Skip to main content

How to become a Registered Nutritionist

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Health and Wellbeing

The food we eat is a hot topic in the UK media - due to our high rates of obesity and the associated increase in heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

And we know we can reduce the chances of being affected by these lifestyle diseases by eating a healthy balanced diet so it’s unsurprising that increased interest in the population’s nutritional health has led to a similar increase in the number of people considering roles as dietitians and nutritionists, both in academia and in professional practice.

If you are interested in becoming a nutritionist, I hope this blog will answer some of the questions you may have and offer useful tips to help you on your new found career path.

Nutritionists study and train to enable them to assess and advise on population dietary intake. They can work for a range of organisations including public bodies, universities, charities, food companies and supermarket chains.

Some have specific training that enables them to provide one to one advice in a similar way to dietitians, whose training is more specifically related to advising on individual dietary issues for medical conditions.

Nutrition has been recognised as being associated with health for a long time and indeed nutritionists have helped support our population at key times in history.

One famous nutritionist Elsie Widdowson grew up in London during the First World War and her initial studies at Imperial College London launched her into one of the most remarkable careers of the last century.

She specialised in the scientific analysis of food, nutrition and the relationship between diet and health before and after birth. Her joint work with Professor Robert McCance, which lasted 60 years, is the basis of our current nutrition tables and revolutionised the way the world assessed the nutrient content of food and how it investigated the problems of dietary deficiency.

Over long periods of self-deprivation, McCance and Widdowson helped to develop the basis of war time rationing, which enabled our parents and grandparents to achieve a healthy diet despite the food supply issues of the war. She was also consulted on the approaches to responding to the starvation suffered by concentration camp victims. Elsie’s story is now part of the education curriculum in England and has even appeared in Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom!

The title ‘nutritionist’ is not a protected term in the UK unlike the title ‘dietitian’. A protected term is a title that has restrictions as to whom may use it and a governing body ensures that those who use it have the required training and qualifications. However, the Association for Nutrition (AfN) holds a voluntary register of nutritionists. In order to join this register, your training and experience would have demonstrated that you have the knowledge, skills and competence to deliver the work of a nutritionist.

So how do you go about the business of actually becoming a qualified and registered nutritionist?


Many UK universities have nutrition degree courses, often consisting of a minimum of 3 years full-time studying; and masters degrees will be at least 1 year full time (or equivalent). Some of these courses are accredited by the Association for Nutrition, which helps demonstrate the high quality of the courses with teaching provided by qualified individuals.

Those completing accredited courses can automatically become Associate Nutritionists on the voluntary register held by the AfN whereas those taking non-accredited courses will have to apply for associate registration, in the process demonstrating the knowledge, skills and competence that are known to be provided by the accredited courses.

Associate Nutritionists can move to become Registered Nutritionists after they demonstrate 3 or more years of experience across a range of competencies.  Nutritionists who meet the knowledge, skills and competencies with more than 3 years’ experience can apply for direct entry as a Registered Nutritionist by portfolio application.

The impact of nutrition on health continues to be wide-ranging and I can illustrate this by outlining the career path of one of PHE’s registered public health nutritionists and PHE’s Deputy Director of Diet & Obesity Dr Louis Levy who has had an extensive career in public health, working in academia and the public and voluntary sectors.

Louis has degrees in physiology, neurophysiology of behaviour and nutrition. He started his research career in human nutrition and then cardiovascular research, moving into social science research and then health promotion before joining government as the nutrition and policy advice manager with the Food Standards Agency, a function now transferred to PHE via the Department of Health.

This varied career means Louis understands the differing needs of the various stakeholders that any nutritionist would interact with.

His advice to those considering this career path is simple; ensure your advice is based on good science, help untangle the jargon and myths and keep messages consistent. This means keeping up to date with developments in scientific journals and critically analysing these to help you deliver your role and reflect on your learning.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Bren posted on

    Hello Alison,

    Thanks so much for setting out a number of key principles, the history, and an informative up to date on the present around being a registered nutritionist.

    A very interesting guide to people considering being a registered nutritionist, and for people just gaining the information.



  2. Comment by Heather posted on

    This is very helpful! Thank you!
    Just a quick question - my course I will be taking is CPD Accredited, does this then mean I can automatically become an Associate Nutritionist?
    Then, if I was to work for 3 years, build a portfolio that was relevant to Sports Nutrition and prove my knowledge and experience I can then become registered even without a degree/BA Hons/ Masters degree?
    This may seem a very silly question as I understand it says above but I just want to make sure I am understanding this correctly and if there is certain accredited courses it would have to be.

    Thank you!

    • Replies to Heather>

      Comment by PHE Blog Editor posted on


      It may be that we have misunderstood your comment, however, a CPD accredited event/ meeting is not the same as having completed an accredited degree. For more information on the relevance of your course for application for associate or full registration to the UK voluntary register please contact the Association for Nutrition's registration team direct.

  3. Comment by Emma posted on

    Do you have an opinion of BANT? And nutrition diplomas from nutrition colleges and independant schools

  4. Comment by Ann chriss posted on

    Simply want to say your work is outstanding. The clarity in your post is simply excellent and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject.. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work and Thank you so much for caring about your content and your readers.

    Visit :

  5. Comment by chatflores posted on

    I must say, as a lot as I enjoyed reading what you had to say, I couldnt help but lose interest after a while. Its as if you had a wonderful grasp on the subject matter, but you forgot to include your readers. Perhaps you should think about this from far more than one angle. Or maybe you shouldnt generalise so considerably. Its better if you think about what others may have to say instead of just going for a gut reaction to the subject. Think about adjusting your own believed process and giving others who may read this the benefit of the doubt.

  6. Comment by Amy posted on

    Thanks for the clarification, people are confused between those that call themselves a Nutritionist and those that are registered with THE register held at the Association for Nutrition.

  7. Comment by Agnes Marti posted on

    Thanks for this post! I am currently working full time and considering to start studying nutrition, however I wouldn't be able to start the degree from scratch now (in Dublin, where I live, it could only be full time/presencial... I wouldn't be able to afford it) - I could start doing it online altogether with cnelm but I feel it'd be harder to stick to it, rather than getting to make connections in the field and enjoy the practical part... For this reason, I will start with a diploma on the weekends for Nutrition Therapy in IINH, and then hopefully the degree online with CNELM, who with they have partnerwhip - it's not accredited by AfN now but I emailed AfN asking if there'd be the chance to register myself after these 2 programmes/proving my experience.

    Doing a lot of research and speaking with nutritionists/people working in the field... Funnily, I'm putting way more thought on it this time than when I did my first degree in tourism and marketing at the age of 18! I guess because this time I'd be the one paying for it! Jokes aside... I do see there's so many unqualified nutritionists giving advice that it's not all scientific-based, and if I go into the field I'd prefer to do it well. Posts like yours help loads to clarify the mind and ideas.

    Really appreciate your information and I am eager to go forward into this! I do see it's everywhere now, but at the same time I am aware it's experience and a degree for life, for your own, family, and to help others... Very willing to learn more. The AfN website has an incredible amount of useful information too.