A combination of education, hands-on experience, licensing, and certification is needed to become a nutritional consultant. This career typically requires you to research and prepare menus for large businesses, or even local school districts. Many employers will only consider candidates who have a master's degree.
One of the first steps to become a nutritional consultant is obtaining a bachelor's degree in a related field. Common majors include food science or dietetics. You must understand the chemistry entailed in food preparation, from mixing spices in the kitchen to researching a new food flavor in a laboratory setting. The four year degree will give you an overview of the entire food science industry through lectures and laboratory work.
Many employers encourage applicants to pursue an even higher degree to become a nutritional consultant. A master's degree allows you to specialize in a particular niche within the food science industry; some students concentrate on children's nutrition, whereas others may research the best food for the elderly. This two year degree normally requires a thesis, or long research project, before you can graduate. Contacts made during thesis project research completed at local food science companies, such as interviewing experienced nutritionists, may possibly lead to a career offer.
If you would like to have a better chance at a position with a particular employer, you should participate in an internship or voluntary part time job during your schooling. Many colleges and universities offer internships that allow you to gain hands-on experience in the nutritionist's career area. For example, volunteering to work with an experienced consultant at a local elementary school can teach you a great deal about the everyday work that cannot be learned in the classroom. Once you become a nutritional consultant, the experience gained in an internship or volunteer experience can help you achieve success in your career.
The majority of US states require you to earn a license to become a nutritional consultant. Many colleges will offer exam preparation courses specific to the exam given in the particular state of residence. Exam preparation normally includes a practice test and lectures regarding formatting and content.
Some nutritional consultants also obtain a voluntary certification from the state of residence. This certification is additional documentation of your qualifications as a nutritional consultant; with one, you can easily rise above other applicants to secure a position within this food science career. You should keep in mind, however, that you must continue to take classes on a periodic basis to retain the certification.