Registered Dietitian

Eligibility Requirements
There are three eligibility requirements to earn the CNS:
Education, Practice Experience, and Examination.

Education

All candidates must be graduates of an ACNPE-accredited program, OR meet the following degree and coursework requirements:

Degree Requirement
  • Master of Science or Doctoral degree in a field of nutrition or a related field (including, but not limited to Public Health, Health Science, Biochemistry, Nursing, Physician’s Assistant, Dietetics) from a United States regionally accredited college or university, or its foreign equivalent; OR
  • Doctoral degree in a field of clinical healthcare (including, but not limited to, DC, DDS, OD, Doctor of Nursing, ND, PharmD) from a United States regionally accredited college or university, or its foreign equivalent.
Coursework Requirement
  • Coursework must be from a regionally accredited* institution; credits are semester credit hours.
  • Thirty-five credit hours of relevant coursework to provide the foundational knowledge for the development of core competencies required for the practice of effective personalized nutrition** as indicated by the CNS Examination Content Outline.

*Regionally accredited means an institution that was accredited, at the time the degree was awarded, by a regional accreditation body in the United States which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education. Degrees from institutions outside the U.S. must be from that country’s equivalent of a regionally accredited U.S. institution.

**Personalized nutrition is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon a broad range of sciences to advance human health. It considers the unique makeup of individuals and specifically identified sub-groupings of people with similar characteristics, and encompasses a person-centered approach to nutrition science evidence, education, and clinical care.

1. Graduate Nutrition Science Courses- Twelve (12) semester credit hours*

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Developmental Nutrition
  • Metabolism of Vitamins & Minerals
  • Micro/Macro Nutrients
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Therapeutic Nutrition
  • Endocrine System Therapeutics
  • Botanical Medicine
2. Graduate or undergraduate Biochemistry Courses – Six (6) semester credit hours

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Biochemistry of Nutrition
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Medical Biochemistry
3. Graduate or undergraduate Physiology or Anatomy/Physiology - Three (3) semester credit hours

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I, II
  • Anatomy
  • Medical Physiology
  • Physiology
  • Health and Wellness Physiology I
4. Graduate or undergraduate Clinical or Life Sciences – Twelve (12) semester credit hours

May be prerequisites for the above courses and include, but are not limited to:

  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Micro-Biology
  • Nutrition Science
  • Organic/Inorganic Chemistry
5. Behavioral Science – Two (2) semester credit hours (or 30 Continuing Education Units)*

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Psychology
  • Motivational Counseling
  • Principles and Practices of Health Behavior and Self-Care
  • Foundations of Health Behavior and Health Education

​​​​*This requirement applies to candidates taking the CNS exam in June, 2022 or after. Nine (9) semester credit hours are required for candidates taking the exam prior to the June 2022 exam.

Curriculum Overview

Regionally Accredited Graduate Programs & Courses

Practice Experience

Practice experience requirements for RDs differs from that of other healthcare professionals. In order to be approved to sit for the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists application, RD candidates must submit:

  1. Documentation of completion of dietetic internship (RD registration will fulfill this requirement); and

  2. 3 personalized nutrition** case studies occurring within the past 5 years in accordance with CNS Practice Experience Case Study Template; and

  3. 75 Continuing Education credits in personalized nutrition** obtained within the past 5 years.

**Personalized nutrition is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon a broad range of sciences to advance human health. It considers the unique makeup of individuals and specifically identified sub-groupings of people with similar characteristics, and encompasses a person-centered approach to nutrition science evidence, education, and clinical care.

You now have the ability to download forms directly through My Portal. Navigate to the Forms page under Certifications and select and download the following forms:

  • PN Case Study Report
  • CE Report

Certification Examination

Applicants are required to pass the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists℠ to demonstrate that their education, experience, and training have resulted in a mastery of the knowledge and skills required of the Certified Nutrition Specialist.

The examination is offered two times per year, typically in the spring and fall. Unsuccessful candidates may re-take the examination once during each calendar year.  

The examination contains 200 multiple-choice, single answer questions, and covers the broad spectrum of basic and applied nutritional science, based on an explicit set of competencies outlined in the Examination Content Outline. Competencies are determined by a job analysis study conducted on practitioners.

Log into My Portal, navigate to the Forms page under Certification and select and download Exam Application for Nutrition Professionals.

Exam Content Outline

Application Instructions

How to Prepare for the Exam