How to Become a Nutritionist: A Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how to become a nutritionist in Canada, including the educational requirements, salary, job outlook, and skills needed to succeed in this health-related field.

[Featured image] A nutritionist sits at her desk and consults with a client.

Some nutrition-related careers in Canada are highly regulated health professions requiring provincial registration or licensure. Nutritionists advise people on what to eat for optimal health. Nutritionists sometimes work with people who have medical conditions and those who want to improve their overall health.

Use this guide to learn about the various provincial credentials, education paths, and registration requirements for becoming a nutritionist. Additionally, discover the essential skills you’ll need as a nutritionist and get a peek into salary expectations and employment outlook. 

In Canada, depending on your home province, calling yourself a nutritionist can be as simple as professionally self-identifying as such, or it can require a specific educational background and registration with a regulatory body called a “college.” 

For example, in provinces like British Columbia, Ontario, and Prince Edward Island, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Other provinces, such as Alberta, Quebec, and Nova Scotia, protect the terms “nutritionist” and “dietitian” by legislation. You can only use these titles in those areas if registered with your respective provincial health colleges. No provinces or territories in Canada allow the use of the term “dietitian” without a specific Professional Certificate, licensing, and registration.

As such, in some provinces, it is possible to become a nutritionist without a degree or any education, for that matter. However, to be considered credible to potential clients, many pursue degrees or diplomas in health science or a related field, such as food science, nutrition, chemistry, biology, dietetics, or biochemistry. The time it takes to become a nutritionist can vary from province to province. It depends on your home province and your choice of program at a university, college, private institution, or a shorter months-long certification program. 

University degree requirements 

A university degree from a nationally accredited program is required to become a licensed nutritionist or dietitian in any Canadian province. Many employers look for nutrition professionals who have completed relevant coursework from an accredited university program, satisfied their minimum hours of practical experience, and written their province’s licensing examination, which the regulatory college administers. You should choose a provincially qualified program to meet the minimum standards for practicing nutrition. 

If you want to begin your education to become a licensed nutritionist in Canada, consider enrolling in a nationally accredited postsecondary degree program. It is essential to be recognized as licenced to practice in your province. Most of these programs have practical, experiential requirements, where students receive hands-on experience in relevant settings, like hospitals. 

Degrees and assessments 

In addition to completing an accredited degree, nutrition professionals who want to be licensed to practice in Canada—either as registered dietitians or registered nutritionists—must, at a minimum, write the Canadian Dietetic Registration Examination (CDRE), followed by mandatory registration with the relevant provincial college. 

In Ontario, the College of Dietitians of Ontario administers the exam; in Quebec, registration goes through the Ordre Professionnel des Diététistes du Québec. Each provincial regulatory college sets its minimum requirements. Depending on your current level of education, your path to becoming a licensed nutrition professional in Canada can include:

  • Undergraduate degrees with practical components, such as the University of British Columbia’s Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition, and Health, with a major in dietetics. You might also explore undergraduate degrees without practical components, such as the University of Manitoba’s Bachelor of Science (Human Nutritional Sciences). 

  • You must complete post-degree practicums through an accredited university program like the Northern Ontario School of Medicine’s Dietetic Internship Program. 

  • If you are an internationally educated nutrition professional and you want to practice in Canada while using the “registered dietitian” or “registered nutritionist” designations, you must register with the provincial college to which you’re moving. Depending on the province, you may be required to undergo a college assessment.

Master’s degrees

Some registered nutrition professionals might consider an advanced degree, like McGill University’s MSc(Applied) Practicum option in its School of Human Nutrition, to help with career progression. Master’s degrees from accredited Canadian universities, like the University of Toronto’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, encompass approximately 20 months of education and end with more than 1,200 hours of required dietetic practical training [1].  

Consider registering to become a licensed nutritionist in your province. 

Becoming a registered, licensed nutrition professional in your province can help you with your career by adding a layer of recognized credibility to your skills and knowledge. If you’re considering a nutrition- or dietitian-related career in Canada, consider registration with a relevant provincial college. 

The following are the provinces/territories in which you should consider registering, the protected job title in that province, and the corresponding college:


British Columbia


New Brunswick

Newfoundland and Labrador

Nova Scotia



Prince Edward Island



Gain experience

Many nutrition programs include a hands-on practicum component, which ultimately counts towards your minimum requirements for provincial registration. To gain more experience and become a licensed nutrition professional, you might consider taking on related but adjacent jobs alongside registered professionals. 


Most accredited university programs in Canada with a path toward nutrition careers require minimum experiential hours. You will likely complete this through your chosen degree program, often in partnership with approved local organizations, like hospitals or health clinics. 

For example, the University of Alberta’s Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Food Science (Dietetics Specialization) is a four-year program in which years one through three are academic study and year four is internship training. 

Freelance nutrition work

One way to work as a licensed nutrition professional is to freelance, offering coaching to people looking to change their diet or lifestyle. Another option is to provide your nutritionist expertise on a case-by-case basis to earn more income. You can also volunteer at a non-profit organization if you want more experience. You should consult with your province’s regulatory college regarding the limitations of your nutrition practice as a freelance professional.

University clubs 

Joining a group of new and returning students in your program can help you network while completing your degree. Look for opportunities to hear from guest speakers or shadow professionals in your area. 

National dietetic or nutritionist organizations

Join organizations or associations related to your field or specialty and consider attending local meetings and events. Look for opportunities to shadow nutritionists in your area and volunteer for public health or nutritionist offices to gain more experience.

Pass certification if you're becoming a licensed nutritionist.

Depending on your home province, you must register with a regulatory college to use the term “dietitian” or “nutritionist” professionally. For example, you must be registered with the College of Dietitians of Ontario to use “registered dietitian” or “RD” while practicing. 

Skills you need to become a nutritionist

A nutritionist or dietitian is a public-facing personal health-related position, so communicating well and being empathetic is beneficial. Speaking languages other than English can help broaden your ability to help more people. You should be able to listen to a patient’s concerns to understand their needs. You must also be willing to keep up with the latest innovations and changes in your profession and nutrition guidelines to offer the best care possible. 

The ability to think critically and problem-solve can help you tackle a patient’s health problems. Nutritionists should be skilled in mathematics to calculate a patient’s nutrient needs and other health metrics, like body mass index. 

Besides interpersonal skills, nutritionists must remain organized to stay on top of their client files and paperwork to simultaneously manage and juggle many cases. If you pursue a leadership role, you must manage others effectively, which requires learning to delegate, allocate resources, coach others, and collaborate with colleagues. Nutritionists should also be able to teach and guide clients and people in the community in a way they can understand.

How long does it take to become a licensed nutrition professional?

The length of time it takes to become a licensed dietitian or nutritionist can be anywhere from three to five years, including the requisite practicum component. It usually depends on the university and program in which you enroll. 

Salary and career outlook 

Nutritionists average an annual salary of $63,190 in Canada [2], with dietitians earning slightly more per year with an average salary of $73,638 [3]. Additionally, the Government of Canada’s JobBank reports that job prospects for registered dietitians and nutritionists range from “moderate” to “good” [4].

Getting started

Get started on your journey to becoming a nutritionist by researching accredited university programs. You can also take a related Course available on Coursera, including Stanford University’s Stanford Introduction to Food and Health.

You can also enroll in the National Academy of Sports Medicine Nutrition Essentials to learn the latest information on nutrition coaching strategies, behavior change strategies, and nutrition science.

Article sources


University of Toronto. “MPH: Nutrition and Dietetics Student FAQ,” Accessed June 3, 2024.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.