The U.S. Department of Labor expects the job market for nutritional counseling to exceed 65,000 positions by 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Getting a certificate in nutrition may help you expand your career if you already work in health services, or it may open up job avenues if you are new to health and nutrition. Check with prospective employers before you begin any program, to ensure you are pursuing an education that will fit the criteria in your area.
Each state uses different criteria to define and manage nutritional counseling as a career. Many states require a registered dietitian credential, which involves attaining a four-year degree approved by the American Dietetic Association, an 800-hour internship and a passing mark on a national examination by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Check with your state licensure department to determine whether nutritional counseling in your area requires a state license.
Personal Trainer Programs
Several personal trainer associations, like the American Sports and Fitness Association, American Fitness Professionals and Associates and the National Association of Sports Nutrition, offer certificates in nutritional counseling. These primarily involve home-study courses with a pass-fail examination. The ASFA on-line test is 100 questions, while the AFPA test requires a case study. The National Association of Sports Nutrition recommends attending one in-person seminar in counseling skills.
If your state does not require a registered dietitian credential, you can consider shorter Associate programs in applied, holistic or sports nutrition, as well as many other specialties, which take about two years to complete. Bachelor of Science programs, like nutrition sciences or dietary supplement science, typically take four years to complete. Advanced degrees may take less time if you have already taken base-level science courses as part of your undergraduate study. Bachelor's and Master's programs may provide you with certification and allow you to sit for the national exam, if they are approved by the American Dietetic Association.
The National Council Against Health Fraud advises prospective nutritional counselors to avoid on-line and easy-to-pass programs, as well as programs that are not accredited. The U.S. Department of Education offers on-line access to their database of accredited post-secondary institutions and programs. Although the database is not comprehensive, it may help you in determining the value of a nutritional counseling program before you commit time and money. You can also check with state colleges and universities in your area to see if they accept transferred classes from the program you are considering. This may give you an idea of how the program is perceived within the health sciences industry.