As nutritional science continues to reveal how diet impacts health, metabolism, athletic performance and disease resistance, it’s more important than ever to identify nutritionists who have put in the time to gain the experience and education necessary to become experts in the field.
The Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists℠ (BCNS℠) created two designations to allow top professionals to display advanced standing in the field of nutrition:
These esteemed credentials are reserved for nutrition professionals who have achieved an advanced level of education and experience, and who have met specific examination and continuing education requirements.
A Certified Nutrition Specialist®™ is a nutrition professional that is proficient in science-based advanced medical nutrition therapy, education, and research in any number of job settings, including:
The CNS® credential denotes a healthcare professional with an advanced degree who specializes in nutrition. This may be a clinical nutritionist, a physician, an advanced practice registered nurse, a physician assistant, a pharmacist, a dentist or other healthcare professional with an advanced degree that has met the requirements necessary to earn the credential. Because the CNS® credential is available to nutrition specialists from a variety of different backgrounds, healthcare professionals are able to achieve the designation through one of three certification pathways:
These designations have earned a reputation for being the most rigorous professional certifications in the field of nutrition.
The CNS® for Nutrition and Healthcare Professionals
Nutritionists and health professionals, such as APRNs, DCs, DDSs, PAs, NDs, and pharmacists, pursue the CNS® when seeking state licensure or competency as an advanced practitioner in clinical nutrition.
To qualify for the CNS® designation, candidates must possess one of the following advanced degrees from an accredited college or university:
In addition to one of the above degrees, candidates must have completed coursework in the following areas:
Candidates must complete at least 1,000 hours of supervised practice in nutrition. Qualified supervisors must meet at least one of the following requirements:
The required supervised experience must encompass at least 200 hours in each of the following areas:
The supervised practice may be in any number of settings:
The CNS® Credential for Medical Doctors (MD) and Doctors of Osteopathy (DO)
MDs and DOs pursue the CNS® to denote specialization in nutrition.
Candidates for the CNS® designation must possess the following:
In addition to the above requirements, candidates must complete at least 9 semester credit hours or 135 continuing education equivalents (1 semester hour equals 15 CE equivalents), which must include:
Candidates must complete at least 1,000 hours of documented clinical nutrition experience while earning their degree, or after completing a qualifying degree program. Experience requirements must include at least 200 hours in the following areas:
In addition, candidates must submit at least 5 case studies in accordance with the CNS® Practice Experience for MD/DOs Case Study Report Instructions.
Candidates may satisfy their experience requirements through clinical practice or through a residency or fellowship in clinical nutrition (or as part of training in a related subspecialty that incorporates nutrition, such as nephrology, cardiology, gastroenterology, etc.).
The CNS-S® Credential for Scholars
Scholars, researchers, educators, scientists, and product developers pursue the CNS-S® when seeking distinction in clinical or applied nutrition science.
Candidates must possess an accredited doctoral degree in nutrition or in a field of clinical healthcare (such as MD, SO, DC, Doctor of Nursing, ND, or Pharm-D).
Further, qualified candidates must have completed the following coursework:
Experience and Scholarship Requirements
Candidates must possess at least 3 years of full-time experience in one or more of the following areas:
Further, they must have accomplished at least 5 of any combination of the following achievements:
Upon completing all necessary experience and education requirements, candidates must apply to take the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists℠ by completing the appropriate application:
The examination fee is $300, and the application fee is $50.
Candidates may take the exam before completing all necessary experience requirements; however, the CNS® is not awarded until completing and submitting all experience requirements.
The examination tests the knowledge and skills candidates acquire through education and experience. The examination consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that cover basic and applied nutritional science based on specific competencies. The exam groups competencies into domains, sub-domains, and tasks.
Candidates may choose their preferred examination site when completing their application. Currently, the examination is offered in the following cities:
All CNS® and CNS-S® credential holders must recertify every 5 years upon completing at least 75 continuing education credits. Individuals may achieve their continuing education requirements by:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that nutritionists earned an average, annual salary of $57,440, as of May 2014, with the top 10 percent earning an average salary of $79,840. These salaries are only for those that identified themselves as nutritionists when responding to salary surveys. Since those that hold the CNS® and CNS-S® credentials are most often MDs, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants and other medical and healthcare professionals with advanced degrees, these salary figures are recognized as being lower than what would be expected for many in the field.
Given the demanding requirements to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist®™, nutritionists holding this designation are likely the top earners in this profession.
The top-paying industries for nutritionists include (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014):
The top-paying states for nutritionists include (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014):
The median salary for medical and healthcare professionals that often hold the CNS® and CNS-S® credentials include (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014):