If you asked me the number one message I get in my instagram DMs on a weekly basis, it would be "I want to get into nutrition and am overwhelmed by the different programs out there. Where did you go to school and would you recommend it?" After writing out lengthy responses every week, I figured it was time for a full blog post on the subject. Because just a few years ago I was in that exact same place, knowing that I wanted to work in nutrition and having no idea how to get there. I did a ton of research, talked to friends and acquaintances who were in the nutrition / dietitian world, and finally found a program that made sense for me. I'll share my story with you and also some input from my nutritionist & RD friends about their programs, which will hopefully help you on your path!
When I decided I wanted to get into nutrition, I asked everyone I knew for advice, and at first, it seemed like the only way to go was to get my masters and become a Registered Dietitian. The problem was... I was several years post-college and all of the science classes I had taken had "expired", meaning I'd have to take them all again as pre-requisites to even apply for a masters program. I started adding it all up - the pre-reqs, RD program, dietetic internship... and I realized, it could be a good 4 years before I'd even be done with my program. That felt like a really long time considering I had already been out of school and in the working world for over 5 years. I also had to be honest with myself about my end goal. I didn't want to work in a hospital or in a medical capacity... I really just wanted to work with women to help them create a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Ignoring the amount of time it would take to finish an RD program, I continued to research my options and the RD programs that I found just didn't feel like a fit for my end goal. I wanted something more holistic, a program that would teach me not only the science of nutrition, but also how all aspects of our lives come together in a total picture of "wellness" - stress, sleep, hormones, relationships, exercise - all of it!
That's when I realized there was a whole world of holistic nutrition programs out there that I hadn't even started to explore. I talked to acquaintances and friends of friends who had gone through these programs and heard the pros and cons of each. There were some that were online, some in-person, some had a mix, and I just had to find the one that felt like the best fit.
I did have one concern though - would I be taken seriously as a nutritionist without having a Registered Dietitian title? I asked my dear friend and mentor, Kristy Morrell, the sports dietitian for the USC athletes and the LA Kings this exact question, and she reassured me that if I poured my heart into it, worked hard, proved myself, and helped my future clients reach their goals, the results and testimonials would speak for themselves and no one would question what letters stood behind my name. Years later, I see she was totally right, and funny enough, no client has ever even asked me what program I went through!
The program I ended up choosing: Bauman College
After going back and forth with several different programs, enrolling in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and then cancelling my enrollment, I ended up at Bauman College. It's a Holistic Nutrition Consultant program that can either be completed in person at the Berkeley, CA or Boulder, CO campuses or online through their distance-learning program, which is what I did. The reason I switched from IIN to Bauman College is because I really felt that I needed a strong science base in my program, which IIN was lacking at the time (I've heard they've added more science content to their program since then).
I wanted a program that was really in depth and thorough, and I wanted to be challenged with homework assignments and research papers that were actually graded. The program took me a year and a half to complete. Each student is assigned a mentor who reviews and grades all of their papers and has check-ins and oral exams over the phone at the end of each module (in addition to the tests that are taken online). Here are some of the pros and cons of the program:
Interning & getting some real-life experience...
While I was completing the Bauman Nutrition Consultant program, I was also interning. When I decided not to go back for my masters, the thing I felt I was really missing out on was the real world experience that a dietetic internship would have provided. So I reached out to the mentor that I mentioned, Kristy, who is the Sports Dietitian at USC. I worked with her 2-3 days a week and that experience was everything! I got to see how she worked with the athletes, dealt with all different situations from eating disorders to overexercising to achieving a certain weight or muscle mass to properly fueling for performance. There's really nothing better than seeing all of this in real life and learning from someone that you trust and admire. If you're doing an online program, I'd highly recommend seeking out an internship if you can! This really gave me the confidence I needed to start working one-on-one with clients one I had my certification.
By the way, you never really stop learning in this industry! Even though I completed the Bauman College program a couple years ago, I still feel like there's so much to learn. I recently started the MindBodyGreen Advanced Functional Nutrition Program, which is also online and can be completed on my own time. I've only gotten through the first third of the program, which is pretty much a review at this point, but I'm looking forward to diving deep into topics like gut health, hormones, and inflammation, and disease prevention!
If I could do it all over again...
Knowing what I know now and having so many more friends in the nutrition field to compare stories with now, if I could do it all over again, I don't think I'd choose the Bauman College program. I would choose the Nutrition Therapy Practitioner (NTP) program through the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA). It's a 9-month program that's both online and in-person and it's super hands-on. Each of my friends who have gone through it are extremely knowledgeable and they left the program with more of a "blueprint" of how to set up their 1:1 sessions, which forms to use, questions to ask clients, etc. which I felt was really missing from Bauman's program.
A few words from my nutrition friends...
The Registered Dietitian
Megan Kober, RD via Iowa State University - check her out at The Nutrition Addiction for all things realistic, healthy, balanced living, letting go of food anxiety, and feeling fab. Plus she's hilarious and sassy and fun to follow!
"As far as becoming an RD, here are the pros/cons + a little background on what you actually go through.
To become an RD, you must complete a bachelor's degree at a school that's been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. There are a few different undergrad paths you can take, so I would recommend looking up the commission to see what your options are! Then, once you've graduated, you complete a 6-12 month internship in an accredited program, and once you've completed that, it's time to take your boards!
It definitely gives you a big dose of credibility to have gone through a rigorous program like this and have a degree + credentials. I'm SO happy I went for it and became an RD because I 100% believe all the hard work paid off. But it's important to recognize that it's an incredible amount of time, hard work, and college is a huge investment (and no, you definitely don't get paid for your internship experience!).
My biggest piece of advice: If you go for it, don't live by the mantra of "C's get degrees". They do! But they don't get you an internship, which is generally incredibly competitive. You don't want to get through all your schooling and not be able to get an internship! When I went through the program 10 years ago, about 1/3 of applicants were never matched to an internship. I'm not sure if this has changed, but you can see in this case that A's and B's are definitely going to be your friend if you want to become an RD."
The Holistic Nutritionist
Tessa Bowman, Holistic Nutritionist via the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) - follow Tessa for all the deets on non-toxic living, prenatal health, and clean beauty!
"I would recommend the IIN online program for anyone wanting to be a certified health coach. The online program is very well done and the curriculum is well thought out. The program goes beyond learning nutrition theory and also covers how to be an excellent health coach and provides tools to help you launch your business. They have incredible speakers that are well known and respected in the functional medicine and wellness sphere. The one thing that was missing for me was a more in depth understanding of nutrition science but since I've attended they have added hormone and gut courses!"
The Nutritional Therapy Practitioner
Allie Hobson, NTP via the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA) - check out Allie for tons of helpful nutrition and wellness tips, quick and easy recipes, new mama tips, and listen to her podcast, Nutritionish!
"I chose the NTP program because there were a lot of people that I already followed and really resonated with who were all NTPs, so after some research, it felt like the right fit!
I would 110% recommend it! There's so much you could do with the certification - it gives you the opportunity to start your own business, work at a doctor's office, work at a chiropractic office, working with kids, etc."
Btw, Allie had me on as a guest on her podcast to talk... guess what... all things nutrition from a career standpoint! We discussed my journey into nutrition, business structure, what I've learned along the way, and staying authentic and true to yourself in your business! Click here to listen!
Go with your gut...
At the end of the day, go with your gut and choose the program that feels true to you and make sense with your career goals! There are so many programs out there and it can definitely get overwhelming choosing the best one. Do your research and you'll find the right one! No matter what program you choose, stay curious - listen to nutrition and health podcasts, read books that dive deeper into the specific niche you're interested in, ask questions, follow other nutritionists and dietitians that you trust and respect, and spend time researching rather than trusting the first article you read about a health issue or topic. Good luck!! You got this!
PS - here's another blogger's very thorough post about different nutrition programs if you want to learn about some others that weren't mentioned here!
July 28th, 2016
June 23, 2017
Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist who lives for a great meal, a beautiful farmers market, daily matcha lattes, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. Weeknight Bite is Lindsay's happy place where her nutrition practice, simple recipes, and wellness tips come together to inspire you to live a healthy, balanced life.