It’s amazing how many people slave away in the gym each day, striving for results, then come home to eat and drink things with a poor nutritional value, killing their chance of any progress. Even personal trainers often give their clients detailed programs but offer very little nutritional guidance.
Nutrition is perhaps the single most important factor in your physical progression and all of the top performers and athletes know this. You will also find that all of the top trainers and highest earners in the various health and fitness fields will know this as well.
Unfortunately, there is a little more to it than just knowing that protein helps muscles to grow. That is why anyone wanting to get to the top in their profession, or maybe even switch to a new career entirely, needs to ensure they are properly educated. The question is, how exactly do you do that.
Well, that is exactly what we are going to look at now. So, if you are hoping to start climbing up the health and fitness ladder and want to add nutrition to your arsenal, join us as we look at how to get certified in nutrition and the best choices and places to do so in 2022.
The Roles Of A Certified Nutritionist
The role of a certified nutritionist can vary wildly, with most professionals being required to perform multiple roles in their job.
Among the most common roles you will fulfil are analysing the current diet and eating habits of your clients, identifying potential faults and issues in these habits, and then properly educating said clients on the importance of nutrition and showing them how balanced nutrition can be maintained.
You will then often need to work with them to develop effective plans that improve their nutrition, while also giving them the tools to make positive changes to these plans on their own.
The extent to which you perform each of these roles will then vary based on your job and where you work. Gyms, hospitals and other medical facilities, nursing homes, and social services establishments are some of the most popular job locations in the field.
However, certified nutritionists will also find work in government agencies, schools, specialised nutrition centres, and even in private health and fitness ventures and establishments.
Certified Nutritionist Requirements
The main requirement for anyone even considering becoming a certified nutritionist is a decent interest in nutrition. This will need to be the driving force that motivates you to do a certification program, as you are unlikely to be either committed or invested without such an interest.
Once you have firmly established that becoming a certified nutritionist is the right path for you, the next step is to obtain your initial education. There are several fields that you can use to gain entry into a career as a certified nutritionist, each with varying degrees of reputability.
You should be aware that there are different types of nutrition certificates available. The exact needs, demands, and requirements of each can differ wildly, so it is important you make your decision based on the specific job type that you are aiming to get.
The most straightforward way to receive your education is to complete an online course and pass the associated exams that are required for you to become certified. There are a range of different programs and certifications available, with some being more widely recognized than others.
You can even choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in certain areas or use one you have already received to further your case. Examples of such relevant bachelor’s degrees include qualifications in food science and general health or nutrition.
Previous work experience is also an important requirement for anyone hoping to get a good job. You should try and get experience in a relevant health-related field that will be directly transferrable to the job you are aiming for.
This can even be seen as a good way to help you gain some initial education on the important nutrition topics you will be covering in your formal studies.
Is It Worth It To Get Certified?
Whether or not it’s worth it to get certified depends on what your career goals are and the type of work you want to do. While in some jobs a certification can earn you more money, there are others that require a certification before you can start working in them or progress to the next level.
It is in the latter of these two instances where it is definitely a good idea and extremely worth your time and money to get certified. In the former, you need to weigh how much money and time you will be spending up against how much the certification is likely to elevate your rates.
If your chosen job does require a nutrition certification, make sure you fully understand exactly what type of certification the position requires, then make your decision based on this information.
Nutrition certifications are also worth it if you have a passion for health and nutrition and are considering changing careers. As courses can often be done online in your own time, it allows you to learn and become qualified, without having to quit your job and immediately find new work.
Many other professions like personal trainers should also consider getting a nutrition certification as a worthwhile endeavour. PTs can easily widen the range of services they offer clients after becoming certified in nutrition and they already have a captive market, giving them a competitive advantage.
How Much Does A Nutrition Certification Cost?
The exact cost of a nutrition certification can vary wildly, based on things like the location and length of the course, the field it is specialising in, and the reputation of the qualification. That said, the most popular online nutrition certification courses tended to range from £350 to $1,000.
While there are some options that are higher than this, there are also cheaper options as well. Many that we looked at often go on sale and sell for less than their normal price too. It is therefore always a good idea to shop around to ensure you get a good deal and exactly what you are looking for.
How Much Does A Certified Nutritionist Earn?
An average certified nutritionist working full time can expect to earn a salary of at least $60,000 per year. This equates to upwards of $30 per hour.
Those already working in a similar field, such as personal training, can then obviously look at the hourly rate side of this and work out ways to add it to their current schedule, allowing them to increase their current earning in their down time.
Best Nutrition Certifications
Choosing the best nutrition certification for you is essential to give you the best chance of success in your career. Many companies and institutions offer nutrition certifications with different content and reputations, so it is vital to carefully assess each option, so you can make an informed choice.
When examining each qualification, take into account things like the jobs available in your area, the requirements of the state you live in, and exactly what is included with the course, such as coursework, study material etc.
You also need to know exactly how highly qualified you need to be for your target job and consider what your main interests are and how well respected the organisation running the course is.
When you have done all that, our following list of the top nutrition certificates that you can currently apply for is a good place to start your search. To give you an idea of what each entails, we will now look at some of the highlights below.
ACE University’s Precision Nutrition Program
Retailing for $999, ACE University’s Precision Nutrition Program is an online course run by a highly respected authority in health and fitness. Able to be completed entirely at your own pace, it allows you to obtain a recognised and reputable qualification that fits around your current life schedule.
While a little higher priced than some of its rivals, you will often find that with the more reputable qualifications. Depending on the career you are targeting, you can also purchase it for a discounted rate if you buy it in a bundle with their personal trainer certification.
With a 45 day guarantee that includes a full refund if you aren’t completely satisfied or change your mind, it also makes the Precision Nutrition Program a virtually risk free purchase.
NCSF Sport Nutrition Certification
The NCSF Sport Nutrition Certification is a qualification made specially for those aiming to work with athletes. The course helps people to understand how the timing of meals and fluids, combined with a balanced nutrient and supplement plan, can enhance performance, strength, and muscle mass.
Costing between $400 and $500 dollars, depending on current deals and the package you select, it is a reasonably priced option, considering its reputation. The 2 to 4 month course can also be completed in your own time, ensuring it allows you to move into a new career at your own pace.
With unlimited retakes of the final test available for $99 each, it also virtually guarantees you will be successful if you work hard, so you need not worry about wasting your money.
The Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Certificate
The Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Certificate is a qualification designed specifically for those interested in holistic health and fitness. While not a qualification for everyone, it is ideal for those planning to work in the unique niches that it specialises in.
The course has master trainers that coach trainees on how to use nutrition to connect the mind and body and incorporates cutting edge topics like biohacking, nutrigenomics, and physchospirituality. They do this through a combination of remote learning, webinars, and even in faculty meetings.
Able to be completed in anywhere from 6 to 12 months, the course also gives you complete freedom on how quickly you want to progress, so you can fit it around your daily life. However, priced at $6,795, it is admittedly one of the more expensive qualifications of its kind.
ISSA Nutritionist Certification
The ISSA Nutritionist Certification is a course that focuses on sports nutrition and science. Very similar in both content and delivery to other courses of its kind, it can be completed either in their recommended timeline or at your own pace.
What makes it different from other sports nutrition courses though, is that it includes sections that can be easily connected to the other courses they run, allowing those who want to progress to the highest levels to do so at a faster rate.
Priced at $799 dollars it is a little more expensive than some of its rivals. However, it is frequently on sale with 40 to 50% off, which actually makes it cheaper. The cost can also be reduced if you purchase it in a bundle with any of their other qualifications as well.
NASM Certified Sports Nutrition
The NASM Certified Sports Nutrition qualification is designed specifically for personal trainers looking to be able to advise their clients with nutrition and diet plans. Constantly updated to ensure the information remains cutting edge, it is ideal for people looking to push their clients to the top.
While the average completion time for the course is around 10 weeks, many people complete it in as little as 4, so it gives you the option to get up and running as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, with a price tag of $899, it is one of the more expensive options of its kind. The exam also needs to be retaken every two years if you want to retain your certification, which pushes up the costs even further.
eCornell Plant Based Nutrition Certificate
The eCornell Plant Based Nutrition Certificate is, as the name might suggest, a course that focuses on teaching people how to build effective diet plans and eating habits that use nothing but plant based foods and drinks.
With just 6 to 8 hours of study per week over a 6 week program, it is an extremely user friendly course that truly allows students maximum flexibility. While not as reputable as some of the other courses on this list, it fills a niche that most others overlook.
Unfortunately, with a price of $1,260, it is one of the more expensive options on the market, so you will want to make absolutely sure it is worth it for you personally before you commit to it.
Do Your Require A License To Practice As A Nutritionist?
Whether or not you will require a license to practice as a nutritionist will vary depending on where you are based. In the United States, 60% of states currently require a nutritionist to be licensed before they are allowed to practice.
Of the remaining 20 states, 15 require you to be certified, 1 simply requires you to register with the state, and the remaining 4 (New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, and Arizona) require nothing at all.
Other locations outside of the U.S. will all have their own rules, so check the guidelines before making a decision if you intend to practice nutrition anywhere else.
What Areas Can A Certified Nutritionist Specialise In?
While simply certifying in general nutrition is a common way to go, there are also a number of more specialised options people can choose.
Areas like autoimmune nutrition, holistic nutrition, nutrition and dietetic technician, nutrition and wellness consulting, registered dietitian, senior nutrition, sports nutrition, weight management, and youth nutrition are all popular options, while there are a number of other more niche choices too.
What Steps Can You Take To Progress After You Become A Certified Nutritionist?
Once you have obtained your initial certification, there are a wide range of options available to let you continue expanding your knowledge and progressing in your career. Those who want to reach the very top should look to continue studying and adding qualifications throughout their career.
If you begin with a basic online certification, you can then look into completing a degree. Once you have obtained a degree, bachelors and masters degrees, as well as internships, are all good ways to expand your qualifications and get you on the job training.
Once you have reached the top qualification in your chosen speciality, you can then begin to take additional qualifications in other specialities. This will not only expand your knowledge but will also widen both your job prospects and potential client base.
FAQS (Frequently Asked Questions) About Becoming A Certified Nutritionist
Before we conclude our guide on how to get certified in nutrition, I want to quickly discuss some of the most frequently asked questions people have on the subject. This should ensure everyone is completely clear on everything, so can make a fully informed decision moving forward.
Are All Certified Nutritionist Courses Available Online?
Many courses are currently able to be completed online in their entirety, particularly at the lower end of the spectrum. However, some of the more esteemed qualifications and degrees will require at lest some on site training.
This will obviously be the case for the top level options that require things such as an internship to be completed as part of the qualification. However, in person elements will also be necessary for any qualifications that require work experience to be completed during the course.
What Subjects Or Topics Does A Certified Nutritionist Need To Know About?
The exact subjects or topics a nutritionist will need to know about will vary depending on the area you specialise in and the type of job you are aiming for.
That said, knowledge on a range of areas like food science or nutrient composition, meal designing, sustainability, allergies, safety, progression, muscle building, weight loss, energy, metabolic rates, communication, and even research and business management are all extremely helpful.
Are The Requirements The Same For A Certified Nutritionist Everywhere?
The requirements to become a certified nutritionist can vary wildly from state to state and country to country. The first thing you should do when you decide to start looking into becoming a certified nutritionist is find out exactly what is needed in both your chosen position and place of residence.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Certified Nutritionist?
How long it takes to become a certified nutritionist depends entirely on the level of qualification you are striving to obtain. The most basic online courses can have just 60 hours of study and see you become certified in as little as 3 to 4 months. However, the higher qualifications take much longer.
A regular degree will usually take around 4 years to complete, while those aiming for a position that requires an internship to be completed as well will be looking at 5. Some of the highest positions will require even more qualifications on top of that still, such as a graduate degree.
In all honesty, those seeking to reach the very top of the game should plan to continually be expanding their knowledge and taking new courses and qualifications for the rest of their career.
Do You Require A Degree To Become A Certified Nutritionist?
Whether or not you require a degree to become a certified nutritionist depends on where you intend to practice. In all of the 30 states that require you to be licenced to practice, you will need a degree to obtain your licence, effectively making it a mandatory requirement in those areas.
In the remaining 20 states, as well as various other locations around the world, lesser qualifications and certifications will be enough. However, it is worth mentioning that even in those locations, some positions will only be available for those who have a degree or comparable elite level qualification.
Are There Any Jobs Similar To A Certified Nutritionist?
If at any time during your certification you decide it isn’t for you, that doesn’t necessarily mean all of your studying to that point has been in vain. There are a range of similar career paths that you may be able to follow with lesser qualifications that what you have been learning can be transferred to.
Health coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches, nutrition writers, food and diet bloggers, holistic nutritionists, and various other positions of a similar nature are options for those who want to work in nutrition but would prefer a slightly more relaxed career and way of life.
- Section 1: Nutritional Science
- Section 2: Behavior Change Strategies
- Section 3: Nutrition Coaching
- Final exam: 100 multiple choice questions, 70% score required for certificaton
Nutrition is at the core of any health and fitness plan. Whether you are looking to bulk up, build strength, improve your performance, or simply optimise your health, you are always going to need an effective diet. This article should have given you all the tools required to help you do just that.
No matter whether you want to work in a medical institute or are simply a personal trainer hoping to add a new string to your bow, to improve both your earnings and your client satisfaction, getting a nutrition certification is a fabulous way to go about it.
So, now you know what you need and how to go about it, all you have left to do is select and enroll in your preferred course and take the first steps into your new way of life.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine from Alexandria university and is a practicing plastic surgeon. He’s our expert on all things nutrition, medicine, rehabilitation, and flexibility. Dr.Ahmed has been a medical content writer for more than 11 years and his work reached top publications such as the HuffingtonPost