The Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) Credential

Certified Nutrition Specialist logoAlong with an increased awareness of the need for proper nutrition comes an increased demand for skilled nutrition professionals such as Certified Nutrition Specialists to provide care for patients with various medical conditions and to advise people who desire to improve their overall health.

We all know that eating a balanced diet is vital for good health and wellbeing. Food provides our bodies with the energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals to function properly – and we need a wide variety of different foods to provide the right amounts of nutrients for good health.

Elite athletes have long understood the importance of proper nutrition – but more and more people are realizing the importance of fueling their bodies with nutritionally-sound food. Eating a proper nutritious diet offers numerous health benefits that keep you mentally and physically well, including heart health, bone strength, increased energy, brain health and weight control.

Increasingly, people are turning to nutrition professionals for advice.

What is a Certified Nutrition Specialist?

A Certified Nutrition Specialist is an advanced nutrition professional who is proficient in science-based advanced medical nutrition therapy, education, and research. Typical places of employment for nutritionists with their CNS include:

  • Clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Academia
  • Industry
  • Community
  • Childcare facilities
  • Medical centers
  • Local school systems
  • Institutions
  • Private practice

The CNS credential denotes a healthcare professional who has achieved an advanced level of education and experience in the field of nutrition. A CNS may be a clinical nutritionist, a physician, an advanced practice registered nurse, a physician assistant, a pharmacist, a dentist or other healthcare professional who has met the requirements necessary to earn the credential.

The CNS-S is a similar designation but is designed for scholars, researchers, educators, product developers or scientists seeking distinction in the field of clinical or applied nutrition science.


How does UNE Online prepare you to become a CNS?

The University of New England’s online M.S. in Applied Nutrition program fulfills all the current academic requirements for the CNS. BCNS, the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists, requires a graduate degree in the field of nutrition from a regionally accredited university, specific coursework, and 1,000 hours of supervised experience. BCNS reviews each candidate individually, including current course descriptions, transcripts, and experience to determine eligibility.

Why is getting the CNS certification important?

Receiving your CNS sets you apart as an expert in the field of nutrition. Becoming a CNS is a rigorous process, and maintaining your certification requires that you actively participate in continuing education. Further, the CNS is the only non-dietetics credential and examination widely named in state nutrition licensure laws, enabling holders of the certification to practice and receive insurance reimbursement for their nutrition-related services in many states.

Can you sit for the exam directly after earning your Master’s?

Yes. The Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists is designed to test the knowledge and skills acquired by those who have successfully completed both the academic and experiential criteria of the CNS and CNS-S.

While those who have not yet completed the CNS supervised practice experience may be approved to sit for the examination, historically, those with experience perform better than those without.

What kind of work does a CNS do on a day to day basis?

CNSs engage in research, education, and scholarship, in a variety of settings. A CNS may perform a variety of duties during their daily work routine; these duties are largely informed by what job the CNS is assigned and the type of institution a CNS is working for. A CNS may provide medical nutrition therapy and work in a clinic or hospital, or they may act as a nutrition educator and work in a non-profit; they may operate their own consulting business and work with patients trying to improve their health and diets, or they may work in a laboratory as a product developer.

Read more: MSAN alumni Melanie Berdyck now works as a retail dietitian

The salary benefit of having a CNS

Having a professional certification is confirmation that you provide value, and because you are adding value to an organization or to your clients, your earning potential increases. The CNS is particularly valuable because it is the most widely recognized certification by federal and state governments, and is the only non-dietetics credential and examination widely named in state nutrition licensure laws.

The future of nutrition

Earning your Master’s of Science in Applied Nutrition at UNE Online broadens your skill set and opens up new possibilities for you. As you discover new passions and interests within the field of Nutrition, you can begin exploring job opportunities that best match your chosen specialty and career goals.

For more information on how UNE Online’s M.S. Applied Nutrition can support your path to becoming a CNS, check out our overview of CNS requirements. Feel free to use this overview as a checklist as you complete each step to become licensed as a Certified Nutrition Specialist and start providing nutrition counseling!


Interested in getting your Master’s in Applied Nutrition?  Let’s chat! Give us a call at 1(855) 751-4447 or reach out via email at

Ready to apply? fill out an online application today at– we look forward to hearing from you!

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