Becoming a Licensed or Non-Licensed Nutritionist in North Carolina

North Carolina’s governor signedNorth Carolina a new law, H.B. 357, in June 2018 that establishes an exemption allowing unlicensed nutritionists to offer nutrition advice. This law effectively creates two categories of nutritionists in the state – licensed nutritionists and unlicensed nutritionists. Before this law was signed, only licensed nutritionists could provide medical advice. We will examine how you can train to be a licensed nutritionist and how you can become an unlicensed nutritionist in the Tar Heel State. 

How to Become a North Carolina Licensed Nutritionist 

The State of North Carolina Dietetics/Nutrition Practice Act spells out exactly what criteria you must meet to be a licensed nutritionist. Chapter 90-357.5, (c) states the education, experience and examination requirements necessary for the licensure of nutritionists.

Education Regulations for North Carolina Licensed Nutritionists 

A master’s or doctorate degree with a major in a below area is required if you want to apply for North Carolina nutritionist licensure:

  • Applied clinical nutrition
  • Clinical health care
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Community nutrition
  • Dietetics
  • Foods and nutrition
  • Human nutrition
  • Nutrition
  • Nutrition & functional medicine
  • Nutrition & integrative health
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Nutrition education
  • Nutrition science
  • Nutritional biochemistry
  • Public health nutrition

Regardless of the major that you choose, your coursework must include the following: 

  • 15 credit hours of life or clinical sciences, with a minimum of 3 credit hours in human physiology and anatomy. The remainder must include courses such as:
    • Applied statistics
    • Biology
    • Biostatistics
    • Biotechnology
    • Biotransformation pathways and imbalances
    • Botany
    • Chemistry
    • Energy production
    • Epidemiology
    • Experimental science
    • Genetics
    • Genomics
    • Hormone and transmitter regulations and imbalance
    • Immunotherapy
    • Molecular biology
    • Molecular pathways
    • Neuroscience
    • Organic chemistry
    • Oxidative/reductive dynamics
    • Pathology
    • Pathophysiologic basis of disease
    • Pharmacology
    • Research methods
    • Toxicology
  • 15 credit hours of metabolism and nutrition, with a minimum of 6 credit hours in biochemistry. The remainder must include courses such as:
    • Clinical nutrition
    • Developmental nutrition
    • Functional medicine nutrition 
    • Human nutrition 
    • Macronutrients 
    • Micronutrients 
    • Molecular metabolism 
    • Nutrition and digestive health 
    • Nutrition assessment 
    • Nutritional aspects of disease
    • Nutritional biochemistry 
    • Public health nutrition
    • Vitamins and minerals 

Experience Regulations for North Carolina Licensed Nutritionists 

Along with education, North Carolina mandates that all licensed nutritionists have completed a minimum of 1000 hours of an internship or documented supervised nutrition practice. This must include:

  • 200 hours of nutrition monitoring
  • 200 hours of nutrition intervention, management, education, counseling
  • 200 hours of nutrition assessment

Your experience is required to be supervised by a licensed nutritionist, a licensed dietitian/nutritionist, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, a Certified Nutrition Specialist, a practitioner of health care who is licensed in NC and whose practice scope includes nutrition or dietetics, or someone who has a doctorate in nutrition or a related field.

Examination Regulations for North Carolina Licensed Nutritionists 

You have a few choices of examinations that you must pass in order to become a North Carolina licensed nutritionist:

  • Certified Nutrition Specialist of the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists
  • Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition

Applying for a North Carolina Nutritionist License 

Once you have fulfilled the criteria above, you may apply for a North Carolina nutritionist license. You will be applying online for Category F: Licensed Nutritionist (LN) Application, and paying a fee of $233. You must provide a completed application, official transcripts, a copy of your photo ID, your supervised practice experience form and report from your supervisor, and a coursework worksheet (all documents can be found at the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition website). After you are licensed, your license will be valid for one year, renewing on March 31 each year at a cost of $75.

How to Become a North Carolina Non-Licensed Nutritionist 

The exemption for unlicensed providing of nutrition advice that Governor Roy Cooper signed into North Carolina law in 2018 opened the doorway for holistic nutritionists, without a license, to provide services to residents. The law states that you do not need to be licensed if you do any of the following, as long as you do not hold yourself out as a licensed nutritionist:

  • Provide nutrition information
  • Provide nutrition guidance
  • Provide nutritional encouragement
  • Provide individual nutrition recommendations
  • Provide weight control services that do not constitute medical nutrition therapy

What you may not do as an unlicensed nutritionist is provide medical nutrition therapy. This means you cannot provide nutrition care services for the purpose of managing or treating a medical condition. If you are working with a client who has a previously diagnosed medical condition, you must make it clear to them that you are not providing medical nutrition therapy, nor will you attempt to diagnose, treat or cure any diseases. 

Unlicensed nutritionists may also provide teletherapy, but may not order lab tests. You may not call yourself a nutritionist at all, even if you are certified as one. For example, if you are board-certified by the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, you cannot say you are a NANP Certified Holistic Nutritionist. You can say that you are NANP Certified in Holistic Nutrition. The title “nutritionist” is restricted to those who are licensed. 

NANP is just one of the certifications you may seek as a non-licensed nutritionist. Others, most of which can be obtained through online study, include:

  • American Fitness Professionals Association Holistic Nutritionist
  • American College of Healthcare Sciences Holistic Nutrition Certificate
  • Nutritional Therapy Association Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Certificate
  • Institute for Integrative Nutrition Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Certificate

Employment Opportunities for North Carolina Non-Licensed Nutritionists 

There are many job opportunities for non-licensed nutritionists in North Carolina, under the new exemption. You may work on a freelance basis, or open your own business to offer services. Or, you may pursue a job such as:

  • Certified Health Coach – UpLevel HR Solutions, Raleigh
    • Salary: $42,300-$53,500/year
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree
    • Must be a Certified Health Coach (NBC-HWC)
    • Experience in weight management preferred
  • Public Health Educator I – Davidson County, Lexington
    • Salary: $34,700-$43,900/year
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree
    • Must have a valid NC driver’s license
  • Public Health Education Specialist – Johnson County, NC, Smithfield
    • Salary: $45,302-77,013/year
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree
    • Must have one to two years of experience in public health education
  • WIC Nutritionist I – Guilford County Government, High Point
    • Salary: $36,270-42,618/year
    • Must have a bachelor’s degree in nutrition/related field
  • School Nutrition Manager – Lexington City Schools, Lexington
    • Salary: $29,100 – $36,900/year
    • Must have a high school diploma
    • Must have two years’ food service experience and two years’ managerial experience


Also here is some useful information on Becoming a Registered Dietitian in North Carolina.