Getting into the realm of nutrition is not as simple as it seems. Unlike other disciplines of study, nutrition education is a relatively new field that has grown away from the standard of dietetics, and therefore there are just not that many accredited programs out there to support the field. In addition, you cannot just go to the book store to pick up a guide on nutrition schools either. You are therefore left to fend for yourself. Hopefully with the growing interest (yes all of you out there) the universities will take notice and start adding programs to their curriculum. Because I must say the list leaves something to be desired.
When I use the term nutrition, I am referring more to the study of nutrition with an alternative or holistic point of view. This would include the integration of other medicines such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Iridology etc. There are other programs out there that focus in other fields of nutrition such as public health, but you will not receive the same education focus in those programs. Therefore, if you are looking to get into the alternative/holistic nutrition field, here is a list that I have put together of the programs I have heard of.
As for my training, I personally got a degree at the University of Southern California in nutrition, and then did a program through the American Health Science University to become a certified nutritionist. Between those times I worked directly in a couple practices taking consultations and shadowing the nutritionists there. From there, my main education has been from learning from experts in the field. Ranging from MDs, NDs, DCs, and LAcs, I have worked with them directly in order to expand my experience and to learn what really works in practice, not just in theory. Because as good as your education is, nothing prepares you for the real world like real life practice.
As for my BEST advice for you, start your education in your area. Seek out alternative practitioners, health coaches and people in the nutrition field and ask to shadow them. See what their experiences are like and how they conduct their business. This is going to be the MOST valuable way to learn, because there are a lot of different avenues you can take in this field and many of them require different skills. Plus, I believe the best education is HANDS ON practice, and what you can learn from a seasoned practitioner is truly invaluable.
Secondly, once you enroll in a school, seek out the different supplement companies and go to their trainings. A couple good companies to start with are Apex Energetics, Premier Research Labs, Pure Encapsulations and Standard Process. This is another way to network with practitioners and to receive additional education in a multitude of disciplines within the health field.
Finally, what type of degree should you get? RD, CN, CCN, ND… Masters?
If you want to be a practitioner and see clients in an office setting, I would recommend going for a more advanced degree such as a masters in nutrition, or you can become a ND (naturopathic doctor). If you want to work in a hospital or school, then you will most likely have to get an RD (although the education for a registered dietician is very limiting in terms of holistic/eastern medicine education). Most all government supported institutions will only hire registered dieticians (or NDs). If you want to be in the health field as a writer, blogger, athletic health coach, or even work for a health food/supplement company or restaurant, a lesser certificate is the most appropriate route. And what if you don’t know what you want to do yet? Well that is why I suggest talking to people who are in the field. By shadowing a number of health practitioners, and nutritionists you will get a better idea of what works for you and what doesn’t. From there you can determine how much education you need.
Now this is NOT an endorsement for these schools or programs. I personally cannot vouch for all of them, but at least it’s a starting point for you.
* I would love to expand this list and start a stream of reviews about the schools, so please share any advice in the comments below!
List of Nutrition Schools
Institute for Integrative Medicine – Health Coach Certification/Holistic Healthcare Practitioner. Online. NYC.
Bastyr University – Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate Programs. Classroom. San Diego, Ca and Kenmore, WA.
Tufts – Master and Doctorate in Nutrition Science and Food/Nutrition Policy. Classroom. Boston, MA.
University of Bridgeport – Masters in Human Nutrition, Naturopathic Doctorate. Classroom/Online. Bridgeport, CT.
Bauman College – Nutrition Consultant. Online and Classroom. CA and CO.
Huntington College of Health Sciences – Associate of Science Applied Nutrition, Bachelor and Masters of Health Science program in Nutrition, Sports Nutrition Specialist. Online and In Class. Knoxville, TN.
American University of Complementary Medicine – Masters in Nutritional Medicine, Bachelors in Holistic Health. Classroom and Online. Beverly Hills, CA.
University of Natural Medicine – Bachelors, Masters and PH.D in Natural Health Sciences, Doctor of Integrative Medicine, Doctor of Naturopathy, M.A in Mind/Body Integrative Studies, M.A and PH. D in Body/Mind Consciousness Integrated Medical Studies. Classroom/Online. San Dimas, CA.
American University, Washington D.C – Masters of Science in Nutrition Education. Washington, D.C.
The Ayurvedic Institute – Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner. Albuquerque, NM
National College of Natural Medicine – Chinese Medical Practitioner, Naturopathic Doctor, Integrative Medical Health, Integrative Medicine Research, Masters in Nutrition. Portland, Oregon.
American College of Healthcare Sciences – Associates + Masters degrees, Diplomas and Certificates in a wide range of healthcare professions such as Holistic Nutrition, Herbalist, Aromatherapy etc. Online only.
National College of National Medicine – School of Chinese Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health Stuides and Masters programs. Portland, OR.
College of Naturopathic Medicine – Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Natural Chef, Iridology, Natural Skincare, Food Photography. London, Belfast, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Edinburgh, and Manchester. Dublin, Cork, and Galway, Ireland and UK.
College of Natural Health – Natural Health, Kinesiology, Natural Skincare, Juicing and Cooking, Cleanse and Detox Education. Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban.
American School of Natural Health – Nutrition Consultant, Masters Nutrition Consultant, Digestive System Certification Course. Online.
Kingdom College of Natural Health – Naturopathy & Natural Medicine, Herbalism, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Naturopathic Psychology, Clinical Nutrition, Functional Medicine, Holistic Animal Care. Bachelor’s, Masters and Doctorate. Online.
Nutrition Therapy Institue – Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner, Master Nutrition Therapist. Online and in the classroom. Denver, CO.
Best of luck to you!