There are three eligibility requirements to earn the CNS: Education, Supervised Practice Experience, and Examination.
All candidates must be graduates of an ACNPE-accredited program, OR meet the following degree and coursework requirements:
- 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 must be from a United States regionally accredited* institution or its foreign equivalent; credits are semester credit hours.
- Thirty-five semester 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 should include but are not limited to:
- Developmental Nutrition
- Metabolism of Vitamins & Minerals
- Micro/Macro Nutrients
- Nutrition Assessment
- Therapeutic Nutrition
- Endocrine System Therapeutics
- Botanical Medicine
*Effective MAY 2020 - This requirement (12 semester credit hours) applies to candidates taking the CNS exam in the Fall, 2022 or after. Nine (9) semester credit hours are required for candidates taking the exam before the Fall, 2022.. If a candidate is approved to sit for the CNS exam and does not pass, the initial requirements for which she / he was approved will remain the requirements for the re-exam(s).
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
- Medical 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:
- Nutrition Science
- Organic/Inorganic Chemistry
5. Graduate or undergraduate Behavioral Science – Three (3) semester credit hours*
Examples include but are not limited to:
- Motivational Interviewing
- Motivational Counseling
- Principles and Practices of Health Behavior and Self-Care
- Foundations of Health Behavior and Health Education
*POSTED June 2022- Candidates applying to sit for the CNS exam in December 2022 may use 2 semester credit hours or 30 Continuing Education (CE) credits in Behavioral Science to fulfill this requirement. As of January 2023, candidates applying to sit for the CNS exam are required to hold 3 semester credit hours in Behavioral Science to fulfill this requirement. If a candidate was approved to sit for the CNS exam and either postponed for 1 exam cycle or did not pass, the initial requirements for which they were approved will remain the requirements for the upcoming exam or re-exam(s).
Regionally Accredited Graduate Programs & Courses
Supervised Practice Experience
The CNS candidate must demonstrate evidence of experience in nutrition by undergoing a self-directed supervised program which is tailored to each individual candidate’s career goals.
The Practice Experience may commence once the candidate is matriculated in the qualifying degree program. Although the Supervised Practice Experience program may be completed before or after passing the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists, it is important to note that historically those who have completed the practice experience perform better on the examination than those who have not.
Each candidate must complete 1,000 hours of supervised practice experience with hours distributed as follows:
- Personalized Nutrition Assessment and Interpretation (minimum 200 hours)
- Personalized Nutrition Intervention, Education, Counseling, and Ongoing Care (min 200 hours)
- Personalized Nutrition Monitoring and Evaluation (minimum 200 hours)
- Remaining hours may be in any of the above categories
All hours must be supervised by a BCNS-approved supervisor who meets the following qualifications:
- Minimum of three (3) full-time years of clinical experience in nutrition care in one of the following:
- Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) in good standing; or
- Master of Science or Doctoral Degree in a field of nutrition with a state license or certification (if applicable); or
- Licensed MD/DO with didactic training or education and experience in clinical nutrition as documented by 75 CE credits or the equivalent (without exception) over the past 5 years; or
- Doctoral-level health professional (e.g. ND, PharmD) who meets curriculum eligibility requirements for CNS and who can legally provide nutrition services in the state of practice.
- DCs must also have an MS, Nutrition or be a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) in good standing.
Supervisors may not be married to, related to, or domestic partners of supervisee(s).
NOTE: Candidates are encouraged to have their supervisor(s) approved by BCNS prior to beginning each segment of their practice experience.
Supervised practice experience setting may be any that facilitates the above requirements, including but not limited to:
- Internship, residency, or clinical rotation
- Clinical practice
- Institutional setting
- Community setting
The Supervised Practice Experience may not be obtained from retail stores.
A variety of experiences with multiple supervisors and settings is encouraged to meet all required competencies.
All candidates are required to use the PN Case Data Collection to ensure high quality nutrition care to clients. Candidates and supervisors review the reports together to review next steps and suggested protocols.*
Personalized Nutrition cases must:
- be completely filled in
- have occurred within the past 5 years of the time the candidate submits their SPE hours to the BCNS
- be discussed with and approved by the candidate's Supervisor(s) – these forms are NOT to be submitted to the BCNS
You now have the ability to download forms and upload completed forms directly through My Portal. Navigate to the Forms page under Certifications and select and upload the following forms:
- Supervisor's Approval Application
- Candidate's Report
- Supervisor's Report
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 June and December. Unsuccessful candidates may re-take the examination if they do not pass.
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 Certifications and select and upload the Exam Application for Nutrition Professionals.