Nutrition coaching is a great stand-alone certification or even an addition to a personal trainer’s repertoire.

As a nutrition coach, you will be assisting clients and individuals in the inclusion of healthier eating behaviors and assist in empowering them to take responsibility for their health.

In this article, we will discuss the following steps to jumpstart your future career as a nutrition coach:

The prerequisites for the nutrition coaching field
The top Nutrition Coach certifications
The ins and out of the certification exams
Putting together your resume and applying for jobs
Continuing education units

After reading this article, you will know all about the general process of becoming a nutrition coach and the steps needed after you land a job in the industry.

Let’s review these steps to becoming a nutrition coach!

Step 1: Choosing Your Certification and Knowing the Prerequisites

How can you become a Certified Nutrition Coach?

We will be covering this from the perspective of someone looking to get certified in nutrition and not someone looking for how to become a registered dietitian, or RDN, which is done through years of schooling.

Certified nutrition coaches and registered dietitians are both similar professions that look to help their clientele by improving health through diet and controlling lifestyle factors.

This can involve processes in your coaching business that includes dietary health goals, behavior change, and more simple weight loss.

With obesity on the rise, a healthy lifestyle is more sought after and desired, and online nutrition coaching programs are in high demand to assist with rising healthcare problems.

The first step to becoming a nutrition coach is to choose the organization that you want to enroll and certify with and then to work on the prerequisites that the organization sets and general prerequisites for the job.

Let’s take a look at 7 of the main certifications in the nutrition coaching realm and see how they fare.

If you would like to check out our article on Nutrition certifications, click this link here: The Best Nutrition Certifications

ISSA Nutritionist

The ISSA nutritionist certification is one of our highest recommendations and one of the best that you could go for if you want to be a successful nutrition coach.

The ISSA, or the International Sports Sciences Association, has been around since 1988 and has been raising the bar in terms of delivering quality education to their certified trainers.

ISSA constantly ranks next to the other top certifications like ACE and NASM.

Their certification training programs are all done through online courses and portals.

They just have the one nutritionist certification, whereas they used to have both the nutritionist and sports nutrition certs. They are combined now to become the nutritionist only.

ISSA also offers a popular package called the Elite Trainer package, which is a 3-in-1 combo comprising of the personal training cert, the nutrition cert, and another advanced certification of your choice.

If you’d like to check out his great offer, click on this link here.

Check also: How to Become a Personal Trainer

NASM Certified Nutrition Coach

The NASM is a very popular organization in fitness, and it is often considered to be the most popular of all.

The NASM sits as the gold standard in fitness, and this is primarily due to the certified personal trainer program that they offer.

NASM stands for The National Academy of Sports Medicine, and this was founded in 1987.

As far as nutrition is concerned, their certification is the NASM certified nutrition coach or the NASM CNC, and again is one of the most recognized in the industry.

The NASM uses some of their proprietary OPT model in their CNC program, and this means that it pairs well with the CPT program they offer if you decide to go that route.

Scientific principles and practical skills are put in focus here in the certifying program.

To check out the latest prices on the NASM nutrition coach certification, check out this link.

PN Level 1

Precision Nutrition is a well-respected organization in the nutrition coach realm and an outlier compared to the other certs in this list.

Dr. John Berardi is the co-founder of Precision Nutrition, all the way back in 2005, and the main part of the Precision Nutrition Level 1.

The founders developed a way to implement nutritional principles and the business part of it all with qualified coaching. It comes off as a unique and very successful way to view nutrition and dietetics.

Precision Nutrition also offers state-of-the-art tools for nutrition coaches to utilize and succeed. This comes in the form of a tool known as ProTool.

Despite this not being accredited by either of the top accreditation agencies, it is still highly regarded.

There is a waiting list for enrollment to the program, so that is something to keep in mind. This is because there are a limited number of spots that the company allows for their service.

You can also sign up for Precision nutrition through ISSA and get access to two different support channels if you were to run into any issues.

Check this: The Best Exercise Science Careers

NCSF Sports Nutrition

The NCSF, or National Council on Strength and Fitness, is a well-respected fitness organization and has been since 1996.

There is a deep focus on the health and fitness aspects, and this is effectively used in their sports nutrition certification.

The NCSF sports nutrition coach license is a great addition to a certified fitness coach certification, and the CPT from NCSF is a solid choice in this department.

NESTA Nutrition

NESTA is the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association, which is also known as the Spencer Institute, and it has been around since 1992.

Today, NESTA has about 65,000 members around the globe and is growing quickly.

This certification is accredited by the NCCA and has a deep focus on the business parts of things.

In terms of nutrition, NESTA has one of the best sports nutrition certification programs on the market. It is also the cheapest certification of these top certifications we discuss.

See Also: The Best Group Fitness Certifications

ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist

ACE is a big player in the realm of personal training and one of the most recognized and popular organizations in the fitness industry.

It makes sense for their ACE Fitness Nutrition coach certification to make the list of top nutrition certs.

ACE stands for The American Council on Exercise, and they were found back in 1985, so they have some time in the field.

This Fitness Nutrition Specialist certification is good as a stand-alone, but it is even better when partnered with their ACE CPT certification.

Their nutrition protocols, along with their general exercise foundations, are laser-focused on general population groups and improving daily habits for these people.

In this nutrition coach certification, they take their IFT model of learning and apply it to the performance-enhancing nutrition that they tout.

This definitely solidifies the certification’s position in the industry.

AFPA Nutrition

The AFPA acronym stands for The American Fitness Professionals & Associates and was founded in 1994 on a mission to bring certifications to health and fitness professionals that are passionate and looking for an affordable entrance into the career.

The organization puts an emphasis on science-backed principles of coaching to help the clientele of the professional, along with holistic practices.

Due to this emphasis, they actually have six specializations for the professional to focus on. These are:

  • Holistic Nutrition
  • Nutrition & Wellness
  • Nutrition Consultant
  • Weight Management Specialist
  • Sports Nutrition 
  • Senior Nutrition Specialist

So, if you are looking for an organization with some great holistic health coach focuses and specializations for each type of potential client, then look no further than the AFPA.

A quick peep: The Best Fitness Certifications

Certification Costs

Another deciding factor for each of these certifications is the cost of becoming a certified nutritionist.

The costs stay around the same price range for most of these certs, so check out the table right below.

CertificationCost
ACE Fitness Nutrition$599
AFPA Nutrition$499
ISSA Nutritionist$799
NASM CNC$899
NCSF Sport Nutrition$299
NESTA Nutrition$297
PN Level 1$799

From this, we can see that NESTA is the cheapest option of the certifications at 297$.

The highest price you will find is 899$ for the NASM certified nutrition coach.

Do note that with ISSA Nutrition, you can choose the 3-in-1 Elite Trainer combo which gives you access to the personal trainer cert, a nutrition cert, and any other cert of your choice all at $999.

There are many options for nutrition coach packages, and it is important to consult the websites of each of these organizations. There are random deals happening often.

Follow these links below to find the current costs of the certifications:

Prerequisites

Now that you have gone through the main recommended certifications and gotten an idea of the differences between them, let’s look at the common prerequisites that exist for becoming a nutrition health coach.

Prerequisites are the criteria and conditions that are needed to be met prior to qualifying for a position.

Let’s dive into the essential prerequisites!

Passion for Coaching

A certified nutrition specialist must be passionate about health coaching and dealing with all subjects within nutrition science.

Passion is honestly required for any job that requires you to work with clients and the public.

A potential client can tell the difference between a wellness coach that is passionate and one that is lacking the drive.

If nutrition professionals want their nutrition program to be effective and make their money in the long term, then passion is a requirement.

Age

Age is going to be an equal requirement for all jobs in fitness.

Certified health coaches must be 18 years of age to pursue their health coach certification.

This is simply due to the requirement for the person to be responsible and develop the skills needed for basic, independent life.

Education

Educations is a common and well-known requirement for most jobs in the fitness world.

The requirement for these certifications is just like the fitness certifications outside of strength and conditioning.

This means that you will need to have a high school diploma, and a bachelor’s degree is not required.

Of course, more education and experience is always a good thing, so if you have a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree, it can only help you more in the long run in your career path.

Let’s dive into step 2 now that we know what to look for when it comes to prerequisites and choosing the certification that we wish to pursue.

An important read: The Best Health Coach Certifications

Step 2: Studies and Exam Prep

The longest step of all will be preparing for the exam and passing it.

This will be accomplished through nutrition education and working through the study programs that are set by each organization.

For this section, we will be rating the study materials for these certifications and discussing some of the ways that you can prepare better for their exams.

When you eventually purchase the materials for the desired nutrition coach program, it will be time to start learning said materials.

All of the certifications will contain similar study materials for you to utilize, so these should all transfer over to the package that you purchase.

Let’s take a look at how you can study and prepare for the exam!

Course Textbook/Study Portal

The textbook and/or study portal will be your main source of information for you to pass the final exam.

You will want to set a solid study plan and then work through the material at a good pace so you can retain the information for later.

It can be a good idea to set a week-by-week plan or follow one from a third-party source, like the ones we offer on trainer academy.

Some of the programs do not include textbooks, as all of the information is found in the online study portals.

Practice Tests/Exams/Quizzes

Quizzes, practice exams, and practice testing are usually offered to some degree by all of the organizations within this article.

These testing materials are a great idea to master the study information and prepare for the final examination. One important feature of them is the preparation for the style of questioning.

The forms of practice testing will often be equal to the final exams, or they are shorter and covering specific sections of the materials.

To ensure that you have the best chances on your final exam, make sure to get a minimum score of 85% on the practice materials.

We also offer some practice testing here at Trainer Academy.

Workbooks and Study Guides

These forms of booklets work as summarization of the primary concepts within the textbooks and study portals and give it to you in a more concise and easy-to-digest way.

Many organizations have these study materials in some form available in their packages, and if not, it can be a good idea to go to a third-party source that offers similar help.

These booklets will usually have assignments requiring you to use the knowledge from the text and workbook.

Make sure to utilize all of your study package materials to their fullest potential!

Study Material Ratings

Prior to going to the next section, let’s rank the study materials for each of the certifications we have been discussing.

CertificationRating out of 10
ACE Fitness Nutrition6
AFPA Nutrition6
ISSA Nutritionist8
NASM CNC7
NCSF Sports Nutrition7
NESTA Nutrition6
PN Level 18

The study materials that you get with standard registered nutritionist certification are usually a bit less than the average personal training certification.

The standouts for best nutrition programs in terms of study materials here are the NCSF and PN nutritional coaching programs.

There are multiple packages to choose from, but keep in mind, the cheapest options are highlighted here in the chart above.

An educative piece: The Best Strength and Conditioning Certifications

Step 3: Passing the Certification Exam

Truly, all you need to do to become a certified coach is to pass your certification exam.

For some certifications, this can prove to be a bit more challenging, but overall, a certification in nutrition is on the lower end of the challenge as far as fitness certifications are concerned.

The easiest exam of the bunch is the precision nutrition exam, as it is done with an open book and done at your own pace.

None of these exams will quite compare to the most challenging certification in fitness, which is the NSCA CSCS exam.

CertificationNumber of QuestionsPassing GradePass RateRetake Fee ($)
ACE Fitness Nutrition150500 Pts65%199
AFPA Nutrition25085%70%75
ISSA Nutritionist20075%54%Free
NASM CNC10070%90%Free
NCSF Sports Nutrition15070%
NESTA Nutrition10070%66%95
PN Level 118075%79.15%Free

The table above shows the number of questions, the passing grade, pass rate, and the retake fee for each of the certifications we have been discussing.

You can see that these exams vary to a great degree, so it is hard to talk about one specific part of them.

But it is a good idea to get an idea of the pass rates and expectations for the different exams.

If you are looking for free study guides and tests, check out PTpioneer. They have some of these certifications available to look through.

Step 4: Design Your Resume

Now that you have completed and passed your exam and become certified, it is time to get yourself ready for the job market!

It is important that we make a resume that allows us to stand out from the rest of the applications in this competitive market we are in.

This is the best way for you to ensure you make it all the way to that interview and into your career as a nutrition coach.

How do we make a resume that stands out?

When you are designing a resume that you’d like to stand out, you need to focus on three main things: making it brief and including the main information, keeping the design modern, and also making it friendly for mobile systems.

Make it brief but inclusive

First, when you are designing your resume, we need to make sure that it includes all of the basic materials and descriptions of yourself while not being too lengthy.

A solid resume, or CV, will need to have all of the relevant education, job skills, and experience to show that you are able to handle the job that you are applying for.

The information should hit the highlights well enough that it makes sense when skimmed through and doesn’t require any laser-focused reading.

A nutrition coach will need to include all things relevant to coaching people and education, in general.

A lot of people have the problem where they like to include way too much information, and this will typically be viewed poorly in the eyes of a potential employer.

So, when you begin making your resume, keep in mind that you need to make it short yet sweet.

Modern and Pleasing to the Eye

When you are making a resume, you need to make sure that it stays away from being overly formal and instead tries to remain casual and interesting.

That is the style of modern resumes, and it especially applies to wellness coaching jobs. This is because of the fun and casual feel compared to that of a classic desk job.

The job market of today requires us to put in more of our own personal charm, and some pop into the resume.

The former formal style of making a resume would have the employer sifting through a list of facts and skills tediously, while the modern form of resume building has us using some images, icons, and color to make it more fun for the employer.

Just think about how it must be going through hundreds of applications and seeing the same boring format for many of those. You want to try and stand out in some way.

It can even be a good idea to consult with graphic designers and other artistic professionals to really nail down that resume layout.

Make It Mobile Friendly

The last main tip is good to consider for the modern job environments.

Many employers make use of their mobile devices for going through their stacks of resumes.

As a prepared job searcher, you should ensure that your resume can be read and interpreted as intended from any device they could use.

Since mobile devices are growing and often used in the workplace, there is a good chance you should be prepared for your resume to be read in this format.

An eye-opening piece: Personal Trainer Salary

Step 5: Applying for Jobs

The Nutrition Coach job is somewhat competitive in these times and growing quickly, like the other markets in the fitness industry.

This growth in health coach jobs is due to the rise in obesity and other health issues that we see growing.

We are going to begin this section by discussing a nutrition coach salary to be expected on average.

The labor of bureau statistics states that the average health coach salary for someone with a degree is around 63,000$ for entry-level.

When it comes to licensed and certified dieticians, the average pay is similar to that of a personal trainer full-time.

This is partly due to the nutrition coach certification being both a standalone cert and a typical specialization for a certified personal trainer.

It is truly a unique job market, but the ability to thrive and make money is definitely there with the need for nutrition coaches and similar jobs in fitness and integrative nutrition.

There are some factors to keep in mind when looking at the income potential of your new career. These factors would be:

  • Location
  • Experience level
  • Credentials being recognized
  • Extra specialization credentials

Like most careers in fitness, your job will typically begin with zero clients, and you will need to build up your client base, so this is a big factor to keep in mind when entering the field.

It is not true of every single job in the area, but it is a general idea to think about.

Research

The beginning of your application process for becoming a nutrition coach should always begin with doing your own research into your prospective employer and into the daily lives of someone in the career you wish to have.

All organizations hold their own history unique to them, their own values, principles, and business practices.

This means that it is a good idea to get a rough understanding of what this means for their company if you wish to ace the interview and job applications.

You should tailor your resume to the specifics of the job and make sure you are giving the most relevant material to the hiring person.

Again, make sure to be well-informed regarding the position for which you are applying and the company you’re pursuing.

Practice Interview Questions

Job interviews have the requirement of the interviewee to be ready to answer a variety of general questions about oneself.

It can be a great idea to practice on your own or to have a friend go through a mock interview with you to ensure that you are optimally ready.

Interviewing with a friend also allows you to get some honest feedback that could help you when the time comes.

Here are some basic questions that can help ready yourself for the nutrition coach interview process:

  • Are you willing to travel for the job?
  • Do you believe you are qualified?
  • What skills do you believe are your strengths in this field?
  • Do you have work experience?
  • What do you think about the current state of the nutrition coach industry?
  • Who are the competitors to our organization?
  • What are your general goals when starting with a new client?
  • Who is the CEO of our company?
  • Explain your passion for nutrition coaching…
  • Who is your favorite manager you’ve worked for?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Dress to Impress

Another major part of the interview is the first impression the interviewer gets from you.

This is going to come almost entirely from how you present yourself, and the clothes you wear are a massive part of this factor.

Teaching fitness courses and nutrition coaching both are new and different types of jobs when compared to the traditional desk jobs we think about.

This means that you will need to be dressed for a potentially different interview setting and expectations altogether.

Make sure to call ahead and know where the interview will be and get an idea of how you will have to dress from that.

It is important to make a great first impression and show that you will be properly dressed for the interview and the job.

You Are Now a Nutrition Coach; what’s Next?

Now you have landed that dream job and are ready to begin your nutrition coaching.

This must mean you are done, correct?

Not entirely true.

You may have become a nutrition coach, but you do need to keep up your chosen nutrition coach certification through education and remembering your CEUs.

The fitness and nutrition coaching industry requires us to stay up to date with all of the current research and education so that we can utilize this with our clients and give them the best service.

Let’s look at how we can work on staying up-to-date in the nutrition coach realm and keep up with our CEUs.

Polish Your Skills and Experience

As an employee in the nutrition coaching industry, it is important to continue adding to and improving your abilities.

Not only is continuing to educate yourself guaranteed to help you with keeping the best services for your current clients, but it is also going to allow you to gain new clientele.

You can also work on things like coaching skills or other leadership skills to better in other aspects of work.

Specializations are common in the fitness industry, and you can add to the types of people you train by expanding this category of skills.

Maintain Credentials

The certification credential is required to get the job, and they are also required to be kept up to date when you have the job.

This means that we need to know the recertification requirements for our chosen certification and also be working on achieving these hours throughout the recertification period.

Let’s look at this table below to find the CEU’s Required and the Certification Period!

CertificationCertification PeriodCEU Requirements (hrs)
ACE Fitness Nutrition2 yrs20 hrs
AFPA Nutrition2 yrs16 hrs
ISSA Nutritionist4 yrs20 hrs
ISSA Sports Nutrition2 yrs20 hrs
NASM CNC2 yrsNone, just exam renewal
NCSF Sports Nutrition2 yrs20 hrs
NESTA NutritionUnlimitedNone
PN Level 1UnlimitedNone

Make sure you go through your specific certification and get an idea of what’s expected of you to keep this certification valid.

The CEUs, or continuing education units, can be acquired through approved events and classes from the organization or from associated organizations.

Make sure to look up what your certifying organization allows.

Conclusion

This wraps up our article on the steps for becoming a nutrition coach.

The field of nutrition coaching is an exciting and quickly growing realm of fitness and health, and it is no wonder why you would like to pursue this career.

Hopefully, this article has helped you regardless of where you are currently in your steps to landing your dream job.

For some other helpful articles on the fitness and health industry, check out these links below:

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