A certified nutrition specialist (CNS) is an advanced, credentialed professional who promotes healthy lifestyles by guiding people to smart food choices. CNSs have fulfilled the rigorous requirements of the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists to certify their knowledge of nutrition science. Unlike registered dietitians who prescribe nutrition therapy, CNSs organize public health programs that teach about healthy diets. There's a growing need for certified nutrition specialists because over two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight. The shift to preventative medicine has placed greater emphasis on using nutrition to thwart illness and disease. Therefore, the BLS reports that jobs for nutrition specialists will grow faster-than-average by 16 percent through 2024. The following is a brief job profile on certified nutrition specialists for anyone considering this rewarding, in-demand career.

What Certified Nutrition Specialists Do

Certified nutrition specialists are food experts who help clients or the public reach health-related goals by customizing meal plans. CNSs often work with people diagnosed with obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, and other chronic conditions. It's their job to suggest the right eating habits that improve nutrition and overall health. A certified nutrition specialist begins by assessing each individual client's needs. Then, the CNS promotes effective dietary changes by following the latest nutritional research. They'll continue offering nutrition education and counseling while monitoring the progress of their clients. Certified nutrition specialists could also organize community initiatives or plan food service programs.

Where Certified Nutrition Specialists Practice

Depending on their specialty, certified nutrition specialists could work in various settings. Most are employed by public health, social service, community welfare, and government agencies. Some CNSs work in hospitals to help patients recover alongside dietitians. A certified nutrition specialist could open a private practice or consulting firm. Other popular workplaces include outpatient care centers, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, and schools. A few CNSs find employment in food service management companies to develop healthy menus. Nearly all certified nutrition specialists work full-time. Irregular hours in evenings and on weekends may be required to meet with clients at more convenient times.

Resource: 15 Most Affordable Online Master's in Nutritional Science Degree Programs 2016

How to Become a Certified Nutrition Specialist

Earning the CNS board certification requires passing rigorous qualifying standards. Certified nutrition specialists must hold at least a Master's degree in nutrition or a related field from an accredited graduate school. Many have completed doctoral programs, such as an MD, PharmD, DNP, or DO. Curriculum prerequisites mandate having at least nine graduate credits in nutrition. Coursework in biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, and clinical or life science is also required. Aspiring certified nutrition specialists need to complete at least 1,000 hours of supervised practice. Candidates test their knowledge by taking an exam of 200 multiple-choice questions in five domains. Those who pass and earn the CNS credential must complete 75 continuing education credits every five years.

Certified nutrition specialist is the premier, non-dietetics credential for professionals who deliver population-based care to transform people's nourishment. These healthcare practitioners advise clients on the best sources of nutrition. Trading fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in for added sugars, trans fats, and processed foods is what they do. On average, certified nutrition specialists are rewarded with a yearly salary of $58,410. Taking the rigorous steps to satisfy board requirements and become a certified nutrition specialist can help accelerate your career controlling disease with wholesome foods.