A nutritionist may find employment in many fields from supervising meal creation for schools to developing foods which are readily metabolized by farm animals. The educational requirements for a nutritionist can vary depending on the level of employment the nutritionist wishes to attain and if he plans to teach in the future. These choices may mean a relatively short time in post secondary school or a little over a decade in academia.
Bachelor's Degree Requirement
A four-year bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to become a nutritionist in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A student who wishes to become a nutritionist may get a degree in nutrition, dietetics or food service management. Courses in these programs cover subject matter in chemistry, food nutrition, microbiology and physiology. To be recognized as an accredited nutritionist degree program, the university must have certification from the American Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education.
Master's Degree Program
A graduate degree may also be required for a student to pursue a more lucrative career as a nutritionist in industries such as agriculture. This degree can take anywhere from two to five years to complete. Master's degree programs often allow students to specialize in a particular area of nutrition such as food composition, interactions between nutrients and disease and agricultural growing methods. As of 2008 there were 18 accredited graduate school programs in nutrition in the United States, according to the BLS.
Certification and Licensure
As of 2008, 46 states across the country require nutritionists to have some form of certification, license or registration with a state licensing board. In some states, it is illegal to practice as a nutritionist without holding a certification. Each state maintains its own requirements for certification though most require the successful completion of a qualifying certification exam.
Doctoral Level Work
If a nutritionist wishes to teach at the university level she may also be required to pursue a doctoral degree in nutrition or a related field. Doctoral programs take an average of five years to complete and students must complete field level research work in a particular area of nutrition. A doctoral candidate may not graduate until her thesis project is approved by her academic board so graduation could take longer than the five year average.