If you are one of those people aspiring to become a successful professional in the nutrition field, the following six smart steps below can help you get started.
1. Do your homework
Do you really have what it takes to become a nutritionist? If you’re sensitive to other people’s nutritional needs, and you love helping them achieve a healthier lifestyle, then being a nutritionist is a great career option to look into.
Once you have decided that this is the career path you want to pursue, you have to be properly organized and do your research from choosing which specific type of nutritionist you want to become and checking the employment prospects in your area, to nutritionist salary expectation and educational requirements you need to comply.
2. Meet the educational requirements
In order to become a professional nutritionist, you will be required to get a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food and nutrition, or food services system management, or other related courses. The educational program you are going to take includes courses not only in food and nutrition but also physiology, biology, and chemistry.
The bachelor’s degree program in nutrition will include an internship program to prepare aspiring nutritionists for membership into ADA or American Dietetic Association, as well as to qualify for the certification exam as a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
The nutritionist internship period will typically take between six months to twelve months after you have completed the coursework requirements.
Check with the colleges or universities in your area about available programs. There are over 280 bachelor’s degree programs approved by ADA in the United States, so finding the best quality program that suits your needs should not be a problem.
For people who already have a full-time job but want to become a nutritionist, or those just have a busy schedule, the best alternative for you is to enroll in an online school that offers accredited bachelor’s degree programs.
3. Pass the certification/licensure exam
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 35 states require nutritionists and dieticians to be licensed. Many states require statutory certification from nutritionist. Others just ask for state registration. But there are still a few others that have no state regulations at all.
With that, be sure to contact your state in regards to registration requirements, or you can check the state’s official website for more information.
Yet still, passing the licensure exam is a wise career decision if you want to add more value to your resume, and earn a higher nutritionist salary and other employee benefits. Registered nutritionist status will let a potential employer know that you are at the top of your field and up to date on the latest nutritional theories.
Once you become a licensed nutritionist or registered dietician, you must maintain that designation by completing at least 75 hours of ADA-approved continuing education credits every 5 years.
4. Get your first nutritionist job
After completing all the educational requirements and passing the licensure exam, you are now ready to get your first nutritionist job. To give you some ideas of what to expect from prospective employers, here are some of the usual requirements that they look for job-seekers:
- A high level of self-direction and motivation to work independently
- Comprehensive knowledge in prognosis, medication, treatment methods, chronic diseases, and effective response to medical nutrition therapy
- Considerable knowledge and training in food management, diet therapy, and cost control
- Ability to communicate well with physicians, patients, and the hospital staff
5. Get a master’s degree
If you are inclined to do more research in the nutrition field, and increase your professional value, getting a master’s degree in nutrition is a great option to consider. You can achieve this goal by attending classes and getting some educational credits while you are working.
6. Consider going into private practice
Opening your own private practice is another great way to a fulfilling and financially rewarding career. If you want to go this route, you will need to get an employer identification number from the IRS, and register your own business with the secretary of state and the state department of taxation. It may also require you to obtain a business license.
Once you have complied with the prerequisites, get in touch with health insurance companies in your area and talk with their health provider services departments.