If you are passionate about helping others with nutrition but aren’t ready to dive into a college-level program, online nutrition certification programs can help you prepare to work with clients.
The best programs offer a comprehensive curriculum covering all the basics of nutrition science and coaching techniques in an easy-to-digest online format. Programs include textbooks, online videos, worksheets, and exams as part of the certification process. We reviewed online nutritionist certification programs and compared them based on cost, topics covered, and credibility.
The Best Online Nutrition Certification Programs for 2021
- Best Overall: Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification
- Best for Basic Certification: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Nutrition Coach
- Best Low Cost: National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) Sport Nutrition Specialist
- Best Self-Paced: International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Nutritionist Specialization
- Best for Continuing Education: American Council on Exercise (ACE) Fitness Nutrition Specialist
Best Overall : Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification
Why We Chose It: As the top-recommended program online, Precision Nutrition’s Level 1 Certification offers the latest in nutrition science and behavior change coaching.
Heavily science-based, with peer-reviewed publications on the Precision coaching method
Study at your own pace online
45-day guarantee with a full refund
Only opens for applicants four times a year
Founded in 2005 by Dr. John Berardi and Phil Caravaggio, Precision Nutrition (PN) incorporates a focus on both nutrition and behavior change coaching. The learning materials are easy to follow and well-organized on the online coaching platform and physical textbooks, and the program is heavily science-based leading to a better understanding of nutrition coaching and the science behind it.
As of February 2021, the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification costs $999 on pre-sale. All classes are offered online and are self-paced. There are no requirements or level of experience needed to take the program, but with its science-based material, having some background in nutrition would be beneficial.
Precision Nutrition only opens enrollment a few times a year, but this course can also be purchased through International Sports Science Association (ISSA) where it can be started at any time. PN is endorsed by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and has many positive reviews and testimonials online.
Note that while PN has a certification program, it still offers nutritional coaching to clients (which is how it began). This means that while you can obtain your certification from them, they will also be a competitor once you begin seeing clients independently. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to consider when researching different programs.
Best for Basic Certification : National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Certified Nutrition Coach
Take $50 off purchases over $499 at NASM.org using code BALANCE50 at checkout.
Why We Chose It: The NASM Nutrition Coach certification focuses on the basics of nutrition education while keeping information current to address current fad diets and hot topics.
Focus on the foundations of nutrition science
Addresses current issues in nutrition
Good coverage of coaching techniques and troubleshooting client issues
No information on the business aspects of nutrition coaching
Must retake the final exam every two years to maintain certification
Founded in 1987, NASM offers science-based personal training certification programs. Its nutritionist certification program covers all the basics of nutrition and will increase your knowledge so you can help your clients reach their goals. It can be taken as a continuing education course for personal trainers or as a stand-alone program.
The NASM nutrition coach certification costs $899 (as of February 2021) which is more expensive than other comparable programs, but there are no prerequisites for this program and you can enroll online at any time. It is self-paced and you have one year to complete it, although most students find they can complete it in a few months of studying 3-5 hours a week. All courses and tests are offered through NASM's student portal.
You do have to retake the exam every two years if you want to stay certified, and all the add-ons and additional specialties can add up quickly and get expensive. However, the NASM nutrition coaching course is great for those who are already NASM-certified personal trainers and want to add another specialty to their resume while gaining their continuing education units (CEUs) for the year.
Best Low Cost : National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) Sport Nutrition Specialist
Why We Chose It: The NCSF Sport Nutrition Specialist certification program is offered at a lower cost than many of its competitors.
Less expensive option
Well recognized in the fitness industry
Great for personal trainers looking for a specialty
Heavily focused on sports nutrition for performance improvement which may not apply to all clients
Less focus on coaching styles and behavior change
The National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF) Sport Nutrition Specialist certification is geared towards those who work with athletes or want to learn more about how to improve performance and body composition. It’s also a cost-effective choice if you are a personal trainer and looking for an inexpensive option to expand your sports nutrition knowledge for yourself or your clients.
This program covers topics related to diet and health but puts less of an emphasis on coaching and behavior change than other programs. It's designed for coaches who want to work with athletes, therefore it is assumed that the clients already have a solid foundation when it comes to sticking to a routine and implementing new habits.
As of February 2021, the NCSF Sport Nutrition Specialist certification costs between $299 and $369, making it a lower cost option than other online courses. There is no work experience required for entry to this program, but they do require high school or equivalent education to become certified. The course will take 2-4 months to complete, and you can progress at your own pace.
Upon completion of the program, you must take an online exam to receive your certification. If you don't pass your exam the first time you can retake it for $99. There are no limits to how many times you can take it until you pass.
NCSF, founded in 1996, is well known in the fitness industry worldwide. As one of the older programs, NCSF is also accredited by the NCCA.
Best Self-Paced : International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Nutritionist Specialization
Why We Chose It: ISSA is a self-paced program with the benefit of a guided and structured study plan to help students stay on track with their learning.
Online course you can do at your own pace or follow their recommended study plan
The course includes foundations of nutrition, behavior change, and business of nutrition coaching
More expensive than other options
Must pass a final exam to gain certification
ISSA was founded in 1988 and launched the specialist in fitness nutrition program in 2009, which has since become a popular option. The ISSA Nutritionist Specialization course covers the basics of nutrition and health coaching and can often be bundled with other certifications to give you a comprehensive knowledge base and prepare you to work with clients.
The ISSA Nutrition Specialization requires no work or academic experience to enroll. Similar to other programs this course must be completed in 12 months, but with three to five hours of study a week, most finish the course in four months. You must pass a final exam to become certified, but note that online reviews online state this exam is much longer than others.
You can also gain CEUs by taking this course, which is great for personal trainers or other professionals who want to reach their CEU requirement for the year while learning about something that will help them and their business.
This course usually costs $799 (as of February 2021), but will often go on sale for up to 50% off. Check the website for the most current discount. Although this can be completed as a stand-alone certification, you can purchase one of the bundles that include other specializations that ISSA offers such as personal training or group exercise instructor. If you are just starting out, this is a great deal.
Best for Continuing Education : American Council on Exercise (ACE) Fitness Nutrition Specialist
Why We Chose It: ACE is a recognized leader in continuing education courses, offering certifications that can be easily transferred for CEUs with other companies.
Offers learning materials in written, audio, and video format
Includes education on business practices to increase income for fitness professionals
Easily transferable for Continuing Education Units (CEUs)
Must complete the final exam within 6 months of purchase
Must have a professional credential or National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredited certification before completion for certification
ACE is a leader in continuing education courses, with their courses preapproved for CEU credits with several other fitness certification providers such as NASM and ISSA. The fitness nutrition program has three major categories in the curriculum: nutrition foundations, behavior change coaching, and business development. If you are already an ACE certified professional, this is a great choice to increase your sports nutrition knowledge while gaining CEUs.
Although anyone can take the program, this program is designed to be taken after you already have an NCCA-accredited certification or professional credential. If you are not already a certified personal trainer or health coach, you cannot become certified as an ACE fitness nutrition specialist. The ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist credential is designed to be a specialty you get after already working with clients, not a stand-alone certification.
The website emphasizes they use different teaching methods to accommodate learning styles such as audio, video, and textbook learning options. The program is offered in a self-paced format and costs $249 to $299 (as of February 2021), which is inexpensive compared to other programs on our list.
There is no academic or work experience required to enroll.
Overall, if you’re looking to expand your nutrition knowledge then an online certification may be a great place to start. We liked that all the programs were available online and mostly self-paced. Most of them allow you to enroll at any time, while others only open registration twice a year.
We also liked that all programs earn you CEUs that you can use towards certification renewal if you are already a certified personal trainer or other wellness professional. Although some of these programs can be expensive, priced over $800, there are also less expensive options that cost the same as many other continuing education courses. It is best to choose a program that best suits your clientele and personal interests, as each program has a slightly different curriculum and focus.
Please note that these programs are designed to earn you the title of "certified nutritionist" upon completion and are not a substitute for a higher-level education if you want to pursue a career as a licensed dietitian.
|Best Nutritionist Certification Programs||Why We Chose It||Cost*|
|Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification||Best Overall||$999 on pre-sale|
|NASM Certified Nutrition Coach||Best for Basic Certification||$899|
|NCSF Sport Nutrition Special||Best Low Cost||$299-$369|
|ISSA Nutritionist||Best Online/Self-Paced||$799 but can be bundled for savings|
|ACE Fitness Nutrition Specialist||Best for Continuing Education||$249 to $299|
*As of February 2021
What Is an Online Nutrition Certification Program?
Certified nutritionists help others reach their health goals through making healthy food choices, developing good habits, and eating well to support their lifestyle and dietary needs. An online nutrition certification program is designed to help you earn the title of a certified nutritionist.
These programs cover relevant topics such as nutrition science, coaching techniques, motivating clients, and developing healthy eating habits, and are designed to prepare you to work with clients on their nutrition goals.
Is It Worth Getting an Online Nutrition Certification?
Certification is beneficial. If you want to work with clients offering nutrition advice, you will need formal training as it’s not recommended that you give this kind of specialized advice to clients unless you have a good grasp on the fundamentals and important aspects of nutrition.
These courses provide the training and information you’ll need, and they allow you to call yourself a "certified nutritionist" or "health coach" which will help you present yourself as a credible professional.
What Does an Online Nutrition Certification Program Include?
Most programs include all the courseware and materials you need to complete the course. You will often get access to an online portal to access lectures, videos, and reading materials and some courses will mail you the textbooks to accompany this. Some courses also include a test or exam at the end that you must pass to complete the program.
How Much Does an Online Nutrition Certification Program Cost?
Nutrition certification programs vary in cost. They can range from $299-$999, although we found that many programs are discounted from time to time. You might want to sign up for a company’s newsletter or email alerts so you’ll know when the classes go on sale.
You can also take a nutrition certification program to gain CEUs to recertify your current certification, making the cost worthwhile.
We looked at over eight online nutritionist certification programs available in the U.S. and compared them based on cost, value, length, and accreditation. We excluded courses that were not accredited or recognized by NCCA, NASM, or ACE, and we looked for courses that focus primarily on nutrition and nutrition coaching.
All of our top choices offered accredited, comprehensive nutrition curriculums that can be completed in a practical amount of time and for a reasonable cost.