What qualifications do I need to become a nutritionist?
Are you trying to understand what type of nutrition course you need to study to become a recognised nutritionist in Australia? It seems like a simple question, but the answer is far from clear. Read on to find our honest, independent guide to choosing the nutrition course or study path that’s right for you.
NOTE: A number of course providers (including us) offer courses that promise qualifications or careers such as “health coach”, “nutrition certification”, “certified in nutrition”, “nutritional advisor”, “food coach”, “nutritional counsellor”, “wellness coach”, “diet therapist”, “nutrition expert”, “professional nutritionist” and “weight loss consultant” or similar. These courses are simply not comparable to professional degree level nutrition courses required to become a Registered Nutritionist or Accredited Practicing Dietitian (even if the courses are very expensive).
Ideally, if you want to study to become a nutritionist in Australia, you should be looking to complete a university degree in nutritional science and / or dietetics at an Australian University.
If you are thinking about studying a health coaching course, please see our guide to becoming a health coach.
Who can call themselves a nutritionist?
In Australia there is currently no control or regulation over who can call themselves a nutritionist. This makes selecting an appropriate professional training course confusing as some course providers promise that they will accredit you to work as a nutritionist, when in reality, you could actually already call yourself a nutritionist without undertaking any study in nutrition at all. This is however slowly changing, with both the Nutrition Society of Australia (www.nsa.asn.au) and the Dietitians Association of Australia establishing guidelines for registration of nutritionists. Professional training in nutrition routinely involves a comprehensive program of tertiary studies and takes a number of years of full time study to complete and is likely to cost more than AU $30,000 (government fee loans can apply).
Accreditation and registration guidelines for nutritionists and dietitians in Australia
Professional accreditation and regulation of nutrition professionals in Australia is increasingly reliant upon industry bodies such as the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) and the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). This industry accreditation requires a degree qualification in nutrition (or a related health science plus postgraduate study in nutrition that is approved or accredited by the Nutrition Society of Australia and / or the Dietitians Association of Australia) as a minimum. Neither the NSA or DAA recognise diploma and advanced diploma level courses. Registration and accreditation of nutrition professionals is a very complex area which is constantly changing and evolving. If you have particular questions or concerns regarding this matter please feel free to contact us.
Nutrition Society of Australia – Register of Nutritionists “Registered Nutritionist”
The Nutrition Society of Australia has established a professional registration program that promotes and encourages high standards of training. Inclusion on this register requires a undergraduate degree in human nutrition or a related health or nutritional science combined with at least three years of advanced postgraduate study or professional experience in nutrition. Nutritionists registered by the Nutrition Society of Australia may work in a range of health and nutrition roles including designing, coordinating, implementing and evaluating a range of population health interventions. Registered and Public Health Nutritionists may work in a number of other roles, including research, nutrition consultants and advisors, public health and health promotion coordinators, community development officers, quality and nutrition coordinators, food technologists, media spokespeople and more.
The primary goal of the NSA Register of Nutritionists is to distinguish individuals who have received an appropriate level of training and experience from those who have not. Qualifications required to register as a Nutritionist with the NSA include a Bachelor level degree with majors in nutrition or a postgraduate degree such as a Graduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Masters degree or PhD specialising in nutrition. There is no course that will guarantee registration.
To view the NSA Register of Nutritionists or find out more about registration requirements go to: https://www.nsa.asn.au/accreditation.php
Nutrition Society of Australia
PO Box 576
Crows Nest NSW, 1585 Australia
Telephone: 02 9431 8655
Dietitians Association of Australia – “Accredited Practicing Dietitian”
The Dietitians Association of Australia has a comprehensive accreditation scheme for dietitians. To find out more go to www.daa.asn.au
Dietitians Association of Australia
1/8 Phipps Close
Deakin ACT 2600
Telephone: 02 6163 5200
Nutrition Australia, a peak nutrition body has also developed a fact sheet outlining nutrition training and qualification, registration options and desired study outcomes in Australia. To view a copy of Nutrition Australia’s fact sheet, please click here.
I want to become qualified as a professional nutritionist. Should I choose a university or private college?
While many Australian education and training providers have Higher Education status (can offer degree qualifications), when considering nutrition course providers – “colleges”, “institutes” and “academies” are not nearly as well recognised or regarded in the Australian nutrition and health science industry as universities are. When deciding where to study in order to become a ‘nutritionist’ it is important to consider many factors. We have developed the following guide to help you choose the best nutrition course for you and questions to ask if you are wanting to become a qualified nutritionist.
Generally most professional nutrition courses will take a minimum of three/four -years full time study to complete (unless you have already completed an undergraduate degree in a related health science).
Most courses will involve such subjects as anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, pathology, diagnostics, physical examination, practice management, research skills and counselling as well as nutrition.
Students will also be required to undertake several hundred hours in clinical placement (e.g. a nutritionist’s private practice, student clinic, hospitals etc). Nutrition and health science qualifications that do not include clinical placement are not commonly recognised by many professional accreditation organisations. This can be problematic as professional membership of accreditation bodies is often vital for attainment of professional indemnity insurance, private health fund rebates and professional recognition upon graduation.
Things to consider when comparing professional nutrition courses
Qualification upon completion:
Many private providers and universities offer a range of nutrition qualifications, however it is vital that you find out what your final qualification will actually allow you to do. This is particularly important if you plan to work in private practice or a clinical setting, as not all courses will actually qualify you to do this. A number of correspondence and online nutrition courses also promise qualifications such as “nutritional advisor”, “food coach”, “health coach”, “nutritional counsellor”, “diet therapist”, “nutrition expert”, “professional nutritionist” and “weight loss consultant” or similar – please note that, to the best of our professional and industry knowledge, these qualifications are not widely recognised in Australia (even if the courses are very expensive) and are unlikely to assist you in achieving nutrition-related employment or professional opportunities at a career-path level.
Academic qualifications of the faculty (academic staff):
Ensure that members of academic staff have suitable university qualifications in the science of nutrition and/or dietetics, and specialist faculty / academics are are registered as nutrition professionals themselves (e.g. are appropriately registered by the Nutrition Society of Australia (Registered Nutritionist) or the Dietitians Association of Australia (Accredited Practicing Dietitian). This is generally not an issue in the Australian university system as their Higher Education status means that their academic staff must be appropriately qualified however this quality assurance often does not stretch to many of the private providers, colleges, academies and institutes.
Make sure you are fully informed about all costs: including all fees, GST or other taxes, international currency exchange, examination fees, clinical and laboratory fees and request some indication of the costs of texts. Private colleges tend to be more expensive than universities in the sense that they charge up-front fees whereas Fee Help loans or other government-funded options are available for public university nutrition courses in Australia.
Student support and service level:
Ask about what support services are offered to students undertaking a course (e.g. what sort of contact occurs during a correspondence course, for example is it online only, or can you speak to your lecturer over the phone or during online tutorials? Will the person you will be in contact with be appropriately qualified in nutrition or their specialised subject area.
Residential, clinical placement and examination requirements:
If you are planning to undertake your studies via correspondence (online, distance or off-campus), be sure to check if you will be required to attend any residential sessions (generally a few days each semester where you are required to attend the university for a block of lectures or laboratory sessions). Remember to factor the cost of travel, accommodation and possibly time off work to attend these. Also check how clinical hours are required to be completed and whether there is assistance finding placements with nutrition professionals. Many online, distance and correspondence courses also require you to attend exams. Make sure you know where your nearest examination centre is.
Type of nutrition course delivery – Online, distance or face-to-face / classroom based learning:
Research constantly confirms that courses delivered completely online have poorer educational outcomes for students. When studying via distance learning it is vital to have complete, detailed information available to you. Beware of distance or online nutrition courses which rely solely or too heavily on note form or presentation formats such as video or PowerPoint. This type of media is only helpful if you are in a very well supported lecture environment and are accompanied with comprehensive written learning materials.
Current Australian training requirements for accreditation or registration as a nutritionist:
Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine (HLT61012):
This is the absolute minimum level qualification you should consider if you are planning to practice as a nutritionist in Australia. It is also worth noting that this qualification is quickly becoming superseded by degree qualifications in nutrition. This qualification is a part of the Nationally Recognised Training System, however remember that most nutrition study in Australia is mostly a part of the Higher Education (bachelor degree or higher).
The Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine (HLT61007 or HLT61012) qualification is not recognised by the Nutrition Society of Australia or the Dietitians Association of Australia for nutritionist registration programs. It is recognised by associations such as the Australian Traditional Medicine Society a the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). Please also note that many private health fund providers will not recognise courses that are delivered by online, distance, correspondence (and / or the clinical training was not supervised by an appropriately qualified health professional) for client health fund rebate purposes. This is an important consideration if you are planning to work in a consultation / private practice context in the future.
Accreditation arrangements for the Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine require the following study load for this qualification: Anatomy and Physiology, Biochemistry and Chemistry, Diagnosis, Pathology and Pharmacology, Nutrition, Professional practice studies, Communication, supervised clinical training, Safe Practice, First Aid Certificate. You will require professional accreditation in order to gain professional indemnity insurance and be able to legally practice as a nutritionist upon graduation from your studies.
Our professional advice if wishing to become an appropriately qualified nutritionist and gain success in the nutrition industry is to choose a degree in nutrition and / or dietetics at an Australian University. If you do choose to undertake the Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine, be sure to choose a college or training provider that has a degree pathway qualification option (for example, at completion of your studies you can complete further study to attain a Bachelor of Health Science or degree recognised by the Nutrition Society of Australia or Dietitians Association of Australia at a reputable Australian University).
It is our experience and opinion that you will require a degree in order to effectively progress in the nutrition industry (as well as apply for registration as Registered Nutritionist). We do not recommend any particular provider of this qualification but would encourage you to choose a provider that suits your planned study mode (e.g classroom, online or distance based study) as well as one that offers a direct degree upgrade qualification to a degree recognised by the Nutrition Society of Australia or the Dietitians Association of Australia.
Nutrition degree qualifications in Australia
In order to gain recognition and registration as a professional nutritionist by peak bodies such as the Nutrition Society of Australia or the Dietitians Association of Australia you will require a Bachelor of Science or other suitable degree qualification with a major strand of study in health or nutrition science with honours plus a minimum of three years professional experience or ongoing postgraduate level study. A list of Australian University nutrition courses is listed below.
Australian University Nutrition Degrees (undergraduate and postgraduate)
Currently in Australia the best professional nutrition education and professional training is via a recognised Australian university. For individuals wishing to study nutrition at a professional level, we have compiled a list of courses and study paths available Australian Universities. Please note that this list is not exhaustive and includes both undergraduate and postgraduate study options. For further information on any of these courses please contact the university or institution directly.
Courses listed here include both nutrition and dietetics degrees. The information about accredited dietetic degrees comes from the Dietitians Association of Australia. For details regarding programs accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia please go to www.daa.asn.au or for details regarding the Nutrition Society of Australia’s nutritionist registration program go to: www.nsa.asn.au
Note: The area of nutrition and professional training in Australia is constantly changing. If you have a question that you think we can help you with, please contact us.