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.
Individuals who want to become a nutritionist in Tennessee must:
There are currently nine didactic education 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.
Candidates who meet the minimum above requirements for licensure as a nutritionist in Tennessee must complete an Application for Licensure and complete the following:
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.
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
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:
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):
Because health coaching encompasses a wide range of disciplines, you will find yourself studying topics from many fields as you earn your qualifications:
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:
Bachelor's Degree Programs – Bachelor’s degrees represent the most common degree requirement for health coach jobs:
Master's Degree Programs - If you already have a degree in another field, consider applying transferrable credits towards a master’s degree program:
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:
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:
Health coaches in Tennessee can pursue their careers down a variety of avenues:
For example, the following companies have been known to hire health coaches to keep their employees productive and in tip top shape:
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 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 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:
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