Many factors will impact on our ability to live a long and healthy lifestyle and a good diet is fundamental to our overall well being. It is no secret that attitudes to healthy eating and nutrition have evolved in recent years, which has made the role of a nutritionist even more important. Their knowledge means that we can receive personal advice and an expert evaluation of our diet so that we can make changes to enhance our lifestyle and manage diseases.
What is a Nutritionist?
Nutritionists are employed across a wide range of organisations to provide information on food and healthy eating. Major food manufacturers, supermarket chains and even world-class athletes employ a nutritionist to provide them with recommendations and where necessary a tailor-made meal plan. Nutritionists are also prominent in hospitals, schools, health departments, journalism and research.
How to become a Nutritionist
With this profession very much in-demand, it begs the question, how do I become an accredited and licensed nutritionist? The title of nutritionist is not protected by law so in theory anyone can label themselves a nutritionist. However, the Association for Nutrition (AFN) hold “a register of competent, qualified nutrition professionals who meet our rigorously applied standards for scientifically sound evidence-based nutrition and its use in practice.” This is the only register of qualified nutritionists endorsed by Public Health England, NHS Choices and NHS careers. Only registrants enrolled on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) can call themselves a qualified nutritionist.
There are two categories of UKVRN registrant:
Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr)
A Registered Associate Nutritionist will have accumulated supporting scientific knowledge in evidence-based nutrition, but still needs to acquire significant experience of the practical application so that they can be considered as a registered nutritionist. They will typically work under supervision as part of a team and receive assistance from experienced nutritionists in the form of mentoring. After accumulating around three years of relevant professional experience (out of the last five), they can apply to transfer registration status to registered nutritionist.
Registered Nutritionist (RNutr)
Registered Nutritionists are qualified nutrition professionals with demonstrable evidence-based experience of degree-level, evidence-based practice in a specialist area of nutrition competency; animal nutrition, food, nutrition science, public health and/or sport & exercise.
How to become accredited
The AFN recommends that CPD (Continuous Professional Development) activities are completed by its member community. CPD is an ongoing process for registered nutritionists to increase their knowledge and skills base through a combination of different learning environments and activities. This ensures they remain safe to carry out their duties and keep up-to-date with professional standards.
Almost anything which improves your knowledge and skills can be considered as a type of CPD. This includes: seminars and meetings, distance learning, reading scientific journals and delivering presentations. This demonstrates commitment to their career and enhances their employability. For Registered Associate Nutritionists, it is also an essential part of their evolution towards Registered Nutritionist status.
If you’re not yet a Registered Nutritionist or Registered Associate Nutritionist but harbour ambitions of becoming one, then you need to start compiling your CPD portfolio as soon as possible. The earlier you adopt these recording habits, the stronger it will be for your career. You may also find it enables you to map out your own development and highlight what you could work on next to enhance your skill set further.
There are many courses available in nutrition. Courses that have matched stringent standards of professional education in nutrition are recognised by the AFN and graduates from approved courses have direct entry onto the voluntary register.
Once you’re a registered nutritionist, you can practise independently with individual clients or groups of people in your chosen area (or areas) of specialism. For experienced nutritionists in all sectors, there may be opportunities to work all over the world in this growing and prominent field.
You can find a good range of accredited CPD nutrition providers in our Member Directory, alternatively please contact us via our ‘Become CPD Accredited’ page if you are looking to certify your existing nutrition courses and events.