My Advice on Turning Nutrition Education Into a Career

Diane Sanfilippo About Me 49 Comments

NOTE: We have also covered this topic on The Balanced Bites Podcast, in Episode #3Episode #13, and Episode #37 – click on any of the links to check out the posts and listen to the MP3, in iTunes or on Stitcher!

I get emails nearly every single day asking me for advice on what to study, what schools are best and basically how to get my job. I often send very quick replies to people, but I figured it was time to make this a post so that I can let people reference it and gain as much info from it as possible.

I can only really tell you what I know about the program I went through and I did not search extensively through other programs as I was looking for something local with a classroom setting. I chose to attend Bauman College in Berkeley, CA for a Holistic Nutrition Consultant Certification and the school has several other campuses as well as a distance-learning program. The only other program I had considered and read up on was the Institute for Integrative Nutrition program and I decided that it wasn't the right option for me based on the curriculum primarily and location secondarily (I think they may not even still offer classroom options?).

1. Figure out what you want to learn.

When searching out schools for nutrition, this was my main focus and I'm glad it was. Look into the curriculum of the courses and discover if what is taught is what you want to learn. What's the point of entering into a program that won't teach you information that you find useful? I found that the information taught at Bauman College (PDF link) was what I wanted to learn, but that doesn't mean that I agree with every single word I am taught there. I take what we learn and apply critical thinking as well as information I've learned about biochemistry and body mechanisms to form my own approach to how I want to help people with the information that I have. I don't know about every nutrition program out there so I can't tell you what I think of each of them but perhaps comparing the course outlines of each program side-by-side will help to elucidate the right choice for you.

2. Decide if you prefer a classroom setting or a distance-learning setting. (If you have a choice.)

I am a much more effective learner when I have a classroom setting with teachers of whom I can ask questions while we review the lecture material. If that sounds like you, I'd recommend either finding a local or local-ish program, or even possibly moving for a short time to complete your studies. Yes, really. If this matters a lot to you, do what you need to do. That said, most of the programs I've seen have distance-learning programs that are very effective and will offer good support along the way. I know that the distance version of the program I am completing offers each student a mentor which seems to be very helpful.

3. Consider how you ultimately want to help people.

I say consider this because I don't think it should be a major driving force behind the path you take in educating yourself. That said, I am not a person who needed a lot of business coaching information or advice on how to turn what I have learned into a career. Many people DO need this support and help, and that's okay. If that is you, then you may want to have more of an eye towards you end-goal so that you keep on a good track of education and certifications based on where you ultimately will be working with clients. I personally take more of an approach where I learn what I want to learn and then figuring out how to bring that information to clients thereafter sort of falls into place organically. I have owned several businesses over the years, so I am comfortable not only working for myself and running my own business, but also in the potentially stressful environment of needing to drive all of the work I am doing from within versus getting a paycheck and having coworkers around to guide me on a daily basis. This is a very individual choice that you will need to make for yourself, but recognize as well that one choice doesn't need to be for forever. If you want to work in an office at first but later on your own, you will have options!

4. Read, read, read!

I can't stress this one enough: read every book you can get your hands on, are interested in, and have time to devour. I have a TON of resources in my Amazon shop that I recommend and I know most other practitioners reference books in their blog posts and articles quite often. You should also check out a lot of the blogs in my resources section as well as the links in each of THEIR sites to other sites.

5. Listen!

Podcasts are LOADED with amazing, free information. I personally listen to following podcasts regularly, but I'm sure there are others that would be great to subscribe to as well:

  • The Paleo Solution – Robb Wolf
  • The Healthy Skeptic – Chris Kresser
  • Living La Vida Low Carb – Jimmy Moore
  • Super Human Radio – Carl Lenore
  • Underground Wellness Radio – Sean Croxton
  • The Balanced Bites Podcast – Diane Sanfilippo  (ME!) & Liz Wolfe (of Cave Girl Eats)

6. Connect via forums, web groups, etc.

Finding like-minded folks with whom to discuss topics, current nutrition news, biochemistry of how food works in the body as well as our own personal experiences and anonymously the experiences we have with clients will ALL feed into your knowledge base and help you to grow. I would also recommend checking out for local groups of people with shared interested. I am a member of the NorCal Paleo Meetup Group as well as the Eating Paleo in NYC Meetup Group (since I frequent the east coast) and attend events from both groups when I can.

You may also want to check out this great post by Kaayla Daniel, PhD, CCN entitled “What Should I Do to be a Nutritionist?”

If you have read all of this and still feel a bit lost, overwhelmed or confused, contact me for
1:1 nutrition career & business coaching and I would be happy to help set you on a path.

Comments 49

  1. I got my BA in Elementary Education and was a school teacher for 7 years. However, that’s when I got sick. I haven’t been able to work due to health problems. I developed chronic fatigue syndrome and decided that Western doctors were virtually useless to me. They’d tell me I’m the type of patient to fall through the cracks. (Encouraging!) Anyway, I’ve done so much research about diet, nutrition, yoga, herbs… Now my dream is to become a nutritionist. I’d love to even get certified in Iyengar yoga too. And then I’d like to tie it all together and teach healthy cooking to kids! That’s my ultimate dream. I’m so passionate about nutrition and teaching kids, why the heck not? But first I am trying to heal my own body.

    How often do you frequent the east coast? I live an hour away from NYC!I wanted to go to the NYC meetup group for an event they’re having on May 25. But depends on how I’m feeling.

    Thank you for sharing. I know if I ever do pursue studying nutrition it will not be a mainstream school. I do not want to be lecture on how whole grains are healthy! Do you know of any NYC nutrition schools?


    1. Thanks Diane! This is great advice.
      I am very interested in Bauman college and just found out it is only 4 blocks from my house!…hmmm. I will keep you posted.


  2. Thank you so much for this post! I have been researching programs lately but have not found the right one for me. My background is in English, so I have pretty much NO science background, which means a degree would take even longer for me to complete (4 years if I don’t work…twice that if I do).

    Thanks again for your advice and support!

  3. I am curious to know why you chose Bauman College over the Institute for Integrative Nutrition specifically regarding the curriculum and course materials. What did you like (or not like) about both programs that helped you make your ultimate decision?

    1. If you review the curriculum, you’ll see a big difference. We learned a lot more science and biochemistry around the etiology of different health conditions as well as therapeutic approaches to supporting a person suffering from them via nutrition and lifestyle. I know IIN sets people up well to open a business, but I don’t know if I think their curriculum is as deep into the information as I wanted, and I was already well-versed in how to run my own business.

      1. Hi, I graduated from IIN and agree that if you want a career as a nutrition consultant, this program lacks true nutrition training. I have been looking for additional programs to help me get more into the science and Bauman seems to be more in line with those goals. I just want to make sure my certification allows me to practice in FL.

  4. Diane,
    Thank you for this post. I too am debating about IIN and Bauman and was curious about the depth of science taught by each school. Leaning towards Bauman for the science aspects; however, it seems the credentials of the instructors at IIN may be higher. Thanks for sharing your background and experience!


    1. I don’t think it’s a matter of credentials at IIN as much as it is a matter of notoriety. I would look at the curriculum and also at what you think you want to do with the certification after. I have coached a LOT of IIN grads who find Paleo/Primal nutrition as their own “home” and then feel really stranded by what they learned at IIN and a coaching approach. At first I envied the structure they provided to students for coaching upon completion, but the longer I work with people, the more I realize that you can’t really approach people that way successfully unless they are really starting at a nutritional ground zero, which they may be. My clients generally are not, however, so the deeper understanding of how it all works is what I needed and I’m glad I got it.

    2. I am about to complete my Nutrition Consultant training as a distance learning student from Bauman College. I started out as a classroom student, got married moved and continued as a DL student, I highly recommend the program. It is intense training in that there is a lot of information covered and I too love the fact that the curriculum goes into biochemistry, digestive physiology, and in depth into therapeutics. I feel the education and training has equipped me to practice in a varied of disciplines from weight loss to cancer and that is both rewarding and exciting. Great program.

  5. I am also considering an education at Baumans vs optaining my Masters in Nutrition at an Alternative school. As an RN and intelligent individual I am also very confused as to how IIN has such a “prestigious” reputation. I realize they have some worthy quest speakers but a review of the program appears to be nothing more than a review of common diets and extensive buisness training. The business training is essential but also feel there should be a scientific foundation in the cirriculum. As a vegetarian I educate my patients on eating plant based, whole, organic diets with an emphasis on stress and other alternative therapies. IIN uses a food pyramid that is not too far off from the conventional pyramids taught in schools. IIN goes over diets such as the atkins. I would never advocate such an unhealthy way of eating. What are your thoughts?

    TK, RN,BSN

    1. This post is so very useful to me right now!! I have been contemplating a number of programs. My own diet is close to Paleo, mainly because it helped me recover from Lyme disease, and I have heard that IIN leans toward a vegetarian perspective. The scientific depth of the program also concerned me. Bauman seems like a great choice, but is significantly more expensive. Can you (on anyone) speak to the quality of the distance program a little more? A million thanks for this info!

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        I found the Bauman program to be extremely in-depth and comprehensive. Check out the curriculum and get in on an info call with the school if you want – info on their website. I don’t know the IIN program to have much biochemistry taught. The NTA is another good choice though I didn’t attend that program, it’s worth comparing curriculum.

  6. Diane,

    I just recently finished up with John Berardi over at Precision nutrition and found what I learned to be very valuable. I definitely tweak what I have learned to emphasize my primal ways.

    Aside from Bauman and IIN are there another you have recently come across? I love the holistic approach as that really intrigues me. The curriculum over at Bauman seems to be in line with what I would like to do but I want to keep my options open.

    Lastly, how is the Alumni connection. It is definitely something I look at as well.

  7. I too am interested in Bauman or INN but It would distance learning I live in suffolk county NY. My problem is I am all of sudden hit with a financial dilemma worse than ever and I know these schools have payment plans but I needed financial aid at this point. I am trying for a career change. anyone have any knowlege of holistic Nutrition ( not traditional Nutritionist or diatetic and I cannot advocate eating unhealthy like that)
    thnk you

  8. Diane, I am just a person who believed the crap to be healthy. Now I know the difference. I have not been able to find a doctor to help me get off the medicine I’m taking and do that with nutrition. I’ve read “Eat to Live” and been studying how to eat and exercise to be healthy. I just realized Doctors are not the answer. So my question is this how would I go about finding a nutritionist to learn the proper way to eat and exercise to be Healthy???
    Thank You

    1. Hi Robert a Bauman NC, may be helpful. I would search in your local area for a holistic nutrition consultant or Naturpath if you have the resources.
      Best wishes

  9. Has anyone ever heard of University and College of Natural Health? There’s not much reviews on that website. I’m trying to explore all the possible Holistic schools out there.


  10. Hi Diane! I am a graduate of IIN who enjoyed the process but feel very unprepared to give nutritional advice. I’m considering both Bauman and Nutritional Therapy like Liz did. Do you have a recommendation? Are they both pretty good as far as you are concerned? Thank you for your time! Mary 🙂

  11. Liz… thank you so much for this info. Ive been doing quite a bit of commuting for work and found sanity in podcasting and was very excited to find your and Liz’s podcasts… and also found something I am very passionate about and want to continue pursing as a career. Thank you for posting your journey so that people like me know a good path to take and for being such a positive role model!!

  12. I am a house-wife ( mother of three) looking for a good online program. I had no experience but I”ll want to learn and some day work in this field. Can you please tell me the difference between Kaplan University and Bauman?.
    Thank you!

  13. Hi, thanks for the thread. I am researching as many programs as I can find. Not impressed at all with IIN, very “soft” curriculum. Baumann definitely looks stronger from a hard sciences perspective. Wondering if you have any thoughts on the National Institute of Whole Health and their programs to be a Whole Health Coach. One thing I like about their program is that they are accredited by many national organizations; and they only accept professionals who already hold a degree in the medical field. Thanks for any thoughts you might have!


  14. Thanks for providing this information. I was very tempted to enroll in IIN over another program specifically for the business aspect, but now hearing that it may be lacking on the nutritional aspect (which was my instinct) I think I’ll go another route.

  15. I just submitted a question to the podcast regarding this, and now I feel like a fool for not clicking around on the website a bit more! Thank you for putting all of this information together in a clear way that is accessible and easy to reference. This is very helpful!

    1. Hi,

      I have been looking into both Bauman College and Hawthorn University for their Nutritional Consultant program. Has anyone heard anything about the program at Hawthorn? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!


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  16. Thanks, Diane! I’m wondering if you found the integrated business model portion of your Bauman education to be equally as helpful as the nutrition consultant portion? That is to say was the career advice as helpful as the nutrition piece?
    Thanks for all you do!

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      It didn’t exist when I was there! I attended several years ago. Not sure if you know this, but the program that exists currently includes 2 modules I wrote/recorded for them (as audio, I don’t know what the slides look like).

  17. I’m aware that after Bauman, you are a Certified Nutrition Consultant but how does that differ from being a “Certified Nutritionist”? And is there a way to be considered a C.N. after this program?

    Thank you,

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  18. Good question Eden, I would love to hear the answer to that as well especially coming from someone like me who is trying to decide on a Nutrition program to get into?? I am 36 and stay at home with 3 young toddlers and I am married. I just want to make sure I take the best route and get my money’s worth for which over schooling I decide to enroll into. Also I would need to do distance online.

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  19. Hi Diane,
    I’ve enjoyed recipes and education from your books. Thank you for sharing such valuable information! I started on my health journey several years ago. However I seriously invested in learning after a diagnosis (twice!) In the past few years with cancer and wanting to treat this disease naturally and stay healthy. As a social worker by nature and degree, I want to help my own family and others on their health journey. I especially want to assist people diagnosed with cancer. I’m considering Bauman because I live in the North Bay area of CA. I’m curious to know your opinion about how Bauman’s training ranks in this area in your experience. Thanks!

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      I think you have to choose a program based on 1) the curriculum and 2) the learning style. I really needed a live classroom setting so, for me, that made Bauman a clear choice! I think you’d love it, honestly. Keep me posted.

  20. Thanks for the details! I’ve narrowed the long search (Questioner, here!) down to Bauman and NTA. Wondering what the differences are in 1) nutrition philosophy (Is Bauman WAP/Pottenger-based, like NTA? Does NTA teach other approaches besides that one?),

    2) the depth of business training (would love to take that Food Photography class at Bauman), and

    3) class atmosphere or “feel.”

    Also wondering how important the three in-person conferences at NTA would become. I am drawn to the in-person connection, but need to do the bulk online.

    Great things about both.

    Anyone have any thoughts? Thanks! Cheers.

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  21. Has anybody become board certified after completing the program? Missouri is very strict with nutrition rules and wondering if becoming board certified Would help us?

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  22. Thank you, Diane! I was actually considering IIN but questioned it’s curriculum and whether or not it would have aligned with my own nutrtional standards. The Bauman College’s curriculum looks to be more comprehensive and lucky for me is now online since I’m out of state! 🙂 I also like that it appears to be interactive with the ability to participate online with teachers and other students. It does look like they’ve incorporated a business module too.

    As someone who follows the Paleo/Primal diet due to my own health issues, would you say that the Bauman college aligns favorably with the Paleo/Primal and whole food principles? I’m a converted vegetarian after becoming very ill many years ago. I’m now dealing with an Autoimmune disease and also MCAS which I’ve researched and diagnosed on my own before getting a confirmation from my doctor. I’d like to work with those specifically suffering with MCAD and autoimmune diseases.

    Also, I would love to learn more of how I can work with you. Are you still accepting clients?

    Thank you again for this helpful information!

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