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LOOKING TO BECOME A PRACTICING NUTRITIONIST?
WANTING TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO USE NUTRITION SAFELY WITH CLIENTS?
Well if you are finding the path to choosing where to study to become a nutritionist confusing you are not alone. As it is one of the most common questions we are asked so we completely understand your confusion!
WHY IS BECOMING A NUTRITIONIST SO CONFUSING?
Currently in Australia and NZ there is no strict control over who can use the label 'nutritionist'. Having said that, one of the central reasons you must undertake a relevant course is so that at the end of it you are: 1. Accepted by a reputable industry association and; 2. You can then gain public liability and indemnity insurances so you can practice safely.
In essence anyone can call themselves a 'nutrition consultant', 'weight loss consultant', 'nutrition coach' and so on and unless you check, you won't necessarily know if that person is accredited, registered or associated to an industry body who will have ensured a certain level of academic and clinical proficiency (current and ongoing); mental note to self to check these things...!
WHAT IS THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENT TO PRACTICE AS A QUALIFIED NUTRITIONIST?
The simplest (and we are not judging it to be the easiest) way is via a nutrition diploma. While diplomas in nutrition were accredited (approved by Australian Vocational and Education (VET) agencies and therefore offered funding for the provider) they are no longer VET accredited. The next option is a degree.
Diplomas in nutrition are now industry based programs, meaning they are accredited by industry based organisations. The upside is they are portable globally, the downside is they are not funded. VET or industry accreditation says little about the quality as many industry based programs are delivered with strong educational values and industry relevance. We're not able to list the private providers as the diploma offerings change quite regularly. You may have seen in the press a number of providers, registered training organisations (RTOs), who are under investigation for possible fraudulent activities in relation to funding payments, so they can come and go for many reasons. Here's just a snippet of what is going on with RTOs under investigation:
A number of colleges moved from offering diplomas to offering degrees (they achieved higher education status), along with some offering diplomas as well. Many providers will offer programs via face-to-face, but also recognising that geography shouldn't be a limitation they also offer distance options.
Now, it is important to make mention of two considerations:
That few industry bodies recognise diplomas that have been gained via correspondence only. It makes sense, you really need to see actual patients and have hands on in this industry! So if you opt for distance, ensure you chat to your chosen college about how many hours and subjects you should do face-to-face and how best to go about it!
It is highly possible that in the future the minimum requirement to practice nutrition will step up to a degree. Almost all colleges offer an upgrade to a Bachelor of Health Science. Now not only might this cover you in the future, but it also opens pathways to continue on to other levels of 'nutritionist' (more on this in a tick). We recommend you discuss how many and the type of extra subjects you may be required to complete, how long this might take and the total cost.
HOW MUCH CAN I EXPECT TO PAY TO BECOME A NUTRITIONIST?
Courses cost for a degree is in the vicinity of $30,000 - $50,000, so it's quite a commitment in time and money, don't forget if all the science scares you and you are looking more to coach people in health you have option of our Certificate of Nutrition & Health Coaching program. The Nutrition & Health Coaching program can be a gentle way of moving into the health field as well as a potential profession and income if you do go on and study (and you will have a unit of the degree at Endeavour under your belt).
WHAT ARE ALL THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF 'NUTRITIONISTS'?
A good question. Well you will see nutritionists refer to themselves in the following ways:
Accredited nutritionist/nutritionist - commonly diploma and/or degree qualified nutritionist who have registered with complimentary health bodies such as ATMS and ANTA.
Associate nutritionist (ANutr)- Generally with an undergrad degree in nutrition and is recognised by the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) as an 'associate nutritionist'. At present Endeavour College is the only private college who is recognised by the NSA.
Registered nutritionist (RNutr)- Is the next step up from associate nutritionist, requiring three years full-time experience in the industry and a post-graduate qualification to register with the NSA.
Accredited and practicing dietitian - Holding a minimum of a master in dietetics which requires over 200 clinic hours in a hospital, registration is with the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) . Dietitians are eligible for Medicare rebates given they have a thorough knowledge of hospital based nutrition.
DON'T BE MISLEAD ABOUT WHAT A QUALIFICATION ALLOWS YOU TO DO
When you see statements that suggest a food coach is a nutritionist we recommend you proceed carefully. While anyone can refer to themselves as almost anything in theory, to be registered and insured to work in this line is an entirely separate thing. For example, some now offer international accreditation so that you can gain insurance to do all manner of things, some even suggest you can call yourself a 'nutritionist' after just nine months. Ask yourself how you would feel going to a 'nutritionist' with a serious medical condition who has just nine months of training. Remember if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!
Ask providers making claims that you will be a nutritionist from a health coaching or nutrition counselling course what body will register you as a 'nutritionist', and where your insurance will come from with the qualification they provide? Be informed! And, if a provider suggests you can pathway to a higher education qualification ask where, and for examples of previous students who have done this. There are a number of very misleading statements about this too.
THE WELL COLLEGE VIEW
If you are looking for a qualification you can use and don't see the need to continue beyond this in the future then a diploma maybe just your thing, check that you can gain registration to somewhere like ATMS and insurance. If you are looking for a qualification you have the option to build on, then a degree is likely the better option.
A blended option is the most ideal way to go which is another reason we have chosen Endeavour College as our pathway partner for health degrees. Endeavour College have campuses around Australia and are extending overseas, they offer a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine) – BHSc(NutDMed) which you can gain entry into via our Certificate of Human Nutrition course and be exempt from the unit Foundations of Human Nutrition. Endeavour College have a wonderful articulation abacus to help students from other colleges transition into their degree.
We have numerous nutritionists and dietitians who work with us, all with different expertise and backgrounds. And, as you can see from the points above, there is no one type of 'nutritionist' that is necessarily better than the other. Instead, what's important is to ensure as a practitioner we are registered with a body, hold current insurance and work within our scope of practice and training.
Fully qualified, registered and insured nutritionists will generally be able to take a full case history, diagnose at least basic nutrition-related issues, prescribe dietary changes and supplements and treat diet-related health conditions, some can refer clients for diagnostic tests and also to other health care professionals for further diagnostic care.
FINDING PROVIDERS WHO ALIGN WITH INDEPENDENT INDUSTRY BODIES
Choose a provider who is accredited with a true independent accrediting organisation, one that is a members-based industry body. We are seeing an increase in the number of self-accrediting programs, this includes programs that are provided by Australian Accredited RTOs. If you want to make a fully informed decision we recommend you look up the names of the owners of the provider and the accreditation 'body' (generally a company, not an organisation) using the ABNs from their websites, it's often enlightening. We highly recommend you ask your chosen provider who you will be insured with, AND, what the scope of practice will be, you may find you can call yourself anything you wish, but being insured to work as, say a 'nutritionist', may be another thing.
Yes there are colleges offering courses that cost less and require half the study, but there is good reason for the time and care that goes into an industry recognised qualification when you are dealing with the clinical nature of nutrition work. You should be familiar with anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, disease states, pathology, inter-referrals, reading of laboratory reports, the intricacies of allergies, the interaction of supplements and medications and more. We are talking about an allied health care professional, would you go to a physiotherapist, chiropractor, and so on who took a short cut option? We encourage you to seek out a nutrition qualification that will not shift as the tide changes in private education.
If your 'nutritionist' course doesn't enable you to register with the Nutrition Society of Australia, the Australian Traditional Medicine Society, the Complementary Medicine Association, the Australian Natural Therapists Association or other not-for-profit organizations of this caliber we recommend you call one of them to discuss the training you are considering.
WHAT DOES A HEALTH COACH DO THAT'S DIFFERENT FROM A NUTRITIONIST?
Health and nutrition coaches work with healthful eating, with eating habits and beliefs, and focus on empowering clients to discover their own solutions and be the masters of their health. Coaches will work with the knowledge they are trained in, educating clients, working collaboratively with them, offer options for clients to chose and supporting the client to bring together the elements required to change their habits for the better.
Coaches may regularly refer clients onto health care professionals where 'red flags' appear; clients may return either cleared of concern, or to work with a coach to stay on track with programs prescribed by a health care practitioner. Health and nutrition coaches work with behaviour change, they don't give answers, instead they use intuitive questioning and tools to enable their clients to find their answers. Client and coach may work with diet diaries, meal plans, goal setting, vision statements, habit change, journaling and much more, the tools used are wide and engaging. You can see the scope, while not being diagnostic or clinical, is vast and the potential outcomes are hugely positive!
You may find that some degree's may not cover case taking or coaching, hence we also find a lot of health care professionals come to us for coaching training.
Absolutely! The scenario goes like this - A client has come along with a detailed eating journal, their outcome they are looking to achieve is to have more energy and to be healthier so they can play with the kids and feel healthier.
Possible nutritionist perspective
Nutritionist: Ok, you have a few areas we can improve on, let's remove the soft drinks, they have too much sugar and the caffeine might keep you awake at night, disturbing your sleep and energy during the day. Let's also get rid of the cakes at morning tea, and let's add some plant-based foods to increase your micronutrient diversity to improve your health. At least to start. How does that sound?
Client:Sounds great. I have noticed my energy crashes midday and I've been getting sick more often. Will you write me up a new diet to follow with better options?
Nutritionist:Yes, certainly, I'll put in some suggestions for you to choose so you can swap out the less healthy options, and make sure it's balanced in regards to energy intake, and we might look at some supplements until we have you on track.
A coaching perspective
Coach:What in your journal most resonates with you in terms of what you want to change? Where you would like to start?
Client: Well I think I drink too much soft drink, which I have instead of a snack.
Coach: That's a great place to start. What is it about soft drinks that you feel makes them not such a great choice?
Client:I drink it because it stops me feeling hungry, gets me going, and I don't have to bother with eating a morning snack.
Coach:That's a great place to start. We know soft drink does have a lot of added sugar, which isn't ideal for health, especially in the amounts that soft drinks can provide. The sugar can really boost our energy quickly but it tends to be quite short lived, so it's not great for energy [this is coaching as well as offering information on healthy choices so the client can be informed, and framing it in relation to the clients goals]. Do you have some ideas of what you might like to swap the soft drink for? [Asking for solutions via options].
Client:Not really, I don't know what I should have instead, I'm not really sure what a healthy choice might be.
Coach:Ok, yes it can be tricky to come up with ideas. How about we work through some together and then you chose ones that will work best for you? So, you could swap the drinks for a healthy muffin, or a healthy muesli bar, or yoghurt and piece of fruit, or a smoothie, or even a nice protein drink. Do any of these standout for you? Client: Funny enough I love muesli and I do make my own, so maybe I can take some to work with me?
Coach:That's fantastic, a great option too! The oats are so healthy and sustaining. What can we do to make this easy to achieve? [Focusing on strategies to help habits change]
CAN YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE?
This is a highly stylised example, but hopefully it demonstrates the route by which each can work through with clients. Few nutritionist's work in this fashion, it is just a highly abridged example. Note that the coach uses open-ended questioning, there is no judgement, no restriction, the choice is always the clients, education is occurring, the client is in control and there is a focus on the clients desired goals and changing habits.
WHERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT NUTRITION DEGREES ON OFFER
We recommend you grab yourself a copy of the UAC guide or simply Google 'nutrition degree', there are numerous universities across Australia offering undergraduate courses. Likewise if you have a degree and are considering post graduate (for example if you want to become a registered nutritionist or accredited dietitian) google 'post graduate nutrition degrees'.
A few examples of universities to look at (and keep in mind who offers what and when changes regularly):
Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales
Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
Deakin University, Victoria
Flinders University of South Australia
Griffith University, Queensland
Monash University, Victoria
Queensland University of Technology, Queensland
University of Canberra
The University of Newcastle, New South Wales
University of Queensland
University of Sydney, New South Wales
University of Wollongong, New South Wales
OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GETTING ON THE ROAD TO WORKING WITH NUTRITION OR BECOMING A NUTRITIONIST
1. Fitness path If you are keen to tackle health from both an eating and fitness side (makes perfect sense) then consider undertaking the Certificate IV in Fitness with an approved RTO provider and completing our Meal & Menu Planning; Level 1 either at the same time or straight after. While the Cert IV only allows PTs to provide general information based on Dietary Guidelines, combining it with our course enables you to work with both fitness and nutrition to:
2. The Diploma option If you want to make sure nutrition is for you consider starting with ourCertificate of Human Nutrition it is a whole lot cheaper than most first year diploma or degree nutrition subjects (usually around a saving of $700-$1200 per subject) that lead into full qualifications and yet closely reflects year one content. In completing our unit you may be eligible for a two-unit exemption in the Diploma of Nutrition at Torrens University. So we can save you time, money and help you make a big decision. It's good to keep in mind that if you are in Australia the use of the term 'diploma' is only available to providers who are either an RTO or a government approved higher education provider, we highly recommend you check before enrolling.
3. The degree path You can either upgrade your diploma above to a Bachelor of Nutrition, or a Bachelor of Health Science in nutrition or similar, or apply perhaps as an adult student (you don't always need HSC to get into uni) to a university of your choice or pathway with exemptions to one of our partners (Endeavour College of Natural Health or Torrens Univeristy). Keep in mind that not all diplomas and degrees in nutrition enable you to practice clinically, so check out the scope of practice of any qualifications you are interested in. Our Certificate of Human Nutrition course provides you with a subject exemptions towards a Bachelor Degreees in Nutrition or Health Science. Or why not become a Certified Nutrition & Health Coach taking with you a credit or more towards the degree as well as a means to support yourself while studying!
4. Use your health coaching qualification to help put you through your degree Here's a great option... Become a working nutrition & health coach to fund your way through your chosen degree, you may then be entitled to offset your university fees against your income as a health coach, and income from health coaching may help pay your university fees. Plus, as you move through your degree you'll be a step ahead of others with your coaching skills making you an even better practitioner. We have many student's are are using this option, it really makes a lot of sense.
QUESTIONS TO ASK COLLEGES BEFORE ENROLLING
Don't be fooled by price tag and funky sounding course names; there are now dozens of courses promising all sorts of fabulous sounding careers, 'nutrition counsellor', 'weight loss counsellor', 'weight loss consultant' and much more. Some of these types of courses aren't recognised by industry bodies and as such you can find you are out of pocket several thousands of dollars and no-one will insure you to practice your 'trade'.
Ask what the end result qualifies you do actually do.
What registering body recognises the course?
In particular check if the registering body is one of the independant industry bodies and you are not simply being accredited by the actual provider (as is increasingly the case now).
Who will insure you, and what the title is?
What is your scope of practice that your insurance covers you for?
How much will the course cost, all up, including clinics, assessments, lab fees, student clinics and so on?
Can you apply for Fee Help?
What university does the college partner with?
How long is the degree upgrade and how much does it cost?
What online support and learning tools do they offer?
How the college supports your learning, what systems do they use, what libraries do you have access to, how can you contact staff and other students and so on?
Ask about their academic staff and their backgrounds.
Check how many hours you have to complete in their student clinic (and what is the cost) and how many can you do externally
Is the college international, local, independent or government funded?
Do they support their graduates (without asking for money)?
Career advice - not sales
Yes, we hear you! You have tried calling a few colleges and all you get is ill-informed reception staff whose main aim is to sell 'bums on seats'. Or, you've seen small colleges with basic websites and were concerned about what your money will get you. If you are still stuck on where to start feel free to call us. While, we believe our courses are the best, we also know they sell themselves. We promise to give you unbiased information to help you in what we know is a very big decision, no catches, no pestering, no hard sales!