Becoming a Clinical Nutritionist

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Education

  • Acquire a BA in nutrition, food service management, or dietetics. To increase your potential salary, consider pursuing a graduate degree as well. Typical coursework for becoming a clinical nutritionist includes nutrition, physiology, biology, and chemistry. Recommended courses include sociology, psychology, computer science and statistics.

Licensing

  • Licensing of clinical nutritionists varies by state. 35 states require an actual license, while 12 states only require certification. For this reason, it is important to research the licensing requirements of the state you plan to work in before you get started, as the requirements may help guide you in your curricula choices. In states where a license is required, you cannot work as a clinical nutritionist unless you possess a license. States that require only certification usually allow uncertified nutritionists to work but place limits upon the usage of occupational titles. This means that your official title may be dietitian rather that clinical nutritionist. The difference in job description may have little effect on earnings, but when applying for a job you may be prohibited from using the specific title clinical nutritionist if you lack certification.

American Dietetic Association Certification

  • The American Dietetic Association offers nationwide certification, but this is not the same thing as the certification required by certain states. In fact, American Dietetic Certification is not required for employment at all, but it may significantly improve your status as a potential employee and may even qualify you for a higher pay rate, but it will not replace state certification requirements. Certification can be accomplished by passing an exam after successful completion of coursework and following a supervised internship.Completion of 75 credit hours in continuing education classes every five years is required for maintaining certification as a registered nutritionist.

Internship

  • The supervised internship required for certification is accomplished through the completion of an internship program sponsored by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, or the completion of 900 hours of supervised practice by accredited internships. Typically, supervised internship can be done either full time or part time. A full-time internship can be completed in six to 12 months. Part time internships may take up to two years to complete.

Employment

  • Most clinical nutritionists will employment in hospitals, doctor's offices, nursing homes and outpatient centers. Other employment possibilities are working for governmental agencies such as local health departments, prisons and schools. A growing area for employment is food service companies that provide contract work to airlines, educational institutions, cafeterias, theme parks and museums.

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