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How Long Does it Take to Get a Nutritionist Certificate?

author image Alyssa Clement
Alyssa Clement holds Bachelor's degrees in psychology and nutrition. She has completed clinical nutrition internships in long-term care and acute care along with food service and community nutrition internships. Her research includes nutrition supplements, weight loss, exercise and sports nutrition.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Nutritionist Certificate?
Nutritionists are needed more than ever because of the chronic diseases in America. Photo Credit stokkete/iStock/Getty Images

If you're interested in nutrition, it's likely a good field to go into. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the market for nutritionists or dietitians will increase 20 percent by 2020. In 2010, the average salary was about $53,000. There are many paths you can follow to obtain a certification in dietetics or nutrition. It is important to study at an accredited institution so you can become certified.

Becoming a Registered Dietitian

To become a registered dietitian, you need to complete at least a bachelor’s degree that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, otherwise known as ACEND. After completing your bachelor’s degree, you will be eligible to complete a six- to 12-month dietetic internship. You may have a graduate degree prior to the internship or complete it simultaneously, but a graduate degree is not required for a dietetic internship. Next, you will take a national exam given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. The minimum time to complete this is five years. RDs typically work in hospitals, health care settings, universities, food service and research.

Dietetic Technician, Registered

Registered dietetic technicians have two different paths. You can complete a two-year associate degree for dietetic technicians by ACEND that includes a 450-hour internship experience. You may also complete a bachelor’s degree accredited by ACEND in dietetics. Afterward, you will take the national DTR exam given by the CDR. This program can take two to four years depending on the coursework taken. DTRs tend to work in the same places that RDs do.

How to Become a Nutritionist

There are different types of nutritionists. Becoming a certified nutritionist requires you to complete a two-year associate degree and then proceed to take a proctored exam to obtain the CN credentials. To become a certified nutritional specialist, you'll need to complete a graduate or doctoral degree plus 1,000 internship hours. Afterward, you'll take an exam given by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists for the CNS credentials. This will take a minimum of six years. Certified clinical nutritionists complete a master’s degree and 900 hours of an internship. Nutritionists typically work in the federal Women, Infants and Children program's offices, in physician offices or consulting, or else they run their own business by giving advice to clients.

Take a More Medical Route

Naturopathic doctors focus on holistic, alternative medicine, including nutritional counseling, while emphasizing prevention. They must advance to a four-year naturopathic medical school and take an exam given by the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination. There are only five accredited naturopathic medical schools, and only 15 states license NDs. NDs can practice as general practitioners just like medical doctors. In states where they are not licensed, they can't offer all the services MDs do. Between 2002 and 2007, 46 percent more Americans visited NDs. The job outlook is expected to keep increasing.

Another Naturopathic Route

Another route is a traditional naturopathic practitioner. TNPs don't practice medicine, but they focus on prevention and educating their clients. They typically complete distance education requirements and take courses similar to NDs. If you would like to become a TNP, check the admission requirements to the school you are interested in applying to. Some may only want high school diplomas, while some want higher degrees. Also, the length of time varies depending on how many courses each school wants you to take. TNPs don't have accredited programs and aren't under licensing laws in states.

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