There are literally hundreds of certification and accreditation programs that exist for nutrition. They range from highly-regarded and respected to worthless. While it’s great to be able to hang a fancy certificate on the wall certifying you as a Health Counselor, Nutrition Specialist, Certified Organic Health Expert, or some other specific title, what exactly does it mean? Is it something that will actually help you get licensed, get a job with a reputable employer, attract clients, and/or network with other respected nutritionists? Or will it simply be a reminder of an expensive learning experience that now translates into a piece of wall art?
There exist two highly respected credentials that are both backed by long standing organizations and can actually lead to licensing in various states. These credentials are the Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) and Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS). The organizations also include pharmacists, chiropractors, MDs, DCs, NDs, and other professionals in the health field in their ranks.
CCN (Certified Clinical Nutritionist)
The Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) is the certifying arm of the International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN). Among the requirements a CCN must meet is a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree in nutrition or other related major, clinical experience or internship, attending CNCB seminars in the Clinical Nutrition program, and finally passing the 150 multiple-choice question CCN exam. Those with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nutrition must also complete CNCB’s 56-hour postgraduate clinical nutrition program prior to taking the CCN exam.
Once certified, a nutritionist must also maintain the certification by earning 40 continuing education credits every two years and then complete a recertification exam every five years.
CNS (Certified Nutrition Specialist)
As the certifying arm of the American College of Nutrition (ACN), the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS) enables nutritionists which have master’s and doctoral degrees from accredited schools to earn the Certified Nutritionist Specialist credential. In order to earn this designation, a person must pass a demanding written exam which covers all things nutrition including various research and clinical applications.
Once the CNS certification is obtained, continuing education credits must be earned to maintain it. These credits are usually earned by attending various education nutrition programs such as annual meetings held by the ACN. The ACN honors those who are leaders in their field and those nutritionists are then allowed use the designation of FACN (Fellows of the American College of Nutrition).