State Requirements for Nutrition and Dietitian Fields

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Tennessee

Tennessee Nutritionist Certification

The Tennessee Board of Dietician/Nutritionist Examiners views the dietician/nutritionist as practicing one of the “healing arts.” The practice of nutrition is therefore restricted to only those persons credentialed by the Board.

The Board of Dieticians/Nutritionists Examiners was created in 1987, with a mission to “safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of Tennesseans” by requiring those who practice dietetics and nutrition to be qualified; the Board therefore interprets the laws, rules, and regulations as to determine the appropriate standards of practice.

Becoming a Licensed Nutritionist by Examination in Tennessee: Degree, Examination, and Supervised Experience Requirements

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Individuals who want to become a nutritionist in Tennessee must:

  • Possess a bachelor’s degree or higher from a regionally accredited college or university, with major course of study in:
    • Human nutrition
    • Food and nutrition
    • Dietetics
    • Food systems management
    • An equivalent course of study approved by the Board

There are currently nine didactic education programs in Tennessee.

  • Complete a pre-professional experience in the practice of nutrition that consists of no less than 900 hours; the program must meet one of the following requirements:
    • Be completed under the supervision of a registered dietician
    • Be a supervised clinical experience that is recognized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association; there are currently six approved dietetic internship programs in Tennessee

Dieticians/nutritionists may also be licensed by reciprocity in Tennessee if they hold a valid, issued as a dietician or nutritionist in any state, provided the Board deems the license as substantially equivalent to Tennessee’s licensure requirements.

Applying to Become a Nutritionist in Tennessee

Candidates who meet the minimum above requirements for licensure as a nutritionist in Tennessee must complete an Application for Licensure and complete the following:

  • Sign and notarize the application for licensure
  • Request an official transcript to be sent directly from the institution to the Board
  • Submit a signed, passport-style photograph taken within the last 12 months
  • Submit a copy of a current CDR registration (copy must be signed and notarized)
  • Submit one letter of recommendation from a professional attesting to the applicant’s personal character and professional ethics
  • Submit the licensure/application fee of $140 (made payable to the State of Tennessee)
  • Complete Steps 2-11 if applying through reciprocity  and complete and mail Attachment 1 to each state, country, or province in which a license is held
  • Complete the Mandatory Practitioner Profile
  • Complete the Declaration of Citizenship attachment

The completed application and all related documents must be mailed to:

Board of Dietitian/Nutritionist Examiners
665 Mainstream Drive
Nashville, Tennessee 37243

Note: Applicants may apply for a temporary permit by adding an additional $5 fee to the licensure/application fee and submitting proof that they are approved to take the CDR examination.

Renewing Nutritionist Licenses in Tennessee

Nutritionist licenses in Tennessee are renewed on the last day of the month of the applicant’s birthdate on a biennial basis. The online renewal process is completed through the Tennessee Department of Health’s Online License Renewal page.

Continuing education in Tennessee is not mandatory; however, it is considered the standard. To maintain competency as a licensed nutritionist in Tennessee, individuals are encouraged to attend and participate in professional continuing education programs. Continuing education opportunities may be found throughout Tennessee’s many regional and state professional nutrition associations:

Tennessee School Nutrition Association
Tennessee Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Memphis Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Tennessee Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals
West Tennessee Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Chattanooga Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Knoxville Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Nashville Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


How to Become a Health Coach in Tennessee

While it might be difficult for Tennesseans to remember exactly when diabetes became so widespread in the state, certainly everyone remembers one of the highest profile casualties of this ongoing epidemic. Despite his resources, Johnny Cash's passing in 2003 at the Baptist Hospital of Nashville from diabetes complications was an omen for what the state would face in the next decade.

Fast-forward to 2014 and Tennessee has the second-highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes of all states in the nation. With over 36,000 Tennesseans being diagnosed each year, the American Diabetes Association estimates the disease costs us around $5 billion in direct medical expenses each year, with an additional $1.7 billion being lost indirectly as a result of reduced productivity.

Faced with these challenging numbers government leaders started the Get Fit Tennessee initiative. With support from the business community, individuals, healthcare companies, as well as the government, this initiative aims to tackle the state's diabetes epidemic on all relevant fronts. Health coaches are instrumental in this fight, and can help Tennessee achieve our goal to reduce diabetes and improve the overall wellness of our state's residents. Using the Get Fit Tennessee initiative as a model, health coaches can do the following:

  • Work with clients to calculate BMI, caloric intake, and caloric output
  • Encourage physical fitness programs designed to achieve an ideal weight
  • Improve diet and healthy eating habits

Considering that eating nutritious meals and decreasing obesity are the two best ways to prevent type 2 diabetes, health coaches are well-poised to conquer this plague.

The work of Tennessee’s health coaches doesn’t end there, as is evident when looking at these challenging health statistics (data courtesy of Trust for America's Health, 2014):

  • Tennessee has the lowest number of residents who eat their daily recommended amount of fruit – 7.5 percent of people
  • Tennessee has the sixth highest rate of hypertension, and the 14th highest rate of obesity of all states
  • Tennessee has the fifth-highest percentage of residents who smoke – almost one-quarter of the population

Earning a Relevant Degree and Professional Certification for a Career in Health Coaching

Because health coaching encompasses a wide range of disciplines, you will find yourself studying topics from many fields as you earn your qualifications:

  • Diet, exercise, and nutrition
  • Exercise science and physiology
  • Alternative and complimentary approaches to healthcare
  • Group and individual coaching techniques
  • Yoga, meditation, and other forms of conditioning stress relief
  • Motivational coaching, especially for weight loss and smoking cessation
  • Women's holistic health
  • Human biology and physiology
  • Fitness and wellness
  • Health promotion techniques

If you’re interested in a health coaching career that involves developing meal plans or providing specific nutritional advice in a hospital or other similar setting, you will need to become a registered dietitian. This would involve meeting the education and national exam requirements of the Commission on Dietetic Registration and becoming state licensed through the Tennessee Department of Health. 

Relevant Health Coach Degrees – Associate's, Bachelor's, and Master's Degrees

Tennessee is home to many campus-based degree programs that are relevant to a career in health coaching, in addition to the many convenient online programs available to state residents.

The following is a non-comprehensive list of degree options available throughout Tennessee:

Associate's Degree Programs – Some entry-level positions are available with a two-year degree:

  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in dietetic technician (Memphis)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in nursing (Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville)
  • Associate of Science (AS) in nutrition and food science (Memphis)
  • Associate of Science (AS) in health and physical education (Memphis)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in health sciences (Knoxville and Nashville)
  • Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in healthcare management (Nashville)
  • Associate of Science (AS) in exercise science (Nashville and Chattanooga)
  • Associate of Science (AS) in kinesiology (Chattanooga)
  • Associate of Science (AS) in wellness and fitness leadership (Chattanooga)
  • Associate of Science (AS) in sport and leisure management (Chattanooga)

Bachelor's Degree Programs – Bachelor’s degrees represent the most common degree requirement for health coach jobs:

  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in athletic training (Murfreesboro)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in exercise science (Murfreesboro and Johnson City)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in nutrition and food science (Murfreesboro)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in dietetics (Murfreesboro)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in physical education (Murfreesboro)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in community and public health (Murfreesboro)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in health studies (Memphis)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in health and human performance (Memphis)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in health sciences (Johnson City and Cookeville)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in sport and leisure management (Johnson City)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in exercise science, physical education and wellness (Cookeville)
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) in human ecology with a concentration in nutrition and dietetics (Cookeville)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in medicine, health, and society (Nashville)

Master's Degree Programs - If you already have a degree in another field, consider applying transferrable credits towards a master’s degree program:

  • Master of Science (MS) in exercise science (Murfreesboro)
  • Master of Science (MS) in health and human performance (Murfreesboro and Memphis)
  • Master in Health Administration (MHA) (Memphis)
  • Master of Science (MS) in Health Studies with a concentration in health promotion (Memphis)
  • Master in Public Health (MPH) with a concentration in social and behavioral health (Memphis)
  • Master of Science (MS) in clinical nutrition (Johnson City)
  • Master of Arts (MA) in exercise physiology and performance (Johnson City)
  • Master of Arts (MA) in exercise, physical education and wellness (Cookeville)
  • Master of Arts (MA) in medicine, health, and society (Nashville)
  • Master in Public Health (MPA) (Nashville)

Health Coach Certification Programs

As a professional health coach your clients will prefer to see that you have professional qualifications, while your employer will require it.

Professional certifications are available through national organizations that each set their own certification curriculum and enrollment requirements. Typically, certification programs are comprised of coursework you take online followed by a final exam, and can be completed in a matter of weeks or months. They are meant to provide credentials in addition to the formal education you get through a degree program.

Currently, the American Council on Education (ACE) is the only organization that is accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The ACE health coach program offers three certification routes designed to meet your professional goals:

  • Health coach certification for fitness professionals
  • Health coach certification for health care professionals
  • Health coach certification for workplace wellness

You can find detailed information about these programs in the ACE Certification Candidate Handbook.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) is another leading organization that strives to contribute to a large network of qualified health coaches throughout the nation, enforcing high standards for the profession and offering independent certification. The ICF provides several different credentialing options for coaches including:

  • Associated Certified Coach (ACC)
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
  • Master Certified Coach (MCC)

Career Paths and Job Opportunities Available to Health Coaches in Tennessee

Health coaches in Tennessee can pursue their careers down a variety of avenues:

  • With a government agency or through a government initiative
  • With a corporation, school, or government agency's employee wellness program
  • With a healthcare agency
  • With a company that specializes in hiring health coaches for third-party clients
  • As independent business owners who work with their own clients

For example, the following companies have been known to hire health coaches to keep their employees productive and in tip top shape:

  • FedEx
  • Hospital Corporation of America
  • Community Health Systems
  • Southern Tennessee Medical Center
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Johnson City Medical Center
  • Nissan North America
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Amazon
  • DHL

The following job vacancy announcements, sourced in August 2016, represent the types of employment opportunities available to properly credentialed health coaches in Tennessee. 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 Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare – This position involves traveling to hospitals throughout Tennessee to motivate patients with diabetes to improve their self-management. Using motivational interviewing you work one-on-one with your clients to encourage improvements in healthy eating and physical activity. Your duties include identifying the strengths of your clients and using those to promote wellness through a developed plan of action.

To qualify for this position you must have at least two years of related work experience and a relevant associate's degree. Preferred applicants hold a relevant bachelor's degree with five years of work experience. You can substitute the following credentials for the minimum requirements:

  • Health coach certification
  • Medical assistant certification/license
  • Pharmacy technician certification/license
  • LPN – licensed practical nurse
  • Other related certification or license

Health Coach Health Promoter with MissionPoint in Nashville – As a health coach in this position you work closely with nurses and social workers to assist your clients after they have been discharged from emergency room visits. You work one-on-one with clients in person, over the phone, or online to help them establish and maintain effective wellness plans that accomplish specific health goals. These goals can include weight reduction, smoking cessation, or diet improvement, among others. In addition to health coaching with individual clients you will also work on campaigns that tackle specific issues like obesity, fall risks, or healthcare coverage gaps.

The minimum qualifications for this position are either three years of relevant work experience or an associate's degree in healthcare, social work, wellness, or other related field. Preferred applicants hold any of these qualifications:

  • Health coach or wellness coach certification, or another related credential
  • Bachelor's degree in healthcare, social work, wellness, or another related field

Health Coach with Totality Living Well in Knoxville – A business run by three health coaches, TLW is a good example of what you can achieve as an independent business owner. Services offered to individual clients revolve around nutrition, fitness, personal balance, and environmental health. TLW's clients include those seeking assistance with hormonal shifts, women's health, athletic performance, healthy eating, and individualized wellness plans.

The three health coaches who have made TLW their life have a wide range of qualification that include:

  • Personal training certification
  • Nutrition specialist certification
  • Neuromuscular massage specialization
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) in religion
  • Collegiate cross-country running

State Resources for Health Coaches

The following government agencies, initiatives, and professional organizations can provide you with additional helpful resources as you prepare to become a health coach in Tennessee.

Government Agencies and Initiatives

Professional Organizations

 

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