By allied health world contributing writer
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Each state differs in how and whether it certifies nutritionists. Some don’t recognize the title at all. Others distinguish between nutritionists and dietitians. Some don’t even license or certify dietitians—only register them. Others certify or license a title with the word “nutrition” in it while yet others seem to say dietitian when they mean nutritionist and vice versa. If a state does not require nutritionist certification, it is still helpful to have credentials to attract clientele and convince potential employers of one’s qualifications.
Federal Medicare regulations reimburse registered dietitians for medical nutrition therapy services, but do not recognize any certified nutritionist title.
Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington license or certify the title nutritionist. All these states, and almost all the remaining states, certify or license dietitians. To confuse the issue further, some states license dietitian-nutritionists, others call the field nutrition consultant, and some states do not offer licensing, but restrict professionals from calling themselves a nutritionist.
A certified clinical nutritionist (CCN) must have at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from an accredited university. They must also take a post-graduate course in clinical nutrition and biochemistry. They must have a residency, then sit for an exam—certified by Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) to get the CCN title.
To become a CCN, candidates must complete 56 hours of online training through the post graduate studies in clinical nutrition (PGSCN) program in addition to one of the following educational achievements. The candidate can earn a bachelor’s degree of science from an accredited university and taken coursework in a variety of nutrition, biology, biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, and herbology classes. The candidate can hold an advanced professional degree in some licensed health care field, such as DDS, MD, RN or PA. Or, the candidate can have earned a master’s or a doctorate in human nutrition.
A certified nutrition specialist (CNS) must earn a master’s or doctorate degree in nutrition from an accredited university as well as passing the exam given by the he Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS), an arm of the American College of Nutrition. The CBNS also offers re-certification exams and continuing education courses. Alternately, a licensed doctor, pharmacist, doctor of nursing physician assistant, or a number of other licensed degree holders who have taken 50 hours of continuing education in nutrition can sit for the exam. All CNS professionals must maintain their certification by earning continuing nutrition education credits via scientific meetings, workshops and other educational programs.
A fitness nutritionist certification can be obtained through the International Sports Sciences Association. This certification is generally an adjunct to being a personal trainer and covers topics like how food becomes energy and how to coach clients to eat right for their chosen sport and help them reach weight and fitness goals.
There are several other organizations that offer fitness or sports nutrition certification. These do not require a bachelor’s or advanced degree. In fact, the organization that offers the certification usually offers the training resources and test-taking advice required to achieve the certification.