Clarifying the confusing path to nutritionist status: nutrition courses and food coaching options
Why is it so confusing?
Currently in Australia and NZ there is no strict control over who can use the label 'nutritionist'. Having said that, one of the central reasons you must undertake a relevant course is so that at the end of it you are:
a) Accepted by a reputable industry association and;
b) You can then gain public liability and indemnity insurances so you can practice safely.
In essence anyone can call themselves a nutrition consultant, weight loss consultant, nutrition coach and so on and unless you check you won't necessarily know if they are accredited or registered or associated to an industry body who will have ensured a certain level of academic and clinical proficiency (current and ongoing); mental note to self to check these things...!
What is the minimum requirement?
The simplest (and we are not judging it to be the easiest) way is via an Advanced Diploma of Nutrition Medicine. These are commonly offered by private colleges.
Most colleges offer the diploma via face-to-face, but also recognising that geography shouldn't be a limitation they also offer distance options. Now, it is important to make mention of two considerations:
- That some industry bodies don't recognised diplomas that have been gained via correspondence only. It makes sense, you really need to see actual patients and have hands on in this industry! So if you opt for distance ensure you chat to your chosen college about how many hours and subjects you should do face-to-face and how best to go about it!
- It is highly possible that in the future the minimum requirement to practice nutrition will step up to a degree. Almost all colleges offer an upgrade to a Bachelor of Health Science. Now, not only might this cover you in the future, but it also opens pathways to continue on to other levels of 'nutritionist' (more on this in a tick). We recommend you discuss how many and they type of extra subjects you may be required to complete, how long this might take and the total cost.
What do you mean by different type of 'nutritionists'?
Good question. Well you will see nutritionists refer to themselves in the following ways:
- Accredited nutritionist/nutritionist - commonly diploma and/or degree qualified nutritionist who have registered with complimentary health bodies such as ATMS and ANTA.
- Associate nutritionist - Generally with an undergrad degree and at least a post graduate certificate in nutrition and is recognised by theNutrition Society of Australia (NSA) as an 'associate nutritionist'.
- Registered nutritionist - Is the next step up from associate nutritionist with a minimum of a post graduate diploma in nutrition and three years experience and is registered with the NSA. Registered nutritionist are eligible for Medicare rebates. We like to point out that in some cases you can qualify as a registered nutritionist with little or no actual experience and only a post-graduate qualification up your sleeve (and even then there are some pretty weird and wonderful subject options out there).
- Accredited and practicing dietitian - Holding a minimum of a master in dietetics which requires over 200 clinic hours in a hospital, registration is with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) . Dietitians are also eligible for Medicare rebates given they have a thorough knowledge of hospital based nutrition. Now this is an interesting one. While it might sound like the 'gold standard' in fact you can find that some practitioners have entered a dietetics masters program from all manner of backgrounds (not just health), and have had only clinical experience within a hospital.
We have numerous nutritionists and dietitians who work with us, all with different expertise and backgrounds. And as you can see from the points above, there is no one type of 'nutritionist' that is necessarily better than the other. Instead, ensure a practitioner is registered with a body, has current insurance and try to find one who has long specialised in the area you require help with. Word-of-mouth is an excellent referral system and select a person you feel comfortable with. Don't be too swayed by the seemingly impressive long lists of qualifications someone tacks on their website or business card, you can find sometimes half of them are in fact only memberships... tricky!!!!
Don't forget the new Certificate IV in Food Coaching!
The only courses that allow you to use nutrition professionally apart from the ones above are:
- Certificate IV in Food Coaching - graduates as qualified food coaches are entitled to provide dietary based advice and meal plans. Cadence Health is the exclusive partner to the college offering this course. By enrolling with us you become a Cadence Health student and receive all the benefits our members are offered.
- If you hold a Certificate IV in Fitness and complete our Accredited Certificate of Nutrition you can apply to have nutrition added to your insurance so that you can provide basic dietary advice.
Career advice - not sales
Yes, we hear you! You have tried calling a few colleges and all you get is ill-informed reception staff whose main aim is to sell 'bums on seats'. If you are still stuck on where to start feel free to call us. While we believe our distance and online courses are the best, we also know they sell themselves. We promise to give you unbiased information to help you in what we know is a very big decision, no catches!
Read more on our dedicated page about how to become a nutritionist!