NOTE: We have also covered this topic on The Balanced Bites Podcast, in Episode #3, Episode #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.
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 Meetup.com 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.