Dieticians and nutritionists are licensed through the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing. In 2002, the Professional Nursing Law was amended to include the licensing of dieticians-nutritionists. Now, only licensed dieticians-nutritionists may use the title or the abbreviation, LDN, in Pennsylvania.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pennsylvania continues to rank high for its employment of nutritionists, who earned an annual, mean salary of $47,680, as of May 2013.
For example, during the same period:
Individuals who want to learn how to become a licensed nutritionist in Pennsylvania must successfully complete the following:
The PA Board of Nursing approves educational programs that are approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
The PA Board of Nursing approves the Registration Examination for Registered Dieticians and the Examination of the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CNS).
To qualify to take the registered dietician (RD) examination, candidates must possess:
To qualify to take the CNS examination, candidates must possess:
Candidates who have met the minimum requirements for licensure as a dietician-nutritionist in Pennsylvania must complete an Application for Dietician-Nutritionist License and submit it, along with the application/licensure fee of $45 (made payable to the Commonwealth of PA) and all related documentation, to:
Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105
Applicants with questions regarding licensure and the application process can contact the Board at 717-783-7142 or at email@example.com.
To maintain LDN licensure in Pennsylvania, nutritionists must complete at least 30 hours of continuing professional education credits every two years. The cost of license renewal is $65.
One hour of CPE credit is given for each 50-minute clock hour of CPE activity. The Board accepts “substantive learning experiences” for CPE activity that are related to the field of nutrition and dietetics. Programs must:
Licensed LDNs may also apply to the Board for approval of CPE credit if they have completed:
Every year Pennsylvania's health coaches contribute to saving lives– and millions of dollars. They help clients achieve their ideal weight, kick bad habits, and eat healthy. They contribute to increasing the productivity of the state’s workforce while reducing sick leave. The government likes us because we provide preventative health care that reduces future expenditures (the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that Pennsylvania's Medicaid program spent an average of $7,811 per beneficiary in 2011 – an amount that is much higher than the national average).
Pennsylvania's health coaches have their work cut out for them (Trust for America's Health):
The private charity, Highmark Foundation, is an example of one organization that is tackling issues related to diet, exercise, and health in Pennsylvania. A specific initiative it sponsors is aimed at eliminating childhood obesity, through the two primary routes: improving nutrition and increasing the level of physical activity, and this is where health coaches come in. To date, health coaches with the Highmark Foundation have reached more than one million children across Pennsylvania.
You can see the broad coalition of actors who are on board to fund the activities of the Highmark Foundation and the health coaches it employs by looking at some of the grants it has received in just the first quarter of 2016:
As health coaching emerges as an important profession, these specialists enjoy the freedom to pursue relevant degrees and professional certification without the need to meet any specific licensing regulations. These qualifications you choose to earn all depend on your professional goals, and the expectations of prospective employers and future clients.
Relevant areas of study for health coaches include:
Some employers specifically look to hire health coaches who have met state and national requirements to become a RD (Registered Dietician), which involves being listed on the registry for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Commission on Dietetic Registration and holding state licensure through the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing.
Degree Options for Health Coaches
The following list shows relevant in-state degree programs for aspiring health coaches in Pennsylvania. You can also find similar programs at schools throughout the nation that offer online enrollment options for Pennsylvania residents:
Associate's Degree Programs:
Bachelor's Degree Programs:
Master's Degree Programs:
Starting your career with the solid foundation that a college degree brings is a good strategy for the long term. You can often apply credits from prior higher-level education towards programs that are relevant for health coaches.
Non-Degree Health Coach Certification Programs
Several national organizations also offer relevant professional certification programs for health coaches that will add to the skills you have developed through your degree program. Each individual organization sets its own requirements for admission and content. Certification can typically be earned once you complete a course of study (ranging from weeks to months) and pass an exam.
Currently the American Council on Education (ACE) is the only organization accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) that offers health coach certification. The ACE health coach program offers three certification routes that cater to your professional goals:
You can find detailed information about these programs in the ACE Certification Candidate Handbook.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) is another leading organization dedicated to credentialing health coaches around the world, holding them to high professional standards and offering independent certification. The organization provides several different options for coaches including:
You can pursue a health coach career as an independent practitioner, an employee of respected companies in the healthcare or public health sectors, or with corporations looking to implement employee wellness plans.
There are many companies located throughout Pennsylvania that have been known to hire health coaches for their staff, including:
The following job vacancy announcements, sourced in August 2016, represent the types of employment opportunities available to properly credentialed health coaches in Pennsylvania. These job vacancy announcements are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to represent job offers or provide an assurance of employment.
Health Coach with WellSpan Health at the Apple Hill Medical Center in York – As a health coach it is your responsibility to provide safe and efficient therapeutic care to your clients. You focus specifically on disease prevention as well as early testing, treatment, and screening. You also play a role in assisting patients assigned to you, instructing them and their families on appropriate methods of care within your scope of practice.
To apply for this position you need to have training in basic cardiac life support and 1-2 years of related experience.
Health Coach and Inside Sales with Physician Recommended Nutriceuticals in Plymouth Meeting – This job takes place in a call center, where you are responsible for both inbound and outbound calls. Health coach duties include providing professional and knowledgeable information to clients about product nutritional information.
To be a successful applicant for this position you need at least 1-2 years of customer service or sales experience, as well as at least a bachelor's degree in a related field like nutrition, dietetics, public health, or another health/science field. Preferred applicants have these qualifications:
Health Coach Julie Cerrone in Pittsburgh – Julie Cerrone is an example of someone who decided to start her own health coaching business. She offers courses in one-on-one or group sessions in the greater Pittsburgh area, as well as virtually online. When working with clients, Cerrone begins by establishing their personal goals and goes from there to increase her clients' energy, meet their ideal weight goals, and find the most appropriate diet. Cerrone describes herself as a holistic health coach and autoimmune warrior who believes chocolate and wine are non-negotiable.
As far as professional qualifications, Cerrone's résumé includes:
Additional Resources for Pennsylvania’s Health Coaches
Local initiatives, government agencies, and professional organizations are good sources where you can find more information about health concerns and solutions in Pennsylvania.
Government Organizations and Programs
Professional Organizations and Initiatives