The path to becoming a nutritionist is going to depend on your education, experience and your geographic location. Each state has varying degree, licensing and certification requirements in order to work in the field. So you will need to research your state's requirements as far as education and certification. But let's start with how to become a nutritionist and what they do.
Nutritionists are basically defined as experts who specialize in food and the nutritional needs of their clients, and advise them on the benefits of specific food groups. They also research and review the diet habits of their clients, educate them on their dietary needs and monitor their dietary progress. They work with a variety of patients, including ones who might be suffering from illnesses as diabetes, or going through cancer treatments or chemotherapy. They are also known to test for food allergies or other sensitivities to specific food groups. So they can be in a variety of locations. They can be in an office at a hospital consulting with a patient on their diet. They can be in a retirement home, educating the clients on proper nutrition and food selections. They can also in health related businesses, meeting with clients and educating the public on nutritional issues.
So what kind of education will you need? There are a variety of majors and emphasis areas which can be used to develop the pathway into nutrition. I have advised people who have majored in Health Education, and others who have majored in Health Leadership with an emphasis in Nutrition. Each college or university can have a different program, which can include an emphasis in food science, dietetics, clinical nutritional care, community health and nutrition, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, and psychology. So these will be the classes you will be taking in order to progress towards a goal of becoming a nutritionist. Some of the programs also might require an internship before graduation, so I would research the university programs in your region to see which one has the program you need, and will help you to meet the certification requirements of your state.
Paul recommends the following next steps:
- Research your state licensing, certification and educational requirements to determine what is required to become a nutritionist.
- Research the college and universities in your region to see which ones have the programs you need to attain the certification requirements for a nutritionist.
- See an academic advisor and establish a pathway and academic plan to assist you in meeting the educational and certification goals in your state.