What is a nutritional counselor? Well, a nutritional counselor, also known as a nutritionist, is a health professional that works in the healthcare field. This professional typically works in a: hospital, clinic, doctor’s office, or skilled nursing facility (nursing home). A nutritional counselor helps clients (i.e. patients, individuals, residents, groups, and children) develop healthy eating habits. They also develop customized diets and eating programs for those who have special dietary such as diabetes, high blood pressure, low salt and sugar.
What is a certified nutritional counselor? A certified nutritional counselor is a health professional, who has successfully passed his/her certification exam(s), and fulfilled the certification requirements. Nutritional counselors seek certification as a way to reassure clients that they are trained and qualified in the nutrition field. To become a certified nutritional counselor, you must first obtain a bachelor degree in a nutrition field.
What are the Requirements for Nutritional Counselor Certification?
To become a certified nutritional counselor, you will first need to graduate from high school or obtain a GED. During high school, take as many science courses as possible. Once you have graduated from high school, enroll in a science/nutrition undergraduate (bachelor’s) program. If possible, major in one of the following fields: foods and nutrition, dietetics, clinical nutrition, or food service management. While in your degree program, you will complete coursework and an approved internship (i.e. 100 hours of supervised clinical training).
During your bachelor program, you will most likely take the following courses:
After completing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a master’s degree in nutrition or a related field.
It is important to note that most states require nutritional counselors to be licensed before providing services to clients. In addition, some states only require licensure, while others require both licensure and certification in the dietetics or nutrition fields. Although rare, some states to do not require any certification or license to become a dietitian or nutritionist. Certification requirements vary from state-to-state, but most states require at least a bachelor’s degree in a nutrition-related field, along with the passing of the certification exam(s), and supervised clinical hours at an approved health facility.
Once you have successfully passed the certification exam, you will be referred to as a: Certified Nutrition Specialist-CNS. This credential implies that you have achieved an advanced level of expertise and experience in the field. To become eligible for the CNS exam, you will need to have earned a master’s degree or doctorate in nutrition field. You should have also completed at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice. The CNS exam is administered by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). It is important to note that you will also be able to seek certification in specific areas such as: pediatric nutrition or sports nutrition. It is recommended that you visit BCNS website for detailed information.
Furthermore, it is not uncommon for certified nutritional counselors to seek the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist-RDN credential. Although this credential is not required to practice as a nutritional counselor, it functions as a license-equivalent in some states that require a license to practice. Moreover, many employees prefer employees with a RDN. This exam is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
What are the Job Duties of a Certified Nutritional Counselor?
As a certified nutritional counselor, you will perform the following job duties:
- Assessing the health needs and diet of clients
- Counseling clients on nutritional issues
- Teaching clients healthy eating habits
- Creating healthy meal plans (taking client preferences, and affordability into consideration)
- Evaluating the effects of various meal plans
- Encouraging healthy nutrition by speaking to the public about healthy foods, nutrition, and the relationship between healthy eating habits, and poor eating habits
- Preventing or managing medical conditions
- Keeping abreast with the latest nutritional science innovations
- Thoroughly documenting patient progress
How Much Does a for Nutritional Counselor Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary for dietitians and nutritionists is around $62,330. Most nutritional counselors work full-time, however some certified counselors work part-time. Self-employed certified nutritional counselors have more flexibility in their schedules than those who work for hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, etc. As a certified nutritional counselor, you may work evenings, weekends, and/or holidays.
What are the Opportunities for Advancement for Certified Nutritional Counselor?
Generally, the career outlook for nutritional counselors is positive. Job opportunities will be greatest for nutritional counselors that are certified in the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) indicated a 11% increase in the field by 2028 (Dietitians and Nutritionists). This increase may stem from an increased awareness and interest in healthier foods, and longer lifespans. As more and more people take their health into their own hands, the need for nutritional counselors may increase. With skyrocketing healthcare costs, people are looking to healthy foods to help manage their health conditions and illnesses. Furthermore, the need for nutritional counselors may also increase as people age and need specific nutritional foods to maintain their health.
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- Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists. (2014). Nutrition specialists. Retrieved from http://cbns.org/
- Commission on Dietetic Registration. (2014). Dietetics and nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.cdrnet.org/
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2014). Dietitians and nutritionists. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm#tab-1