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Decoding Nutrition Credentials

what nutrition credentials mean

People seek out nutrition health professionals for a variety of reasons such as preventing disease, weight loss, digestive issues or for help pursuing fitness goals. No matter the reason, everyone eventually has to make the same choice: What type of nutrition professional should I see? You may think the answer would be easy: “of course, a nutritionist,” but did you know that there are several different credentials for nutrition professionals? Knowing what’s behind a credential is an important step in making an informed decision on who’s going to help you with your health goals.

  • Certified Nutritionist (CN) - A certified nutritionist requires either an associate’s degree or a six-course distance program and individuals must pass an exam. CN’s typically act as nutrition counselors.

  • Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) - A certified nutrition specialist must have an advanced degree (graduate or PhD) from an accredited university, must complete a 1,000-hour internship and must pass an exam.

  • Registered Dietitian (RD)/Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) - A registered dietitian must have a bachelor’s degree in an accredited program, must complete a 1,200-hour accredited dietetic internship and pass an exam. Registered dietitians work in clinical settings, outpatient settings, private practice, foodservice and community roles.

  • Certified Traditional Naturopath (CTN) - A certified traditional naturopath must complete distance learning or online courses in herbology, iridology, energy techniques and mind-body medicine among other requirements. They do not practice medicine, but instead focus on disease prevention and education.

When choosing a nutrition professional, first think of your goals. If you need help with a medical issue such as a problem with digestion, a registered dietitian should be your go-to for advice. For more general nutrition advice, other factors such as price and convenience can come into play, but a nutrition professional who has completed a rigorous program is still the best choice.

Written by: Catherine Ward, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern. Learn more about the Wellness Workdays Dietetic Internship.

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