A graduate degree is most often needed to become a certified nutrition specialist. In contrast, professional work history within the medical field, such as being employed as a pharmacist, can be a stepping stone to a successful nutritionist career. You should keep in mind that extra nutrition courses will need to be taken if you do not have a graduate degree.
The majority of specialists have earned a master's or doctorate in nutrition or a related science, like chemistry or biology. One of the main duties of a specialist is devising healthy meal plans; the nutritionist must have a clear understanding of human physiology and nutritional needs, especially if the person is an athlete. The higher degree ensures that the nutritionist can implement and follow strict dietary guidelines for a successful career.
Most graduate degrees involve internships as part of the course curriculum. Aspiring nutrition specialists may work with experienced nutritionists to create a meal plan for a patient. In fact, some interns may be involved in devising a meal plan for a certain part of a hospital, such as for a cardiac wing. Typical meals may include low salt specialties and healthy fruits and vegetables. In contrast, a diabetic area of the hospital may need strict sugar counts for the safety of the patients.
Another route to become a certified nutrition specialist is to be employed in the medical field. Pharmacists and medical technicians already have an educational background in science, as well as the added benefit of real world experience. A medical worker who aspires to become a certified nutrition specialist can easily take supplemental nutrition classes to enhance their background for a certification test.
In the US, the certification exam is administered at the national level by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists; individual states do not administer their own certificate exams. Once all the necessary college education has been completed, an applicant can sign up to take the test when he or she feels ready. This exam is very detailed as it is designed to ensure that the certification is warranted for each passing individual. In fact, the certification association encourages use of their study guides for the best chance at receiving a certification.
Successful completion of the test also requires nutrtitionists to take periodic continuing classes for updated nutritional information. A certified nutrition specialist may attend seminars or actual college classes to learn about new nutritional supplements and meal plan strategies. For example, increasing the vegetable portion, compared to a protein portion, of a meal may help curb appetite, for a healthy and lean body.