There are many places to learn and get training to become a nutritionist or health coach; loads of places in fact. I know because I spent hours and months of research to find the right place for me.
A major factor in why I chose Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) to pursue an M.S. in Nutrition and Integrative Health is that the degree and coursework will qualify me to sit for the BCNS CNS exam.
What is the BCNS CNS exam?
If I pass … no, when I pass the exam — ahem— I become a Certified Nutrition Specialist, “the best clinical nutrition” credential. [Source] From what I've read, it is the highest level, nationally recognized credential for clinical nutrition practitioners.
And, why is the CNS credential important?
I was surprised to learn that not all states recognize nutritionists. Only RDs (Registered Dietitians) are recognized by many states and the (U.S.) government to be qualify for licensure to practice, get reimbursed for insurance due to health care laws, and I'm sure other forms of legal protection and benefits. [Source] So, that means it would be illegal for someone who doesn’t have the RD licensure to practice in states such as Maine, Ohio and Montana. [Source] States regulate nutrition practices so, your mileage, er training varies. This could affect where you practice and how you label and market your services. For example, if you call yourself a Health Coach and you are in a state that only allows licensure for RDs, a clear disclaimer should be on your website and marketing materials. As The Health Coach Group advises, it is vital for you to do your due diligence and “hire an attorney”.
What other factors influenced my decision?
There are so many but here are a few others:
Remote, online training
I live in Syracuse, NY. My husband loves his job. A remote marriage, living apart for me to go to school? Uh, not for me. MUIH offers courses online, in a classroom or a hybrid version. Flexible for everyone, especially professionals looking to make a career change.
I love to cook and I want to be better at it. I want to learn techniques, develop recipes and most important, learn the science behind foods and how the body uses food. While there are plenty of culinary schools and nutrition schools that have a solid cooking sequence, most did not offer a remote option if at all. It sounds odd to learn how to cook remotely but I was assured it goes well. I’ll let y’all know how it goes. Stay tuned.
Areas of Study
My area of concentration is Nutrition and Integrative Health but MUIH also offers Yoga Therapy, Health Coaching, Health Promotion, Herbal Medicine, and Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine. This excites me because the nutrition track requires taking electives such as Food Systems and Policy, Herbs for Home Use, Health Education, Sports Nutrition, and more. As a future “whole health” practitioner and advocate, exposure, understanding, and training in other areas seemed a no-brainer.
I researched a lot of schools and programs. I talked with so many people, attended webinars, listened to podcasts, and seriously, I spent hours reading and comparing programs. It made my head spin. The entire process led me to this: choosing where and how to train is about being honest with yourself.
Questions I asked myself:
- How do I learn best?
- Can I handle a remote, online course?
- How does my husband feel about this?
- Why do I want to go back to school?
- Can we afford it?
- What could my future look like?
- What would be my dream job or work environment?
- What would I need to do to make this happen?
My decision arrived after a ton of soul searching for I think 2-3 years — hot mess —but I’ll save that for another time.
For now, I hope this helps those of you who are in the process of figuring out where to get your training. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to share my experience and information.
I’d also love to hear from others who are in school or have graduated. Why did you choose your program?