Holistic nutrition is becoming a popular alternative to traditional medicine and pharmaceutical practices in the United States. Obtaining a degree in nutrition science or health and wellness can help you achieve the credentials necessary to work within the field. When considering a career in holistic nutrition, you should be aware of the options for education you can pursue. You can follow the links below to learn more about specific degree levels and options:
- Certification/Licensure in Holistic Nutrition
- Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Science
- Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science
- Can I enroll in an online program?
Some positions require a master’s degree while others only require certification or licensure. In many cases, a combination of a bachelor’s degree and licensure is required. It’s a good idea to research the training and education required for various careers. Once you know the appropriate educational credentials to earn, talk to an admissions representative or a faculty member to learn as much as possible about the program and what to expect once enrolled. You can also speak to a practicing dietitian or nutritionist to learn more about the profession and how to succeed in the business.
While nutritionists and dietitians do not earn as much as other health professionals and practitioners, their median annual wage is nearly 60% higher than the combined average, median salary of all jobs (BLS.gov). This may be worthwhile to some students and working professionals wanting to increase their income.
Certificates in Holistic Nutrition
A certificate in holistic nutrition typically requires completing a program and 500 professional nutritionist practice hours. It should be noted that “certification” can refer to a variety of different meanings:
- Certificate in Holistic Nutrition: This is a short program designed to be completed in usually 6 months to a year. While this program does will not allow you to work as a nutritionist or dietitian, it does help you become eligible to sit for the Registered Dietitian licensure exam.
- Registered Dietitian Licensure: This exam is usually a requirement in order to work as a nutritionist or health professional in many states. This exam requires an internship and completion of a practice program or course.
- Teaching Licensure: While not directly related to nutrition science, it is important to note the teaching licensure certification because many nutrition science graduates go on to become teachers. Becoming a teacher in health and nutrition requires a bachelor’s degree and, in some cases, even a master’s degree in nutrition science or health and wellness. Which licensure you should obtain depends greatly on your career goals.
You will need to check with state credentialing boards for regulations on the amount of education you need to become a holistic health professional or dietitian. Sometimes in order to maintain your board certification you must continue your education to a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Holistic Nutrition Certification Organizations
In most states, you must be certified as a registered dietitian in order to practice holistic nutrition. The following are the most common and recognized certifying bodies:
- Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics: Formerly known as the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, ACEND is among the world’s largest organizations centered on nutrition, health, and food.
- National Association of Nutrition Professionals: Endorses programs that qualify students to sit for its holistic nutrition national board exam.
- Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board of the NANP: A non-profit business league representing and advocating on behalf of holistically trained food and nutrition professionals.
Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Science
While a bachelor’s degree in holistic nutrition provides a solid background and foundation in holistic concepts and approaches, it is almost always required if you wish to work as a dietitian or nutritionist. You will study vegetarian nutrition, nutritional counseling and/or therapy, and vitamins and supplements. A number of careers require a bachelor’s degree as a barrier of entry, including:
- Nutritionist or Dietitian
- Nutrition therapist or counselor
- Nutritional product developer
- Wellness consultant
- Health educator
Since there is no official standard at the federal level for becoming a nutritionist, it is possible (and frowned upon) to obtain the title without any formal education. While the term is not protected or regulated by law, there are several qualified nutritionists with bachelor’s or master’s degree who work in research and development related to food and nutrition.
Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science
A master’s degree will provide even more advanced understanding and insight into holistic nutritional health. Typically, these programs are created for currently practicing professionals and take a more clinical approach to prepare students for advanced health careers. Topics of study include, but are not limited to, clinical nutrition, nutrition research, current trends in nutrition, and health counseling.
Many nutritionists obtain their master’s degree and go on to work in research and development fields. They work with companies and universities alike to create solutions to the world’s nutritional needs. Dietitians often choose to obtain their licensure after receiving their bachelor’s degree. However, a master’s degree can still provide a great benefit, especially when it comes to positions in leadership or the public domain.
Many schools now offer online degrees in nutrition. If you’re interested in pursuing your master’s degree, enrolling in an online program would allow you to continue working or maintain other obligations while completing your coursework.