How to Become a Nutrition Nurse

Gayle Morris, MSN
Updated June 25, 2024
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Nutrition nurses are registered nurses with expertise in dietary support. Explore how to become a nutrition nurse and potential salaries.
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Nursing allows you to specialize in many different areas. Nutrition nurses are highly skilled communicators with expertise in nutrition support, making them a valuable asset to the medical profession and their patients.

Explore how to become a nutrition nurse, including school requirements and the necessary credentials.

How Long to Become

3-5 years

Degree Required


Certifications (Recommended)

AANC | Nutrition Support Certification | CNSC

Popular Online RN-to-BSN Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

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What is a Nutrition Nurse?

Nutrition nurses are registered nurses (RNs) with specialized nutrition training. While it’s not a formal designation, nutrition nurses — or nurse nutritionists — can work in a variety of fields where nutrition is a factor in managing diseases or chronic health conditions.

Nutrition nurses can span practice areas, including geriatrics, cancer care, schools, public health departments, research institutions, weight management institutions, and home health care.

Specifically, a nutrition nurse often has expertise in overall nutritional support and how nutrition can affect specific medical conditions.

A certification from the National Board of Nutrition Support Certification (NBNSC) or the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC) is required to pursue this work in some states or healthcare organizations.

Even if your state or employer does not require certification, most employers prefer it. Certification can offer opportunities in:

  • Long-term care and geriatrics
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Outpatient settings
  • Wellness programs

Nutrition nurses may utilize nutritional therapies, such as supplements, tube feedings, intravenous feedings, or a combination. Their recommendations help support patients affected by diseases that impact eating, digestion, and absorption of nutrients.

Steps to Becoming a Nutrition Nurse

Nutrition nurses have excellent communication, time management, and interpersonal skills. Becoming a nutrition nurse begins with an RN credential. Before certification, you may complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN).

Specific requirements for nutrition nurses may vary depending on your state. Certification demonstrates you have attained the necessary skills, but it is not required for practice.

Your state nursing board can answer questions about specific license requirements. Although nutrition nurses spend most of their time educating patients or prescribing treatment, most employers require RNs to be certified in basic life support (BLS) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS).

  1. 1

    Earn an ADN or BSN Degree From an Accredited Program

    An ADN typically takes two years to complete, while a BSN is a four-year nursing degree. Nurses with an ADN can advance their education in an accelerated RN-to-BSN program. Candidates with a bachelor’s in a non-nursing field can complete an accelerated BSN program. Nurses with a BSN may specialize in several fields, including geriatrics, parent/child, and nutrition.

  2. 2

    Pass the NCLEX Exam to Receive RN Licensure

    Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is required to obtain a license to practice in all states. Candidates have up to six hours to answer questions in four categories.

  3. 3

    Earn Nutrition Certification From NBNSC or AANC

    The National Board of Nutrition Support Certification (NBNSC) and the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC) offer certification examinations in nutritional support to validate an RN’s knowledge for employers.

    You may pursue a certification to demonstrate credibility with clients and other professionals. The AANC exam is based on a booklist given to the candidates. The candidate pays a one-time $400 fee and completes a series of tests.

    NBNSC exam candidates must first meet eligibility requirements. Nurses or nurse practitioners must be registered to practice in their state, and send a copy of their current license with their application. Both examining bodies recommend candidates have two years of nutrition support experience before certification.

  4. 4

    Find Employment

    After meeting the nutrition nurse school requirements and becoming certified, a nutrition nurse may seek employment in medical practices that provide nutrition support, such as clinics that address the needs of wound care, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Nutrition Nurse Schooling

The time commitment to become a nutrition nurse depends on your current nursing education, experience, and background. Certification demonstrates credibility to your clients and future employers. While an ADN is the minimum degree required and the shortest path, BSN-prepared nurses have more job opportunities.

Nutrition nursing encompasses a variety of nursing positions that provide dietary interventions to address health and wellness. The traditional ADN or BSN pathway is the optimal starting point for nurses who want to direct their careers toward nutrition and dietary interventions.

While nutrition nurses can work with populations requiring nutritional support, they cannot call themselves dietitians or represent themselves as practicing dietetics. Most states license dietitians separately from nurses.

ADN Degree

An ADN degree is the minimum education requirement to become a nutrition nurse. This degree is best suited for candidates who want to start working quickly and are willing to advance their education through an RN-to-BSN program. Nutrition nurses must have an RN license, for which they must take and pass the NCLEX. However, most employers are seeking BSN-prepared nurses.

  • Admission Requirements: Typical admissions requirements for an ADN degree include a high school diploma, a minimum 2.5 GPA, a background check and drug screening, an immunization and health screenings, CPR certification, and prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and microbiology.
  • Program Curriculum: Candidates must take core nursing courses, including fundamentals of nursing, mental health, medical-surgical, and geriatrics. Required core classes include anatomy, physiology, and chemistry alongside general education courses.
  • Time to Complete: Full-time students typically take two years, while part-time may take up to four years.
  • Skills Learned: Clinical skills such as patient care, medication administration, and wound care. Students also learn effective communication with patients, families, and the healthcare team and patient education.

BSN Degree

Becoming a nutrition nurse begins with an active RN license in your state. This requires you to have graduated from an accredited nursing program and pass the NCLEX. BSN-prepared nurses usually have more career opportunities, command higher pay, and are sought by employers compared to those with an ADN. Nurses who advance to a graduate-level program typically hold a BSN.

  • Admission Requirements: BSN requirements include prerequisite courses focusing on the sciences. Most colleges and universities also look for inquisitive students who can apply classroom knowledge to professional settings.
  • Program Curriculum: This can include science and writing classes, nursing foundation courses, and clinical rotations. Core learning outcomes include analytical and critical thinking, decision-making, effective communication, and a foundation in social justice.
  • Time to Complete: Most full-time BSN students can finish in four years. Candidates who are completing an ADN-to-BSN program may finish sooner.
  • Skills Learned: Students learn the professional nursing role, including science and medical knowledge, current trends and issues in nursing, fundamentals of nursing research, leadership and management, and community health nursing.

Nutrition Nurse Licensure and Certification

There are two important credentials that can help you on your journey to becoming a nutrition nurse. The first is a state license conferred by your state board of nursing. The second is the certification as a nurse with special expertise in nutrition.

An active RN license is required to practice as a nurse. Many states require a specific number of continuing education (CE) hours for licensure renewal. Most states require you to renew your nursing license every two years.

Some states and organizations require certification to practice as a nutrition nurse, and most employers prefer certified nutrition nurses. The most recognized and accepted certifications are from the NBNSC or AANC.

These certifications allow you to pursue roles in online consulting, workshops, corporate wellness, and collaboration with healthcare professionals. Both certifications are open to licensed healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, and physician assistants.

The NBNSC is an independent board established in 1984. You must renew the credential every five years by retaking the examination. It is the most widely accepted and recognized certification nationally and internationally. The Certified Nutrition Support Clinician (CNSC) identifies nurses as qualified nutrition support providers.

Candidates certified by AANC must be a member of the organization. Certified Nutritional Consultants (CNC) must complete a series of tests to demonstrate proficiency in General and Applied Nutrition and Practice Management.

Working as a Nutrition Nurse

The average annual nurse nutritionist salary in the U.S. is $54,140, according to ZipRecrutier. The salary can range from $32,500-$90,000, depending on geographical location, work setting, work experience, and certification.

After certification, nurses can also specialize in wound care, public health, geriatrics, or prenatal care. Nutrition nurses may also extend their services to become certified as nurse coaches.

Nutrition nurses can practice in long-term geriatric care, where reimbursement is typically based on patient outcomes. Nutritionists oversee the general and specific needs of the residents to reduce the incidence of malnutrition, which in turn helps reduce the incidence of skin breakdown and poor health.

Nutrition nurses can work in outpatient wellness programs as general nutrition coaches or for specific medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease. Public and private schools and communities may hire nutrition nurses to provide health coaching and preventive education and create guidelines that promote wellness within the organization and community.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Nutrition Nurse

It can take up to five or more years to complete the education requirements. This includes four years to earn your BSN and one year for added nutrition education and certification. However, you may wish to earn a graduate degree as a nurse practitioner, which expands employment opportunities.

Page last reviewed on June 5, 2024