The Certified Nutrition Specialist Credential
Credentialing in Nutrition
Nutrition credentials are, to say the least, confusing. Anytime you work with someone in healthcare, whether it's nutrition or another related field, I feel it's important to start with two main things.
First, research their credentials, education, and experience. Some credentials mean a lot of education and peace of mind for you, and some very-similar-sounding credentials may not mean all that much in terms of targeted education and experience. Second, find someone you connect with, someone who "speaks your language". When it comes to overhauling diet and lifestyle in order to target chronic health problems or weight, there are many varied ways to achieve your goals. You could work with the most experienced professional in the world, and if what they say doesn't resonate with you, then you're a lot less likely to follow through on your treatment plan. Once you find that "right" person who combines education, experience, and personal style in a way that works for you, you're much more likely to achieve success.
So getting back to credentials, what are the "main" credentials you tend to hear in the nutrition-related health and wellness space? The ones I hear the most often are "RD" (registered dietitian), "CNS" (certified nutrition specialist), "CCN" (certified clinical nutritionist), and "health coach" (or integrative nutrition health coach). There are many other acronyms you might hear, such as "AADP" (American Academy of Drugless Practitioners), or "CNC" (certified nutritional consultant) and they run the gamut from membership-based sites to designations awarded after passing open-book exams.
The two most commonly used credentials in my world are "RD" and "CNS". Now, since I'm a CNS myself, I fully admit being partial to this credential, but there are many wonderful RDs out there as well. The American Nutrition Association defines a CNS as "a highly qualified nutritional professional with an advanced degree (graduate or doctorate) from a fully accredited university in nutrition plus 1,000 hours of a supervised internship and must pass the rigorous exam administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists". They define an RD as "a food and dietary professional, usually with a 4-year bachelor's degree and 900-1200 hours in a dietetic internship through an accredited program and passing a dietetics registration exam".
In the interest of keeping this short, here are links to more articles with details about nutrition credentials:
And here is a really great article that's chock full of information, written by a brilliant (and funny!) colleague of mine: