Becoming a Licensed or Non-Licensed Nutritionist in Alabama

How is a nutritionist differentAlabama from a registered dietitian? This question becomes even more confusing, as the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the agency responsible for registering dietitians, has recently approved calling registered dietitians (RDs) registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs). We will also focus on whether or not nutritionists working in the state of Alabama must be licensed, or if they can work as non-licensed nutritionists.

What Is Alabama’s Definition of a Nutritionist?

Under the Alabama State Board of Examiners for Dietetics & Nutritionists Nutrition Practice Act, there is no differentiation between a licensed dietitian or a licensed nutritionist. The same rules must be followed for both, if they wish to become licensed. This means that licensed nutritionists must complete the same education, experience, and examination requirements as registered dietitians in Alabama. 

Titles including the word “nutritionist” that are protected under Alabama’s Nutrition Practice Act include nutritionist, licensed nutritionist, and dietitian/nutritionist. If you want to use any of these titles, you must:

  • Complete an ACEND-approved degree program in nutrition and dietetics, which may include, in Alabama, a Coordinated Program (combining classroom coursework with supervised practice); or a Didactic Program in Dietetics (just classroom coursework in dietetics) plus a Dietetic Internship (a supervised practice program of at least 900 hours, according to the Board, but in reality, 1000 hours, as mandated by CDR). 
  • Pass the CDR’s Registration Examination for Dietitians 
  • Submit an Application for Licensure to the Alabama State Board of Examiners for Dietetics & Nutritionists

(See our page on Becoming a Registered Dietitian in Alabama for more detailed information)

As a licensed nutritionist in Alabama, under the Board’s rules and regulations, you are legally allowed to:

  • Assess the nutritional needs of individuals and groups
  • Determine any resources or constraints of the practice setting
  • Establish priorities, goals and objectives to meet nutritional needs
  • Provide nutritional counseling
  • Develop, implement and manage nutrition care systems
  • Evaluate, change and maintain standards of quality in food and nutrition services

To sum it up, in order to call yourself a nutritionist in Alabama (which implies that you are a licensed nutritionist), you must:

  • Have a master’s degree from an ACEND-approved program (as of Jan. 1, 2024, this is the degree requirement)
  • Complete 1000 hours of supervised practice experience
  • Pass the CDR examination for Registered Dietitians
  • Apply for and receive a license from the Alabama State Board of Examiners for Dietetics & Nutritionists

Does This Mean that Non-Licensed Nutritionists Cannot Work in Alabama?

Following the Alabama Nutrition Practice Act, if you want to call yourself a nutritionist you must be licensed. Chapter 282-x-6-.01 of the Act specifically says: “Only a person licensed or otherwise authorized to practice under this act shall practice dietetics/nutrition or provide nutrition care services or use the title “dietitian/nutritionist,” or the words “dietitian” or “nutritionist” alone or in combination, or use the letters LD, LN, or any facsimile thereof.”

If you do not wish to become licensed to practice nutrition, you can advertise yourself as a non-licensed nutritionist, but you must be very clear that you have not completed the CDR’s and state of Alabama’s requirements to become a registered dietitian or licensed nutritionist. You also may not market nutrition services. You do not want to confuse prospective clients who are looking for a nutritionist to help them. 

What can you do as a non-licensed nutritionist? Here are some examples

  • Furnish general nutritional information on food, food materials, or dietary supplements to the general public
  • Market and distribute foods or food products or dietary supplements
  • You may not practice telehealth
  • You may not assess or evaluate a client’s individual needs or personalize a client’s nutrition plan

Keep in mind, also, that many insurers in Alabama will not reimburse your services if you are not licensed as a nutritionist. 

Is It Possible to Find a Job as a Non-Licensed Nutritionist in Alabama?

If you do not hold a license as a nutritionist in Alabama, is it practical to think that you will be able to find a job? 

You could always advertise your services as a freelance nutrition consultant, emphasizing that you are non-licensed. You may not market any nutrition services, however. 

Or, you could work in a job similar to one of these recently advertised in Alabama, which do not specify that you need a license to get the job:

  • Nutrition Consultant, Berean Baptist Head Start– Marion, AL
    • Bachelor’s degree preferred but not required
    • Registered Dietitian credential preferred but not required
  • Urban Regional Extension Agent, Human Health, Diet and Nutrition – Bay Minette, AL
    • Bachelor’s degree in nutrition/related field required
  • Dietary Manager, Senior Living Facility – Auburn, AL
    • High school diploma required
    • One year of dietary management required
  • Nutrition Center Coordinator, The Huntsville Madison County Senior Center, Inc., – Huntsville, AL
    • Registered Dietitian credential preferred but not required

Should I Become a Licensed or a Non-Licensed Nutritionist in Alabama?

Becoming a licensed nutritionist in Alabama does require more years of education and experience, as well as passing an examination. However, you will be eligible for many more jobs as a licensed nutritionist in Alabama than you would as a non-licensed nutritionist attempting to find work in the state. If you do not wish to seek a license as a nutritionist in Alabama, keep in mind the notes above about what you may legally do and what you may not legally do in your practice. 

(Also, take a look at our page for Becoming a Registered Dietitian in Alabama here.)