Becoming a Nutritionist in Iowa


Iowa, nicknamed the Hawkeye state in honor of Chief Black Hawk, leader of the Sauk Indians, has a population of 3,090416 (2012), making it the fifteenth least populated state in the U.S. It was ranked second best in the “Quality of Life” survey reported annual by the Congressional Quarterly Press. The survey compares such things as education, environment, safety, health care and cost of living. Iowa just might be the ideal place for you to become a nutritionist.

Nutritionist Degree Certification and Licensing in Iowa

Like most states, dieticians in Iowa are licensed but nutritionists are not. However, it is possible in Iowa to be licensed as a certified clinical nutritionist. All of these careers require formal training in the science of food and nutrition but there are educational requirement difference. Also, dieticians emphasize specific foods and eating habits while nutritionists focus more on the nutritional value of foods.

Nutritionist Educational Requirements. You can become a nutritionist in Iowa with just an Associate’s degree; however, almost all good jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Many nutritionists in Iowa begin working with a bachelor’s degree and later earn a master’s.

Courses you are likely to take to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition include:

  • Science courses like Chemistry, Biology, Anatomy and Biochemistry
  • The principles of Human Nutrition
  • Advanced Nutrition and Metabolism
  • Medical Nutrition and Disease
  • Food Laws and Regulations
  • Functional Food
  • Pediatric and Geriatric Nutrition
  • Obesity Across the Lifespan
  • Biopsychology
  • Nutritional Counseling
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • Medical Terminology

Certified Clinical Nutritionist Requirements. The first step toward becoming a certified clinical nutritionist is to satisfy the core educational requirement of at least a bachelor of science (most applicants have a master’s or doctoral degree) that includes three semester hours in each of these subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Human Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Introduction to Nutrition
  • Advanced Nutrition
  • Nutrition and Disease
  • Nutritional Assessments
  • Nutrition Counseling Strategies
  • Nutrition and Aging
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • Herbology

Depending on your background, you are likely to be required to complete the 52-hour, online program, “Studies in Clinical Nutrition.” You will then have to submit your credentials for approval before being allowed to take a written test that demonstrates your competence in clinical nutrition. Once you pass and are certified you can submit your licensure application to the Iowa Board of Medicine.:

Nutrition Schools in Iowa- The following Iowa cities all have colleges or universities with bachelor’s and master’s programs in nutrition:

  • Ames
  • Ankeny
  • Davenport
  • Forest City
  • Iowa City

There are approximately 140 students graduating from Iowa schools each year with degrees in nutrition.

The following bachelors and Master’s programs offer career-focused instruction delivered by trained nutritionists with experience in the field. Find out more what each individual course of study offers through the locations below.

Featured Nutritionist Programs

Nutritionist Salary and Job Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2021, the average salary for nutritionists in Iowa was $59,740. In the ten-year period leading up to 2028, the number of nutritionist jobs in the state is projected to increase by 13%, according to the BLS.*

Nutrition Job Description and Job Opportunities in Iowa

You can either open a private practice as a nutritionist or work for an employer. .Depending on employer, you might have any of these duties as a nutritionist:

  • Educating the public about nutrition issues
  • Assessing a patient’s or client’s nutritional needs
  • Creating school lunch programs
  • Planning school breakfast programs for low-income children
  • Providing individual nutrition counseling
  • Calculating caloric needs
  • Planning meals for diabetics and heart patients
  • Doing nutritional research
  • Testing prepared foods to assure the veracity of food labels
  • Teaching nutrition classes
  • Design nutritional posters and brochures

You might work for a wide variety of employers as a nutritionist, including:

  • Iowa Department of Health
  • Iowa Department of Education Nutrition Program
  • Non-profit food service organizations
  • Hospitals, medical clinics, rehab facilities
  • Spas, hotels, resorts
  • Schools
  • Senior centers
  • Fitness clubs
  • Food manufacturers
  • Holistic health groups

It is noted that manufacturing is the biggest contributor to Iowa’s economy and food processing is the largest manufacturing sector. Iowa is home to food giants like Heinz, General Mills, Quaker Oats, Tyson and others.

Skills you need to be an effective nutritionist are:

  • Public speaking ability
  • Scientific curiosity
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Compassion/sensitivity
  • Reading comprehension
  • Ability to write clearly and succinctly
  • Flexibility
  • Good judgment
  • Open mindedness
  • Cultural awareness


Health Coach Careers in Iowa

Health coaching is an ideal career path for anyone who wants to educate others on health issues and risk prevention, regardless of your background. For example, Des Moines health coach Melanie Schmidt left her career as a project manager after 20 years to pursue a degree in health and wellness. She now runs her own health coaching business, Food4Thought. Her specialty, she says, is helping clients reboot their diet and nutrition goals through clean-eating programs.

Iowa has a high rate of excessive drinking among its population, with 22.3 percent of the state’s adult population reporting binge or heavy alcohol consumption (America’s Health Rankings report, 2015).  Rural counties in Iowa, such as Kossuth County in the northern part of the state, tend to be home to more drinkers, with an average 3.12 gallons of liquor sold for every county resident over 21 in 2014, says the Centers for Disease Control. One third of Iowa’s alcohol users consume 90 percent of all alcohol in the state, with the top 10 percent drinking at least 10 alcoholic beverages per day.

Alcohol is not the only health problem that Iowans face, however; just one of its most serious health challenges. Another major challenge to residents is the limited availability of primary care health care providers, especially in rural areas. Health coaches in these areas often provide routine biometric screenings for clients who might not otherwise have access to these serves, while also helping in education and risk prevention. Health coaches can also help rural Iowans improve chronic care management for ongoing health concerns such as alcohol dependence, diabetes, and heart disease.

Becoming a Health Coach in Iowa: Earning a Relevant Degree and Professional Certification

While some health coaches are also registered nurses or registered dietitians, others start from scratch, with no health care background prior to beginning health and wellness studies. Possessing a keen interest in helping others is the first and most important step towards becoming a health coach in Iowa, the second is earning a relevant degree.

While you need not pursue licensure to become a health coach in Iowa, you should receive specialized education and training. This may result in an associate degree, undergraduate certificate, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or graduate certificate.

Degree Options

Undergraduate certificates and bachelor’s degrees you could consider if you wish to become a health coach include:

  • Health Coach Certificate
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Physiology
  • Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Integrative Physiology
  • Bachelor of Science in Health Science

Master’s degrees or graduate certificates such as these are usually sought by candidates who are changing careers and already have a bachelor’s degree in another, non-health related field:

  • Graduate Certificate in Health Coaching
  • Master of Arts in Integrative Health and Wellbeing Coaching
  • Master of Science in Kinesiology
  • Master of Science in Health Education

Professional Certification and Registration

Some health coaching jobs require you to become professionally certified as a health coach, through a recognized organization. The two most popular credentialing organizations nationwide for health coaches are:

  • American Council on Exercise (ACE)– This organization provides the only health coach certification that is accredited by the NCAA. Standard and premium certification levels are available for those who pass certification examinations. Tests are offered in Des Moines, Ottumwa, Cedar Falls and Iowa City. Continuing education is required to maintain your certification.
  • International Coach Federation (ICF)- This organization offers qualified health coaches the credentials Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and Master Certified Coach (MCC). Each level has its own standards and expectations, which are outlined here. Certification is through examination and practice. Continuing education of 40 hours every three years must be completed to maintain your credentials.

Iowa Health Coach Career Paths and Job Opportunities

Health coaches in Iowa work for insurance companies, weight loss centers, and medical centers, among many other settings. With your degree in hand, you should be able to find a health coach position like the ones listed below.

The following job vacancy announcements represent the types of employment opportunities available to properly credentialed health coaches in Iowa. These job vacancy announcements are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to represent job offers or provide an assurance of employment.

Wellness Coach for Rolling Strong- Oxford, IA

You will provide one on one health and wellness coaching to clients, all of whom are professional drivers and employees of the transportation industry. You will conduct biometric screenings and health sessions as well as educate clients.


  • Bachelor’s degree in health education, health promotion or a related field
  • Two years of work experience in the health and wellness field

Nutritional Health Coach at Natural Grocers – Cedar Falls, IA

You will educate clients and employees in nutrition education and serve as a professional resource. In addition to conducting one on one nutritional health coaching sessions with clients, you will be available to answer questions clients have about nutrition and store products.


  • Bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field
  • Ability to obtain and maintain liability insurance

Wellness Coach at Scott County Family YMCA- Maquoketa, IA

You will educate YMCA members on nutrition and fitness, helping them to achieve their goals. You will give basic assessments, fitness orientations and setup basic workouts for members.


  • Bachelor’s degree in health education, health promotion or a related field
  • Pass a background check

Biometric Health Screener for Check-Ups Program- Cedar Rapids, IA

You will coordinate and conduct biometric appointments and collect health history of clients. You will help to identify and promote weight loss, fitness and nutrition goals.


  • Bachelor’s degree in health sciences or related field
  • Three years of experience in biometrics

Resources Relevant to Iowa’s Health Coaches  
Iowa Board of Medicine
Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals: Health Facilities Division
Iowa Department of Public Health
Iowa Compass Center for Disabilities and Development
Iowa Hospital Association
University of Iowa Consumer Health Resource Guide
NAMI Greater Des Moines

*2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures for dietitians and nutritionists. Job growth projections from the US Department of Labor-sponsored resource, Projections Central. Figures are based on state data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2022.

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