Becoming a Nutritionist in West Virginia
The West Virginia Board of Licensed Dietitians is a regulatory and disciplinary body that has the sole authority to issue licenses to practice dietetics in the State of West Virginia.
At this time, West Virginia does not license nutritionists, although the scope of licensed dieticians includes performing medical nutrition therapy, performing nutritional assessments, performing nutrition counseling and education, and developing and administering nutritional care standards.
Nutritionists are playing a crucial role in the development and implementation of the “West Virginia Everyday…” plan. Backed by the West Virginia Office of Healthy Lifestyles, the statewide plan aspires to create a more healthy existence for its residents through the promotion of nutrition-based objectives in schools, workplaces, and homes across the state. With the continued support of health care professionals and health educators, like nutritionists, the West Virginia Everyday… initiative hope to reach optimum goals of:
- Reduce the obesity rate among adults in the state from 27.7% to 20%
- Reduce the proportion of overweight children and adolescents by 5%
- Increase the percentage of adults that eat at least five serving of fruits and vegetables daily to 35%
- Increase the percentage of adults that eat at least five serving of fruits and vegetables daily from 18.7% to 35%
- Increase the percentage of adolescents that eat at least five serving of fruits and vegetables daily from 20.6% to 25%
Many people are under the impression that “nutritionist” is synonymous with “dietitian.” However, these professional titles each hold different legal implications in West Virginia. According to state law, anyone may provide nutrition care to the public and be referred to as a nutritionist. Therefore, there are no regulations restricting these professionals. However, nutritionists that intend to advertise themselves as dietitians, or licensed dietitians, must be licensed by the West Virginia Board of Licensed Dietitians to practice in this state.
Nutritionist Degree Options in West Virginia
One of the best pathways to becoming a nutritionist in West Virginia is by completing a course of education and training that is equivalent to the licensure requirements of nearby states. For example, nutritionists in Pennsylvania must qualify to take the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CNS) examination to be licensed. To qualify to take the CNS examination, candidates must possess:
- A master or doctoral degree in nutrition or a doctoral-level degree in a clinical healthcare field that includes the following:
- At least 15 semester hours in nutrition and metabolism
- At least 6 semester hours in biochemistry
- At least 15 semester hours in clinical or life sciences (with at least 3 semester hours in anatomy/physiology)
Individuals seeking to learn how to become a nutritionist in West Virginia may choose to first pursue a bachelor degree in nutrition sciences. This degree program involves studying the role of nutrients in the growth, development, health, and well-being of humans. As such, a degree in nutrition science provides students with a strong foundation in science as to learn how to understand relationships between human health and eating behavior, food, and nutrients.
A nutritional science or related program, regardless of whether it is a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral degree, is a blend study in the natural sciences, social sciences, and health sciences. These programs include instruction in biochemistry, the chemistry of food, food science, community nutrition, physiology, psychology, dietetics, food preservation, and nutrient functions, sources, and requirements.
Nutritionists are not legally obligated to fulfill any educational requirements to qualify for jobs in West Virginia. However, national studies by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that approximately 40% of all nutritionists and dietitians and nutritionists between the ages of 25 and 44 hold a bachelor degree while nearly 35% of them hold a master, doctoral or professional degree. As such, nutritionists are encouraged to establish occupational legitimacy by graduating from college degree program in a nutrition-based major.
Potential students exploring degree options in West University should focus on universities and colleges that offer nutrition programs that are accredited by a recognized agency like the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Popular undergraduate and graduate degree programs found in the state include:
- Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition and Foods
- Master of Science in Human Nutrition
- Doctor of Philosophy in Animal and Nutritional Sciences
Students that enroll these programs can expect coursework in the following subjects:
- Food Science
- Food Service Management
Purdue University Global's Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Program is an approved holistic nutrition education program through the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP).
Arizona State University's Nutrition Bachelors and Masters level programs online prepare students for careers in Health Education, Community Health, Food Analysis and more.
UNC's Online MPH With Nutrition Concentration. UNC's top-ranked public health school offers an online MPH with Nutrition concentration. Complete in 20 months. Bachelor's degree required. No GRE required. Enroll in our January or May 2022 cohort and receive a $12,000 scholarship..
George Washington University's Online Master's in Integrative Medicine with a Concentration in Nutrition specialize in promoting health and wellness through nutrition.
American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education will prepare you to become an influential leader in nutrition education and advocacy while promoting nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices in your community and beyond.
Liberty University's Master of Science in Human Performance - Nutrition combines two areas that are a natural fit in the field of health and wellness to give you a deep understanding of the role nutrition plays in optimizing athletic performance.
The practice of nutrition is a broad one, as nutritionists may work in a clinical nutrition setting, such as in hospitals, long-term care, and outpatient facilities; they make work in a food and nutrition management setting, such as in businesses, schools, and hospitals; or they may work in a public health nutrition setting, such as in a public health department, congregate meals program, or a government program.
Just a few of the organizations/businesses that likely employ nutritionists in West Virginia include:
- Hampshire Memorial Hospital
- Northwest Hospital and Medical Center
- HealthSouth Corporation
- Thomas Memorial Hospital
- Monongalia General Hospital
- WV University Healthcare
- Morrison Management Specialists (Foodservice management and support services)
- West University Medical Corporation
Job opportunities for nutritionists often present themselves through professional networking, which is an important part of being a member of a professional association, such as:
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of nutritionists employed in West Virginia to increase from 440 in 2010 to 490 in 2020. This employment projection signifies a 12% growth change over a ten-year period. Jobseekers looking for nutritionist positions can anticipate roughly 20 annual jobs openings in the field. Nutritionist jobs are often found in hospitals, senior living facilities, rehabilitation centers, long-term care institutions, and colleges and universities. Local employers may include:
- Extendicare Health Services, Inc.
- Golden Living Centers
- Genesis Health Care
- WV University Healthcare
- Compass Group USA
- Vanguard Healthcare Services
Although nutritionist salaries vary among these settings in West Virginia, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2013, revealed that the metropolitan area of Winchester, VA-WV, ranked fourth in the nation for its concentration of nutritionists jobs, and nutritionists there earned a mean, annual salary of $56,740.
The national median hourly wage for nutritionist is $26.88 and the median annual wage is currently $55,900. By comparison, West Virginian nutritionists earn closer to a median hourly wage of $25.01 and a median wage of $52,000. To illustrate the diverse earning potential for nutrition professionals across the state, here are the most recent wage percentiles for nutritionists and dietitians:
- 10 percentile–$13.95/hr. or $29,000/yr.
- 25 percentile–$18.71/hr. or $38,900/yr.
- 75 percentile–$32.19/hr. or $67,000/yr.
- 90 percentile–$36.04/hr. or $75,000/yr.
Professional Associations in West Virginia
- West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- West Virginia School Nutrition Association
- West Virginia Center for Nutrition Advocacy
Health Coach in West Virginia
As West Virginians are painfully aware, our state is home to some of the most worrying health statistics in the nation, especially in rural parts of Appalachia (CDC, 2014):
- Highest percentage of residents who have been diagnosed with diabetes of all states in the nation
- Highest percent of residents who have hypertension
- Highest number of current tobacco smokers in the nation
- Highest percent of residents who die from drug overdoses
- Second-highest rate of obesity in the nation
- Fourth-highest level of inactive adults
What is even more tragic is that in the vast majority of cases, issues like diabetes, hypertension, smoking, drug use, and obesity are all preventable. Fortunately, as health coaching is proving to be increasingly effective and becoming more widespread, there is some light at the end of this tunnel.
In 2011, a series of research essays was published in a book called Topics in the Prevention, Treatment and Complications of Type 2 Diabetes. A chapter in the book titled, “A Novel Approach to Adolescent Obesity in Rural Appalachia of West Virginia: Educating Adolescents as Family Health Coaches and Research Investigators, underlines the importance of health coaches in West Virginia.” No less than 15 researchers contributed to this piece, which proposes advancing health coaching as one of the best means of combating obesity and diabetes in rural Appalachia.
Those in the science community aren’t the only ones backing health coaching as an effective tool. Insurance companies, healthcare organizations, and state health leaders have a huge financial incentive to fund health coaching services. According to the American Diabetes Association, the disease costs the state an average of $2.5 billion every year.
Becoming a Health Coach: Earning a Relevant Degree and Professional Certification
The new shine of health coaching hasn’t worn off yet, and currently in West Virginia there are no statewide licensing qualification requirements for this position. However your clients as well as your employers will expect that you can back up your claim of being a health coach with some serious credentials. This means a college degree and/or professional certification.
Due to the multi-disciplinary nature of health coaching, studying to earn qualifications in this field means covering a multitude of subjects:
- Complimentary and alternative healthcare approaches
- Motivational and coaching techniques for individuals and groups
- Mind-body relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga
- Women’s holistic health
- Wellness counseling and health communication
- Lifestyle management
- Nutrition and dietetics
- Metabolism and human biological processes
- Science of exercise, locomotion, and physiology
Some employers specifically look to hire health coaches who have met state and national requirements for the RD (Registered Dietician) credential, which involves being listed on the registry for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Commission on Dietetic Registration and holding state licensure through the West Virginia Board of Licensed Dieticians.
Health Coach Degree Options – Associate’s, Bachelor’s, and Master’s Degrees
The following degree programs are available at campus locations throughout West Virginia. You can find similar degrees offered out-of-state by schools that allow enrollment of West Virginia students in online programs. If you already earned a degree you may be able to apply credits towards the new program you are pursuing.
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Health Science (Fairmont)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Promotion and Exercise Science (Shepherdstown)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Exercise Physiology (Morgantown)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Dietetics (Huntington)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Human Nutrition and Foods (Morgantown and Parkersburg)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Exercise Science (Huntington)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Sport and Exercise physiology (Morgantown)
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Health Sciences (Morgantown)
- Master of Science (MS) in Dietetics (Huntington)
- Master of Science (MS) in Exercise Physiology (Morgantown)
- Master of Science (MS) in Health Sciences (Morgantown)
- Master of Science (MS) in Exercise Science (Huntington)
- Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition and Food Science (Morgantown)
- Master of Education (M.Ed) in Exercise Science, Fitness, and Wellness (Fairmont)
National Health Coach Certification Programs
You can also consider pursuing professional certification in addition to a degree as a way to add to your credentials. This usually entails completing an online course that takes a matter of months, followed by a final exam. Each sponsoring organization sets its own requirements for enrollment and certification, and the accreditation of national organizations varies.
Currently the American Council on Education (ACE) is the only organization that is accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) that offers health coach certification. The ACE health coach program offers three certification routes that are tailored to your career 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 dedicated to producing a large network of qualified health coaches around the world, enforcing high standards for the profession and offering independent certification. The organization provides several different credentialing options for coaches including:
- Associated Certified Coach (ACC)
- Professional Certified Coach (PCC)
- Master Certified Coach (MCC)
Launching Your Health Coach Career in West Virginia
It’s an exciting time once you’ve completed your education and are ready to hit the job market. Most health coaches in West Virginia work for a health and wellness company or an organization’s workforce wellness program. Health coaches may also work for a governmental or healthcare organization providing targeted coaching to a specific population. Some of the most successful health coaches start their own wellness counseling businesses.
As some examples, the following healthcare providers in West Virginia have been known to hire professionals to provide outpatient wellness counseling:
- West Virginia United Health System
- Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital
- The Monongalia General Hospital
- Charleston Area Medical Center
- Saint Mary’s Medical Center
- Thomas Memorial Hospital
- Wheeling Hospital
The following job vacancy announcements, sourced in August 2016, represent the types of employment opportunities available to properly credentialed health coaches in West Virginia. 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 and Wellness Coach with beBetter Health in Charleston – beBetter Health is a company that hires health coaches for its clients, offering services that include tobacco cessation coaching, one-on-one fitness and diet tips, and an online wellness portal that provides resources on everything from nutrition to creative exercise ideas. As a health coach with beBetter you are responsible for taking a client’s individual circumstances into consideration to develop a customized wellness plan for promoting better health.
You need to have either an associate’s degree in nursing with a current RN license, or a bachelor’s degree in a relevant health and wellness field. Preferred candidates hold any of these qualifications:
- Advanced degree in a field related to health and wellness
- Health coach, or other relevant certification
- Experience with clinical documentation
- At least one year of work experience in a health-related field
Health Coach with Premier Health and Fitness Resources – This company hires health coaches to work on-site at corporate fitness centers and as part of corporate wellness programs. Duties for this position include face-to-face individualized coaching, wellness programming for clients, biometric screenings, and leading health education events that promote relevant topics like healthy eating and exercise. You also work with clients to develop and encourage specific goals that relate to stress reduction, improved sleeping, smoking cessation, and positive means of stress management.
To qualify for this position you need at least a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience that involves health coaching or behavior modification.
Health Coach at West Virginia University’s Wellness Center – WVU offers all of its employees (and their family members, space permitting) the opportunity to take advantage of health coaching. As a health coach employed by WVU you will be responsible for working individually with staff to encourage healthy lifestyles and habits. This includes developing plans that incorporate exercise, diet changes, and behavior modification to maximize wellness.
Current health coaches who are part of this program have a range of credentials that include:
- College degree in public health
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in community health
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in exercise science
- Prior work experience as a health coach
Additional State Resources
You can find more information about health coaching opportunities and networking possibilities through any of the following organizations and associations:
Government Resources and Programs
- West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR)
- DHHR’s Division of Tobacco Prevention
- West Virginia Bureau for Public Health (BPH)
- BPH’s Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease
- BPH’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals
- Hypertension and Pre-diabetes Screening Project
- West Virginia Athletic Trainers’ Association (WVATA)
- West Virginia Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (WVAND)
- West Virginia Athletic Directors Association (WVADA)
- West Virginia Schools Athletic Coaches Association
- West Virginia Chapter of the American Lung Association
- West Virginia Public Health Association (WVPHA)