Becoming a Licensed or Non-Licensed Nutritionist in Pennsylvania

In 2022, it was announced thatPennsylvania the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Department of Agriculture had received over $222,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program. This funding is intended to improve Pennsylvania students’ access to fresh, local foods, while at the same time, giving Pennsylvania farmers greater economic opportunity. 

Pennsylvania does not require nutritionists to be licensed by the state – just dietitians. They do, however, refer to dietitians as “dietitian-nutritionists,” and allow others besides registered dietitians to pursue licensure, as long as they meet requirements.  The state places no restrictions on the practice of nutrition or providing nutrition care, meaning that non-licensed nutritionists may practice in Pennsylvania. 

If you’d like to work as a licensed or a non-licensed nutritionist in the state of Pennsylvania, read on.

Requirements Licensed Nutritionists Must Meet in Pennsylvania 

Licensed nutritionists in Pennsylvania are actually licensed dietitian-nutritionists, under state law. This means that these licensed professionals must either meet the qualifications to become a registered dietitian in Pennsylvania (Becoming a Registered Dietitian in Pennsylvania), or meet the requirements to take the examination of the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). As becoming a dietitian is discussed in the linked article above, we will explore the other option for becoming a licensed dietitian-nutritionist here–becoming a Certified Nutrition Specialist.

Education for Licensed Nutritionists in Pennsylvania

If you wish to practice as a licensed dietitian-nutritionist in Pennsylvania and do not want to become a registered dietitian, your other option is to train to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS). The Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS), the agency that regulates CNSs, has mandated that you must have a minimum of a master’s degree in nutrition in order to take their certification exam. This degree should be from a school that is accredited by the Accreditation Counsil for Nutrition Professional Education (ACNPE). Because these programs are limited (as of October 2022, only two nutrition master’s degree programs meet ACNPE’s standards for approval), the BCNS has stated that, if you do not choose an ACNPE-accredited program, relevant coursework included within your degree program must total at least 35 hours and include:

  • 18 credits of nutrition, 12 at the graduate level
  • 6 credits of biochemistry
  • 3 credits of anatomy/physiology
  • 12 credits of clinical or life sciences
  • 2 credits of behavioral science

Experience for Licensed Nutritionists in Pennsylvania

The BCNS also requires that all CNS candidates complete a self-directed, supervised nutrition practice experience program. This must be supervised by a BCNS-approved supervisor who is a CNS or meets BCNS qualifications. Your supervised practice must total at least 1000 hours and include:

  • 200 hours of personalized nutrition assessment and interpretation
  • 200 hours of personalized nutrition intervention, education, counseling and ongoing care
  • 200 hours of personalized nutrition monitoring and evaluation

Certification of Licensed Nutritionists in Pennsylvania

Once you have met the education and experience requirements, the BCNS says that you are ready to sit for the CNS examination. This exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions on the following subject areas:

  • Fundamental principles of nutrition (25 percent)
  • Nutrients and human health (14 percent)
  • Nutrition assessment (14 percent)
  • Clinical intervention and management (35 percent)
  • Public health (6 percent)
  • Practice management (6 percent)

When you pass the exam, you will be free to use the CNS credential and apply for licensure as a dietitian-nutritionist in Pennsylvania. Remember to complete 75 continuing education credits every five years to maintain your credential.

Licensure of Licensed Nutritionists in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing regulates the licensure of dietitian-nutritionists in the state. Once you have passed the exam and become a CNS, you must also complete three hours of Board-approved continuing education in child abuse recognition. Then, you will be ready to apply for licensure. You must apply online and pay the $95 initial license fee. 

Once licensed, your license must be renewed every other year. You must complete 30 hours of continuing education during each licensure period to maintain your license. Two of those hours must be in Board-approved education in child abuse recognition and reporting.

Requirements for Non-Licensed Nutritionists in Pennsylvania

 With no regulations or limitations on the practice of non-licensed nutritionists, these professionals need not meet any standard educational or certification mandates. It is always recommended that you have some type of education, background, or even professional certification in nutrition, even if you wish to practice as a non-licensed nutritionist in Pennsylvania. We will discuss some of these possibilities further here.

One entry-level credential a non-licensed nutritionist in Pennsylvania may wish to pursue is that of a Certified Nutritional Consultant (CNC) through the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC). You only need a high school diploma to qualify to take their 11-part examination (if you wish to prepare for this $400 examination, the AANC offers textbook suggestions for each part of the exam here). You must pass the exam with a score of 85 percent or better in order to earn the CNC credential.

Another entry-level credential that non-licensed Pennsylvania nutritionists may be interested in is the Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC) credential of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). Again, you need a high school diploma to enter their online program and pass their certification exam with a score of at least 70 percent. The program costs about $800.

If you have some education and experience working as a nutritionist, you may wish to pursue Board Certification in Holistic Nutrition (BCHN) from the National Association of Nutritional Professionals. You must be a NANP member, have successfully completed post-secondary nutrition education approved by the Board, have completed 500 hours of professional experience, and pass an exam. 

Non-Licensed Nutritionist Jobs/Salaries in Pennsylvania 

As you will see from the jobs posted below, there are opportunities for non-licensed nutritionists in Pennsylvania. Some will require certification, while others may allow you to obtain certification on the job. Examples of such jobs are:

  • Nutrition Coordinator – Drexel University, Philadelphia
  • Personal Health Coordinator, WIC Nutrition Education – Chester County, Westtown
    • Salary: $63,702 annually
    • Bachelor degree required, master degree preferred
    • Three years of job-related experience required
  • Public Health Nutritionist I – Allegheny County
    • Salary: $41,600 annually
    • Bachelor degree in nutrition or related field required
    • Must pass computer literacy examination
  • Public Health WIC Nutritionist – FHCCP, Carlisle
    • Salary: $44,700 to $56,700 annually
    • Bachelor degree required
    • Customer service and communication skills required
  • Nutrition Educator – Public Health Management Corporation, Philadelphia
    • Salary: $45,500 to $57,700 annually
    • Bachelor degree required
    • One year of experience in educating adults or youths about nutrition required