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  • Nutrition certificates cost less and are shorter time commitments than formal degrees.
  • While you still need a degree to become a nutritionist, a certificate can enhance certain careers.
  • We spoke to three registered dieticians on finding the best online nutrition certificate programs.

If you’re curious about a career in nutrition — but aren’t sure about taking the leap to dedicate your time and money for a university degree quite yet — obtaining a nutrition certificate can be a great option.

With an array of online nutrition certification programs available, I spoke with three registered dieticians to find the best ones: 

They also shared how nutrition certificates can be helpful for continuing education or to complement another discipline or field.

“A career in nutrition is incredibly rewarding, but can also be equally challenging,” says Moskovitz. “Nutrition science is a relentless revolving door of new and old information, so it’s important to be prepared.” 

The field of nutrition requires continual learning and also intersects many other areas of life. “Working in the nutrition industry is appealing to me because it blends so many different areas including behavior change, food service, cooking, nutrition science, human physiology, agricultural science, and so forth,” says Andrews, who sees food and nutrition “as a primary concern for humanity.”

What to know before you look up or enroll in a nutrition certification program:

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A nutrition certification offers opportunities to expand your knowledge or continue your education. However, depending on the type of job you want to have in the field of nutrition, a nutrition certification alone may not suffice. 

According to Andrews, if nutrition is going to be the sole focus of your career (be it medical nutrition therapy or a related job in a hospital or school), then it’s ideal to have a degree in nutrition and become a registered dietitian. “A nutrition certification isn’t a substitute for becoming a registered dietitian — rather, it’s a different option based on what you are hoping to do,” Andrews adds. 

For example, a nutrition certification can be beneficial for professionals in other fields. “I would say it’s most valuable for personal trainers, coaches, physicians, chiropractors, therapists, social workers, and nurses,” says Andrews.

4 tips for choosing an online nutrition certification program:

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There are plenty of online nutrition certifications to consider. At times, it can be challenging to figure out which one is best for you and your professional goals.

Look at job listings to see what your ideal employer is looking for.

If you want to work in nutrition but prefer to work for someone else, it’s worth spending some time looking at job postings to see what’s required. “If you plan to work for another establishment, do research as to which certifications these companies will consider,” says Moskovitz. 

Research your state’s certification requirements.

It’s important to have a clear idea of what you hope to achieve after attaining your nutrition certification before you invest the time and money. “If you plan to open your own nutrition counseling business, some states have licensure laws that require a state license,” Moskovitz says.

Make sure the nutrition program has been properly vetted by other organizations.

There are plenty of organizations and associations offering online nutrition certifications, but it’s important to know if they are legitimate. Andrews says it’s wise to check if a program has been “approved by other organizations as a source of continuing education credits” — examples of certifying organizations include ACSM, NSCA, CDR, and ISSA

“To ensure that the continuing education material is high quality for their students, they do an audit and approval process [and] can be quite rigorous in some cases,” explains Andrews. “So, if a nutrition certification has cleared the bar of the auditing and approval process, there’s a better chance it’s a high-quality certification.”

Be prepared to get more than a certificate if you want to become a nutritionist or registered dietician.

“Those who earn an online nutrition certification should remain aware of that credential’s scope of practice, and should work to honor that in their daily work,” says Meacham. “For example, only a registered dietitian who is part of an allied health professional team should recommend therapeutic diets to help manage, treat, or prevent medical conditions.” 

The 5 best online nutrition certification programs: