What You Should Know About This Degree
Although the terms “nutritionist” and “dietitian” are often used interchangeably when talking about individuals who use food and nutrition to improve patients’ health and prevent and manage diseases, there are some subtle differences between the two professions.
The main distinction is that practitioners can only bill themselves as dietitians if they are registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing arm of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The certification process includes education in an ACEND-accredited program, supervised experience, and passing an exam. Currently, you can become certified if you have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree, but starting in 2024, a master’s degree will be the minimum education level required for certification. Certification is usually required to work in any kind of clinical setting.
Many states also mandate licensure for dietitians and nutritionists. Please note that licensure and certification are two separate types of credentials, and the requirements for each may vary.
Nutritionists are generally more free of government oversight, and work in less-regulated environments like holistic or alternative medicine centers.
Even if all coursework for a program can be completed online, accredited nutrition programs have requirements for supervised experiential learning, usually in the form of an internship. Students should be prepared to complete this in-person component of the program.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Nutrition programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? At the master’s level, programs typically seek candidates who have some prior knowledge of areas related to nutrition, including anatomy, physiology, and chemistry. They may even require that you have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field. Be sure to look at the program’s qualifications before applying, to make sure that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements.
- Does this program have ACEND-accreditation? The CDR has specific educational requirements for professional credentialing. Attending an ACEND-accredited program guarantees that your education will meet the requirements for credentialing, and can facilitate the credentialing process post-graduation.
Once you have narrowed down the list of programs that interest you, research their application, scholarship, and financial aid deadlines, processes and requirements. This information is typically available on the program’s website. You can also contact the program directly if you have any questions.
Financing your graduate education is another important consideration. In addition to applying for scholarships and financial aid, check with your employer to see if they offer any kind of tuition remission or reimbursement for advancing your education.