It can be done while undertaking your degree, or you can do it right after college. Some certification programs like the Certified Clinical Nutritionists require the applicant to have completed certain hours of internship.

iv. Pursue an associate degree

A nutritionist may decide to pursue a related career to get in-depth knowledge of a specific field in nutrition. It may be a master's degree, doctorate program, or even a certificate program. If one is interested in a single unit or field, there are a lot of certificate programs which can be completed in a few months or even weeks. An associate degree may also open a lot of doors in getting an entry-level job. However, if you are looking to gain a deeper foundation in your field of study, a master's degree will be ideal.


Without a Degree

You could be having a degree in another completely unrelated field, and you have decided to change your career path for some reason. It may also be that you have no degree at all, and you have decided to venture into being a nutritionist without having to get a degree. It is possible! Here is how to become a nutritionist without a degree.

i. Earn professional certification

You will need to earn a professional certification from a recognized national board or association. These credentials open doors for successful career opportunities and give clients and even employers confidence in you. They guarantee that you have the necessary knowledge in the specific field.

One such recommended program is the academy of nutrition and dietetics (ACEND) accredited program. There are different programs you can undertake. Some cover all the coursework, but you will be required to undertake another program for the internship.

Other programs are coordinated to combine both the coursework and the internship. If you want to qualify as a registered dietician, an ACEND accredited program is a requirement. There are also other different certifications that require different degrees of work to earn. Some popular certifications include:

• Certified nutritional consultant (CNC)- this program is best for unlicensed nutrition lists at entry-level. It is offered by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. CNC is designed to give entry-level nutritionists credibility in the field. Undertaking this program, however, does not guarantee a state license or certification. For one to pass them for the CNC credential, they need to score at least 85% in all the eleven parts of the exam. If you want to qualify for the program, you need to be a high-school graduate and a member of the AANC.

• NAMS certified nutritional coach- a nutrition career requires one to be able to advise their clients in a healthy diet plan depending on the different exercise routines. This program is suitable for those looking to become personal trainers and diet coaches. The program does not also require a bachelor's degree as the entry requirement is a high school diploma. You can enter an online program, after which you will be required to sit a certification program that should be passed with a score of at least 70%. This certification does not guarantee a legal license to higher-level credentials. You will also be required to undertake a special exam in order to keep the credential.

• American fitness professional associations certification-this is another certification of becoming a nutritionist without a bachelor's degree. The program is suitable for personal trainers who have high school certification. It can be undertaken online, after which a series of exams should be sat. After completion of the program, which takes six months or less, one earns credentials as an AFPA certified holistic nutritionist, nutrition and wellness consultant, sports nutritionist, and weight management specialist. The programs also offer other certifications that qualify you to become a certified nutritional consultant.

ii. Complete a dietetic internship

Internships are important as they help you in practicing your coursework. RDs are required to undertake an ACEND accredited internship program before they can be declared as qualified. Undertaking internship programs are also good for your cv, especially without a degree. It gives employers the confidence that you have at least practiced.

iii. Pass your exam

There are certain professional exams that are offered after undertaking certain programs before one can be certified to be given a certain credential. The exams differ in requirements and passing grades. You need to have passed the exam before you can become a certified nutritionist. Passing these exams also shows your potential to employers and clients since it earns you the credentials.

iv. Get licensed or certified in your state.

Even though you may already have certification from a national board, your state may not necessarily certify you. State certification is important because it dictates the legal use of your title and the services you are allowed to offer.


3. National vs. state certification

National certification

National certification is a credential given to an individual by a professional and certified body having certified certain requirements such as some level of education, certain hours of practice, or a designated professional experience. It is usually granted after a professional exam that is given and supervised by the nationally recognized body.

National certifications are not to be confused with a certificate. A certificate is a proof of having successfully completed a certain program or series of classes and courses successfully. Certificate programs mostly require a bachelor's degree to be undertaken. These programs are taken to advance the knowledge in a certain field or to specialize in a particular subtopic. Certificate programs may, however, help you in meeting requirements for certifications.

State certification

Many states require one to have national certification or to sit for a licensing exam offered by a national body or organization prior to licensing. Even with a national certification, you will be required to be licensed by the state or at least certified before you can practice. A license basically permits you to legally promote yourself as a nutritionist to the public. With a license, a nutritionist can be held with established professional standards. The certificate also provides the services you can offer, depending on the limits of your state.

The good thing is that not all states require state licensure. You will need to do some research to find out whether it is a requirement in your state. Even in states that do not require a license to practice, you will need to be certified or registered to a recognized organization such as the academy of nutrition and dietetics or the clinical nutrition certification. Non-license nutritionists who are not required to register or be certified with any organization are allowed to practice in a non-clinical setting such as alternative medicine clinics and centers.

Non-licensed nutritionists are also not regulated by anybody and therefore do not require to have any educational prescription. They are, however, required to have in-depth knowledge of nutrition and other related courses, so undertaking a short course and certification program is not a bad idea.


Aspiring non-licensed nutritionists are encouraged to undertake courses such as microbiology and mother related sciences, organic herbs and potions, medical terminology, nutritional supplements, and medical terminology. These courses are offered by traditional colleges and universities and specialized trade schools. Some clinics and medical schools may also let students learn from an internship for real-life experience.

Non-licensed nutritionists are allowed by their states to offer their services in private practice, non-profit organizations, fitness and beauty centers, community centers, and holistic or alternative health centers.

4. THINGS TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION

• Nutrition is a very wide field, and there is no limit to what you can practice. There are a few things to consider, however, as before you become a nutritionist.

• What is your reason for becoming a nutritionist? Finding the correct and honest answer to this question will help you in choosing the best path in nutrition for you. There are hundreds of reasons you may have like you are passionate about food, or you want to help people, or you are struggling with finding a balance in eating healthy. Whatever the reason, just be honest about it to yourself.
• Make sure you are passionate about nutrition- there are many reasons you want to pursue nutrition, but whatever the reason, make sure you are passionate about nutrition. Learning nutrition is not enough, this job requires passion. If you are not passionate about it, you will not make a good nutritionist.

• Research on the different areas you can work before you start on your career-there are more areas of nutrition than you probably imagined. You may only be aware of a few fields which limit you while making your choices. There are fields such as being a brand consultant, public service consultant, sports nutritionist, name it! Through research, you will learn of the different areas which will help you while selecting the different subjects to undertake and specialize in.

• Lower your expectations- maybe your dream is to work with a big firm or become a successful independent consultant. A lot of things can happen once you have become a nutritionist; there are countless results. You may need to work at a clinic some days and consult on others. At times you will need to start on a low paid job before you can go up the ladder. Patience and hard work!

• Walk the talk- you want to be a nutritionist; you need to act like one. Do you know what they say about a skinny chef? Don't trust them! If you want to preach water, make sure you are also drinking it.

5. Nutritionist Marketing: Getting Patients Consistently

Now that everything is in order and you are going to start your own practice as a nutritionist, it is good to have basic digital marketing strategies to have some clients. There are limitless ways to advertise your services, but we have rounded up on the easiest. We have an entire article on this topic as well.

• SEO- SEO stands for search engine optimization. In the simplest terms, it is the process of optimizing your website to appear in front of the right people when they search for what you offer on a search engine. Some of the search engines people may use for to search for nutritional services on are Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

• Optimizing your site for the search engine can be done through on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO involves the pages on your website, and the optimizations you do to them to make your website appear on Google. These may include optimizing the text on your site with h1-h6 tags and adding alt text to photos on your site. Off-page SEO involves optimizations that are done off your website. Like getting a blog article written about your brand or building a Facebook or Yelp page.

• Social media- social media has grown to command a big portion of our lives. Social media platforms have become more than just social hangouts since many people are now taking their businesses online and taking marketing to social media. A platform like Instagram gives you as a nutritionist access to 71% of the population, especially millennials and generation Z. These are the generations that are most open to learning about dietetics and nutrition. Other platforms like Facebook and Instagram also allow for paid advertisements, which can reach a multitude of users.

• Make use of google ads or paid advertising- Google ads are probably the quickest way of getting patients for your private practice. If Google ads are done correctly, you can get clients almost instantly with just a test ad. These ads are usually placed either on top or at the bottom of the search results page. Similar to SEO, these ads appear on the search results page when someone looks for something on Google. Only you don't have to wait weeks or months for your website to rank for SEO, you can run an ad and get in front of people instantly.

• Referrals- nothing beats a good referral! The easiest way to earn a good referral is to make your patients happy and satisfied. You will be on the tongues of your patients, and they will soon bring you more patients. Referrals are proof that you are actually doing your job. Another form of referrals are online testimonials. A lot of people read online reviews about a product or service before purchasing. A nutritionist with five stars will definitely get more business than one with a poor rating. An online testimonial should be written on your Google business listing, Facebook and Yelp. You can even have your web designer place some of your best testimonials on your website for SEO purposes.

• The internet is a hub of opportunities for any nutritionist out there. The importance of marketing, especially online marketing, cannot be emphasized enough, especially in this time of social media prevalence. Your target audience and potential clients are right there at the palm of your hands if you can only use it correctly.