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Getting certified in nutrition can be a great opportunity for your career. Whether you are currently a personal trainer or just getting into the industry, a nutrition credential can open a lot of doors.
To get there, you need a certification. While technically, not required, being certified is essential for finding a job, landing clients, and earning a good living.
Online certification is a good option for anyone who has limited flexibility or is just eager to get started sooner. Here’s what you need to know about sorting through all the options and choosing the best program for you.
As you explore a career in nutrition, you’ll see a lot of different terms used: nutritionist, nutrition coach, holistic nutrition coach, registered dietitian, and more.
What all of these careers have in common is that they involve a deep knowledge of diet and nutrition sciecne and how they impact health and wellness. They also involve working with clients to improve nutrition and meet health goals.
A dietitian is a nutrition professional with a college degree and an official license. They often work in medical settings and can diagnose patients and prescribe specific diets.
Other careers in nutrition are unregulated with a narrower scope of practice. The role of a nutritionist or nutrition coach includes:
Meeting with clients to assess their current nutrition
Helping clients identify areas to improve and set diet, nutrition, and health goals
Educating clients about nutrition and diet and making general recommendations
Motivating and encouraging clients to make positive changes
Assessing clients periodically and tracking their progress
Making a career out of fitness and nutrition is about so much more than knowing your subject matter. Here are some tips on building a successful fitness nutrition career in the industry.
Of course, there is an appeal to taking in-person, traditional classes in nutrition, but it’s just not practical for most people. Here’s what you get when you choose a reputable, accredited online nutritionist certification course:
A flexible learning schedule that works with your other responsibilities
An affordable option for becoming a nutrition professional
The ability to learn and study when it’s convenient for you
Certification within months, not years
More than just nutrition courses: coaching skills, business skills, and more
An in-person or degree program at a college or university might be right for you. But, if your time and finances are limited, or if you simply want more flexibility, online certification is a valid option.
As you begin looking for an online course, you’ll realize that there are a lot of options. They are not all the same. With no real regulation in the industry, there is a lot of variation in the quality of programs available.
The nutrition specialist program you choose matters. The right one will provide a foundation for becoming a lifelong learner. It will give you all the basic knowledge and skills you need to coach people on their nutrition. And, it will communicate to the wellness industry that you are a professional.
It’s important to know what to look for. Among the best options out there, these are the things the best online nutrition programs have:
It’s easy to “know” a lot about nutrition. Many people are into health and wellness and read about it online, but this doesn’t make them experts. If you are going to become a professional, you need a nutrition education course developed by true experts.
Make sure you know who is behind the program you choose. They should be credentialed nutrition professionals and the course should be developed using research- and evidence-backed information. If you aren’t sure who developed the course and how, ask before you enroll.
Nutrition is a broad subject, so any introductory certification course should also be broad and totally comprehensive. Reputable programs should allow you to peruse the curriculum before enrolling, so take a look.
It should cover nutrition and food basics, the fundamentals of biology, digestion, and metabolism, macro and micronutrients, supplements, dietary guidelines, the role of a nutritionist or coach, goal setting, and how people make lifestyle changes. It should also include business skills so you also have the practical knowledge needed to get started with a small business.
Among the many topics covered in a nutritionist course, the best programs include some elements of behavior science. Also known as psychology, this is the study of why people do the things they do, how they are motivated, and how they make changes.
If you are going to successfully coach people on nutrition, you need to know more than just the subject matter. You also need to learn methodology. How will you help people make positive, lasting changes. Simply giving them the information isn’t enough.
An affordable price is a major factor for many people choosing an online professional course. The lower cost of online programs is often a big draw. But be sure to balance the price with value. Don’t choose a course simply because you can afford it.
The best online programs are affordable but also provide value for the cost. This means expert instructors and a broad curriculum. Getting it all in an online format shouldn’t be cost prohibitive. Some programs charge much more than they need to, while others offer too little. Look for the right balance.
Any good online nutrition course should be able to show student feedback. If they are unwilling to share, be suspicious. Those that offer a good product can show that students who have completed the program are satisfied and recommend it to others. If there are no student testimonials visible, ask to see some. A reputable program should be able to show proof of many students who had a good experience.
These are two important reasons many students turn to online courses, so if a program isn’t flexible or easy to access, what’s the point? A good nutrition course should be at least partially self-paced so that you can completed the requirements on your own schedule. You should be able to fit it in around work and family responsibilities.
The right course should also be accessible. Most nutrition programs are introductory level. There shouldn’t be any difficult prerequisites. The materials should be easy to access and in a format that makes using them straightforward. Expect a variety of material types too, such as textbooks, videos, and virtual discussions.
For detailed reviews of the top nutrition certifications, check out PT Pioneer and Fitness Trainer. They compare course curriculums, cost, and more to help you pick the right nutrition certification for your goals.
A certification in nutrition opens the door to many career opportunities. As a certified nutrition coach or nutritionist, you work at gyms and spas, in schools and community centers, in residential facilities, and as an independent coach and small business owner—in-person or online. Many nutrition coaching professionals have a specialty, such as sports nutrition, holistic nutrition, or plant based nutrition.
If you want to work in medical settings and actually diagnose and manage health conditions, consider getting a nutrition degree and becoming a registered dietitian. If you’re not sure about investing four years of tuition, start with a nutrition certification. It will give you a taste of the profession at a fraction of the cost.
Here is more information about earning a nutrition coaching degree versus a certificate to help you decide which step is right for you.
Working with clients to improve their nutrition is so rewarding. If you have a passion for food, nutrition, and wellness, consider taking the next step and learning how to coach others.
Get started with the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA). Enroll today in ISSA’s Nutritionist Certification course to get instant access to all the materials you need to begin your career in nutrition.
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.