How to Become a Certified Nutritional Practitioner

Overview

A certified nutritional practitioner is what many refer to as an “expert” on food. They may provide expert advice on food and nutrition to many different people for various reasons. Some provide expert nutritional advice for individuals that have health conditions. This may include assessing an individual’s overall health, and developing meal plans.

A certified nutritional practitioner will take into consideration the cost of food, and a client’s preferences regarding food, although a nutritional practitioner may also consider what a client can or cannot eat if they have a health condition. The goal is often to promote a better relationship with food, and to help clients manage specific conditions or diseases. Often a certified nutritional practitioner will keep up-to-date and educated about the latest health and dietary information, or research related to food and health.

Work Environment

The work environment for a certified nutritional practitioner varies. Some work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and private settings. Still others may work in cafeterias, or for major food corporations, and in public health clinics. Still others will work for government and non-profit agencies, or for health maintenance organizations.

There are many certified nutritional practitioners that work in independent practices, or for private healthcare offices in conjunction with other healthcare specialists, including physicians, therapists, and other healthcare practitioners.

Requirements

Education

The education most receive include a bachelor degree in food and nutrition, dietetics, or related subjects. A certified nutrition practitioner may take specialized courses related to their field of specialty, including courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, certain diseases, or related subjects.

Training

Training may be specific to a nutritional practitioner’s specific title. Some train to become a clinical dietitian, which is an individual that provides medical nutrition therapy. Other individuals provide community dietary care; these individuals often provide education to the public about food and nutrition topics. Often community nutrition practitioners or dietitians provide care for specific groups of people. These may include pregnant women.

Still other certified nutrition practitioners may provide management care, and may work on buying food for business or corporate practices. The training one receives may be specific to the population one plans to work with. Most nutritionists will receive hands on training and an internship.

Licensing/Certification

Most states will require certification and licensing for nutritional practitioners, although there may be instances where only registration is required. It is important that you check in with your state to verify what credentials you need to practice. One of the simplest ways to become credentialed is to earn the status of a Registered Dietitian. You can find out what the requirements are by checking in with the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Most legitimate programs offer accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. You may find you have to take continuing education classes to continue your license or certification over time.

Necessary Skills/Qualities

To succeed as a certified nutritional practitioner, many important skills and qualities are necessary. These include:

  • Compassion. It is important to have compassion for people that may have a difficult time organizing their life and their eating habits. Many may have difficult diseases to cope with, and many may have a difficult time with food. Understanding this, and having empathy for individuals, will help you succeed as a nutritional practitioner.
  • Relationship Skills. Building solid relationships is critical to your success as a certified nutritional practitioner. Dieticians work closely with clients to form trusting relationships. You will work with your clients to form short, medium, and long-term goals. You may need to work through many obstacles and barriers with your clients.
  • Good organizational and problem-solving skills. Helping your clients to organize their goals and create strategies will help you succeed as a nutritional practitioner.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median average salary for Dieticians and Nutritionists as $53,250. The top 10 percent make more than $75,000. Many average in the mid $30,000s.

Job Outlook

The job outlook for certified nutritional practitioners is good, with a job growth expected to be higher than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many nutritionists work part-time which allows for a great deal of flexibility in their schedules. Food has become increasingly important, as has the recognition of the role that food plays in disease prevention and overall wellness, making this job an increasingly visible and important one in the overall healthcare field.

Related Reading

References and Further Reading

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