Types of nutritionist qualifications vary by the jurisdiction in which a person wishes to become a nutritionist. These qualifications include the completion of various types of academic coursework and degrees, professional certifications, and government licenses to practice. It should be noted, however, that governmental authorities do not always regulate the term “nutritionist.” This allows anyone to call himself a nutritionist regardless of whether he holds any legitimate nutritionist qualifications. Individuals who wish to give dietary advice professionally should find out whether this practice is restricted in the jurisdiction where they live so as to better understand what type of credentials they will need to earn before practicing.
Many colleges and universities offer both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in nutrition and dietetics. The types of academic nutritionist qualifications that a person needs to earn to practice vary by jurisdiction. For example, in the United States, some states require those who refer to themselves as nutritionists to be licensed. These people must typically hold an undergraduate degree from an academic program that has been approved by the American Dietetic Association. In the United Kingdom, however, there are no restrictions on calling oneself a nutritionist, so it is up to the consumer to determine whether her nutritionist holds appropriate academic credentials.
Professional organizations for dietitians and nutritionists often have their own credentialing programs. In the United States, the American Dietetic Association offers two types of nutritionist qualifications: the registered dietitian designation and the dietetic technician, registered designation. Registered dietitians can practice independently or as an employee of an institution, such as a hospital, providing dietary advice and education and developing meal plans for those with special dietary needs. A dietetic technician, on the other hand, supports the work of registered dietitians by providing educational services, collecting research data, and implementing the directives of a registered dietitian in an institutional setting. To earn either type of certification, individuals must complete an educational program and a supervised internship and must take and pass a comprehensive examination.
Some governments restrict the practice of offering dietary advice to individuals who have been licensed by a government agency. The process of licensing is separate from registration or certification by professional organizations. For example, a registered dietitian in the United States cannot practice in states that license dietitians without first earning licensure through the state or states in which he or she wishes to practice. The nutritionist qualifications set by each jurisdiction will vary, but typically require a combination of education, practical work experience, and passing a licensing examination.