Nutritionists are experts in the field of food and nutrition that help others achieve their health goals either through food direction, education or research. Registered Dietician (RD) and Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) ®™ are the professional designations most valued in the nutritional field. Both have earned a reputation for being the most rigorous certifications, with the CNS®™ credential being the premier, non-dietetics credential for professionals who deliver population-based care to transform people's nourishment.

What is a Certified Nutrition Specialist®™?

The Certified Nutrition Specialist® credential (CNS®) is the most advanced certification for personalized nutrition practitioners. Certified Nutrition Specialists are healthcare professionals who practice science-based personalized nutrition therapy to power people to health. The CNS certification is fully accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which distinguishes the CNS for its robust and reliable process for development, implementation, maintenance and governance of the certification. It is the most widely recognized nutrition certification by federal and state governments and the only non-dietetics credential and examination widely named in state nutrition licensure laws. It is listed by the U.S. Government's Department of Labor as an advanced nutrition credential in the definition of the "Dietetics and Nutritionists" profession in its Occupational Outlook Handbook. It is listed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid as among those potentially eligible to order therapeutic diets in hospitals.

Obtaining CNS Certification

A Certified Nutrition Specialist holds an advanced degree (graduate or doctorate) in nutrition from an accredited university*, has logged 1,000 hours of a supervised internship and passed the rigorous exam administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists.℠ King’s MSNS curriculum is designed specifically to prepare for the CNS exam, and our faculty will advise students from the beginning to guide them through the ANA portal and towards certification. Students must log their 1,000 clinical hours before being eligible to sit for the exam. Clinical hours are managed through the American Nutrition Association. Their portal acts as a passport where students log and track their hours, as well as a portal to obtain a supervisor (which can be remote/online) to oversee the clinical hours.

What’s the difference between an RD and CNS?

Confused about the difference between an RD and CNS? You’re not alone. The biggest distinction between an RD and CNS lies in the educational requirements and experience. Because RD’s are focused on making recommendations to improve the health of individual clients, they are required to have completed 1,200 hours of supervised practice experience and passed a national registration examination. In addition, Registered Dietitians must maintain 75 hours of continuing education every five years. Currently an RD only requires a bachelor’s degree but by 2024 all Registered Dietitians will need an M.S. before sitting for the exam.

A big part of the confusion lies at the state level as individual states differ on certification or licensure requirements. Whichever path you choose to follow and wherever you intend to practice, it is critical to learn the state laws. For more specific information, use this link.

*Although accreditation is not required at this point for a program to qualify students for CNS certification, King’s is in the process of seeking accreditation by the American Nutrition Association (ANA).