What degree do I need to become a Nutritionist?

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Are you fascinated with the world of Nutrition? Do you gravitate toward that section at the bookstore or library? Do you know all the new studies out there, like how a picky child can get well over the Recommended Daily Requirement of Vitamin C in just 8 medium strawberries? If you never tire of these findings, you need to study Nutrition!

Nutritionist vs. Dietitian

Nutritionists and Dietitians are both nutrition and food experts. Dietitians are actually nutritionists with a very specific degree and their background and training promote nutritional guidelines set forth by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which incidentally gave them their credentials RD or RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

A Nutritionist is a little more subjective in his or her scope. Usually a Nutritionist will have a graduate degree (M.S. or Ph.D.) in Nutrition from an accredited school, but not all Nutritionist are Dietitians. So all Dietitians are Nutritionists, but not all Nutritionists are Dietitians. A Nutritionist may obtain the credentials CNS (Certified Nutrition Specialist) from the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialist, or a CCN from the Clinical Nutritionist Board, another organization that certifies professionals through testing. According to the Bureau of US Labor Statistics, “ to qualify for the CNS exam, applicants must have a master’s or doctoral degree, and 1000 hours of experience.”

It’s important to note that only a Dietitian can use that term Dietitian. A nutritionist has no such protected title. That is because to become a registered Dietitian, one MUST become licensed. Licensure is encouraged for those studying Nutrition but not required as it is for those in the field of Dietetics.


Like we said above, a graduate degree is most often needed for this field. You should acquire a Master’s level or Ph.d. from an accredited University. Because an internship is not required, an online or distance learning program may be ideal. Many professional in other health professions study nutrition as a complementary addition to their current work i.e.. doctors, chiropractors, or psychologists working with eating disordered clients. Possible Majors:

  • Nutrition Science
  • Food Science
  • Clinical Nutrition
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Sports Nutrition
  • Nutrition Communication

Work Environment

First and foremost, a Nutritionist keeps up with the latest research and applies it to their work. Beyond that, a Nutritionist may find themselves working in a variety of places. They may do practical work or theoretical work. They may assess people’s diet in private practice or in a hospital/care center; they may teach at the college level or they may work with young students at the primary and secondary level.


There is a great future for Nutritionists. As seen on the BLS website, Nutritionists are projected to see jobs grow by 21% between the years 2012 and 2022. Besides traditional nutrition teaching or counseling, Health Writing in particular is a growing interest for those with Nutrition background. Online and print publications are always looking for experts who can write content. Health and Wellness is a booming industry, and there will be plenty of opportunities for the educated Nutritionist to find his or her niche.