How to Become a Holistic Nutritionist in 5 Steps

Holistic nutritionists are devoted to the study of how nutrition plays a role in health and wellness. Read on for more information on job duties in this field, and learn about bachelor's degree programs and internships that can prepare you for holistic nutrition work. Get certification info for the field. Schools offering Complementary & Alternative Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Holistic Nutritionist?

A holistic nutritionist promotes optimum health by designing dietary plans that take a person's entire self into consideration, including balancing the person's mental, physical, emotional and spiritual needs. If you become a holistic nutritionist, you'll generally encourage clients to adopt eating habits that favor organic, nutrient-dense foods over processed foods. Your specific duties include assessing a client's health and evaluating her or his dietary habits, advising clients on principles of proper nutrition and consulting with the client and medical professionals about the client's dietary needs. You'll also devise food plans tailored to the client. In some positions, you may also make public policy recommendations or take part in public outreach and education programs.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

High school courses can prepare you for postsecondary education in holistic nutrition, especially if your school offers a course or courses in health and nutrition. Conventional biology and chemistry courses provide helpful background for the technical and scientific content of a nutrition program. Speech and English courses can develop your oral and written communication skills.

Step 2: Undergo Formal Training in Holistic Nutrition

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nutritionists typically need a bachelor's degree in nutrition, food service management or a related area (www.bls.gov). However, accredited degree programs with a holistic orientation are relatively rare. One option would be to earn a bachelor's degree in nutrition, then earn a diploma or certificate degree in holistic nutrition or holistic health. A small number of schools offer master's degree programs if you want to teach holistic nutrition.

Holistic nutrition and traditional nutrition programs cover some of the same subject matter, notably the physiological effects of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. Holistic programs also consider acid-alkaline balance, phytochemistry, complementary foods and organic cultivation. Food storage and management, Western and Eastern medicine, endocrinology, nutraceuticals and nutritional research are other possible topics.

Step 3: Participate in an Internship

Internships enable you to observe and participate in the daily work of a nutritionist. You may also build a network of contacts to draw on when you seek full time employment. If your school doesn't offer an internship, you may be able to arrange one through the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP).

Step 4: Find Employment

BLS statistics show most nutritionists work for hospitals, nursing facilities, outpatient centers, local government agencies and private physicians. You could also choose to establish your own consulting business or attempt to secure a teaching position at a holistic health school. Dedicated figures for holistic nutritionists weren't available, but in the broader category of dietitians and nutritionists approximately 60,300 people were employed in 2008. The BLS predicted that employment would rise during the 2008-2018 decade by nine percent, to 65,800. The median salary of dietitians and nutritionists as of May 2010 was $53,250, the BLS noted.

Step 5: Obtain Certification

Although voluntary, certification can enhance your career prospects by demonstrating your knowledge of holistic health and nutrition. If you've completed training and accumulated 500 hours of professional experience in holistic nutrition, you are eligible for the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board's certification exam. A passing score is 70% or better. To retain certification you need to be a member of NANP and complete 30 hours of continuing education credits every two years.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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