Reading Time: 5 minutes
You love health and wellness, you enjoy working with people, and you are passionate about healthy eating. A career or side hustle as a nutritionist is right up your alley.
Do a little research, and you’ll see that you don’t actually need any credentials to start calling yourself a nutritionist, but it’s worth considering. Learn more about what a nutritionist actually does and why it’s important to be certified before you start taking on clients.
First things first, do you know what a nutritionist is? Or how this role differs from similar careers? Before deciding if you want to earn a nutritionist certification, be sure you know what it all means:
A nutritionist is knowledgeable about food, diet, and nutrition, and how they relate to health. They provide advice and guidance to clients looking to improve their eating habits or meet specific health goals related to nutrition. They educate their clients about food and how diet choices impact health.
There are no legal standards or licensing requirements for a certified nutritionist. Some have college degrees or even advanced graduate degrees in nutrition. Others are certified but have not completed a nutrition degree program.
Similarly, there are no licensing or credential requirements for a nutrition coach. Coaches are more likely to have a non-degree certification than to hold a college degree as compared to a nutritionist.
The role of a coach is similar to that of a nutritionist, but there are some subtle differences. Coaches are more focused on helping clients make overall lifestyle changes. They are motivators, literally coaching clients to meet their goals.
Dietitians are part of a regulated field. There are educational and licensing requirements. These include a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although soon a master’s degree will also be required.
Dietitians generally work in medical settings and help patients with chronic conditions or other health problems. They use food and diet as a type of medical therapy. Nutritionists and nutrition coaches are not allowed to prescribe meal plans as treatment for medical conditions, while dietitians are.
What about a health coach or wellness coach? Learn more about what you can do with a health coach certification.
Many certified nutrition coach programs for becoming a certified nutrition specialist are available online. You’ll find a lot of options. Most include educational materials, like online texts or videos, testing and other assessments, and an official certification credential.
As you consider your choices for learning how to be a nutritionist, consider these important elements:
The nutrition program should be backed by a recognized school that is accredited.
Look for a complete course with a lot of educational materials that provide a solid foundation in nutrition, diet, and health.
The course should also cover human behavior and coaching.
The information should be up to date and based in nutrition science.
The price of the course should be reasonable and within your means.
If you have a busy schedule and need to continue working while you earn a certificate, definitely choose an online program and make sure it is self-paced.
Be sure to check out some of the websites, like Fitness Trainer, that provide reviews of the top nutrition certifications. They do the hard work of compiling all of the details so it’s easy for you to compare options and pick the best one for your goals!
There are no legal requirements to be certified. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist in any state. Clearly, there are some problems with this. Would you trust anyone to guide your nutrition choices just because they say they’re an expert? If you are serious about a career in nutrition, here are five important reasons you need to start with a certification:
If you have an interest in nutrition, food, and health, taking a course is the best way to solidify your knowledge and become an expert. Being self-taught and well-read is great, but it nothing beats formally learning about a discipline in a course designed by professionals in the industry and in education.
Completing a certification course in nutrition is about more than just getting the right credential. It’s like any other academic discipline in that it provides you with the information you need to become an expert in your own right. If you want to lead others in nutrition, you need to be knowledgeable.
In a certification course, you learn all the fundamentals of nutrition backed by scientific evidence. You’ll also get the tools you need to continue learning. This is so important in a field where information changes all the time with new research.
Being knowledgeable about your subject is essential. What a certification does is communicate that fact to others. It tells potential employers and clients that you have been trained and educated in nutrition science.
In an industry in which anyone can use the nutritionist or nutrition coach label, having a certification makes you credible. Your certification stands up well against anyone who claims to be a nutrition professional without credentials to back up that claim. It will also give you the confidence to go for jobs or opportunities you’re interested in and that require specialized nutrition knowledge.
If you’re already a personal trainer, getting certified in nutrition is a great opportunity to enhance your interactions with clients. As you know, fitness is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Without a healthy diet to go along with exercise, your clients can only achieve so much.
Providing nutrition advice and coaching along with workouts and training allows you to help them more fully. They are more likely to successfully achieve goals in fitness, strength, athletic performance, or weight loss with guidance on how to eat.
You can also add nutrition coaching as an extra service to increase your list of offerings to clients. The certification allows you to work on nutrition with existing clients and to add new clients who come to you seeking nutrition guidance.
How much nutrition advice can you give as a personal trainer? This article breaks it down.
Employers and clients are increasingly interested in wellness professionals with a well-rounded set of skills. More people have begun to realize that true health and wellness involves exercise, diet, and other lifestyle habits.
If you can offer expertise in nutrition along with fitness and coaching skills, you’ll be prepared for more job opportunities. Certified nutritionists and coaches often work independently, but they also find employment at:
Hospitals and medical centers
Residential nursing facilities and assisted living facilities
Corporations with employee wellness programs
Athletic programs at universities
Not sure how much you’ll make as a nutrition coach? This blog will help you determine what to charge for your services.
All of the above benefits of a certification are rewarding, but ultimately, if this is your career, you need to consider how to earn more. If you choose to work in nutrition, holding a certification will allow you to charge clients a higher rate. As an employee, you can earn a greater salary. In fact, many employers will not hire you at all without a credential.
If you already work in the fitness industry, a nutrition credential is a specialization that increases your opportunity to earn. You can take on more clients interested in nutrition and add an extra service. By providing clients with both personal training and nutrition coaching, you can reasonably increase your rate.
Certified nutritionists and nutrition coaches are educated, trained professionals who make a difference in the lives of their clients. If you have a passion for food and how it affects health, consider getting this credential. It’s great for both personal and professional enrichment.
ISSA’s Nutritionist Certification program is an online course that prepares you to guide clients to meet their health and diet goals. Get started today and complete the certification at your own pace.
By becoming an ISSA Nutritionist, you'll learn the foundations of how food fuels the body, plus step by step methods for implementing a healthy eating plan into clients' lifestyles.