CNS for Nutrition and Health Professionals

Who Should Obtain the Credential?

Nutritionists, APRNs, DCs, DDSs, NDs, ODs, PAs, PharmDs, RDNs, and other advanced-degreed health professionals who wish to demonstrate competence as advanced clinical nutrition professionals and/or obtain a potential pathway to state licensure for nutrition practice and Medical Nutrition Therapy.

Education Requirements

The candidate must hold either a:

  • Masters of Science or Doctoral degree in the field of nutrition or a related healthcare or science field (e.g. PA, MPH, Biochemistry), from a United States regionally accredited college or university, or its foreign equivalent; or
  • Doctoral degree in a field of clinical healthcare (including, but not limited to, MD/DO*, DC, DDS, Doctor of Nursing, ND, PharmD) from a United States regionally accredited college or university, or its foreign equivalent.  

    * MDs and DOs please refer to the CNS for MDs and DOs page 

And have completed the following minimum for-credit coursework:

  • Nutrition (minimum of 9 semester credit hours). Examples of such course topics include but are not limited to: therapeutic nutrition, nutrition assessment, developmental nutrition, micro nutrients, macro nutrients, functional nutrition, nutrient depletion & drug/herb interactions, dietary supplements, nutritional disorders, pharmacology, and biomedical science courses that involve nutrition-related metabolic systems.
  • Biochemistry (minimum of 6 semester credit hours)
  • Physiology or Anatomy/Physiology (minimum of 3 semester credit hours)
  • Clinical or Life Sciences (minimum of 12 additional semester credit hours). These courses may be prerequisites for the above courses and include, but are not limited to: biology, micro-biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, botany or nutrition.

“Regionally accredited” means an institution that was accredited, at the time the degree was awarded, by a regional accreditation body in the United States which is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education. Degrees from institutions outside the U.S. must be from that country’s equivalent of a regionally accredited U.S. institution.

Experience Requirements

Pathway 1: For Nutrition and Other Healthcare Professionals

The candidate must complete 1,000 hours of documented supervised practice experience in nutrition in accordance with the following:

A. Supervisor Qualifications:

  1. The following individuals may serve as a supervisor, provided they have the equivalent of a minimum of three full-time years of clinical experience in nutrition care. Must meet at least one of the following criteria:

    ---Certified Nutrition Specialist;
    ---Holder of a Master’s of Science or Doctoral Degree in the field of nutrition with a state license or certification; or
    ---MD or other doctoral-level licensed professional whose scope of practice includes nutrition and has training in nutrition.

  2. Supervisor(s) must be approved by the BCNS Credentials Council. The Supervisor Approval Request Form must be submitted to the BCNS Credentials Council.

  3. Supervisors may not be related to or married to their supervisee(s).

B. Structure of the Supervised Experience:

  1. 1,000 hours supervised practice experience must include minimum hours in each of the following categories:

    ---Nutrition assessment (minimum 200 hours)
    ---Nutrition intervention, education, counseling, or management (minimum 200 hours)
    ---Nutrition monitoring or evaluation (minimum 200 hours)
    ---The remaining hours may be in any of the above categories

  2. The Supervisor must:

    ---Meet at regularly scheduled sessions with the supervisee;
    ---Verify completion of the supervised program; and
    ---Submit the Practice Experience Supervisor’s Report for approval by the BCNS Credentials Council.

  3. A variety of experience with multiple supervisors and settings may be combined to achieve the 1,000 hours.
  4. Supervised practice experience setting may be any that facilitates the above requirements, including but not limited to:
    ---Internship, residency, or clinical rotation
    ---Clinical practice
    ---Institutional setting
    ---Community setting

The supervised practice experience may be completed after passing the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists, however the candidate will not be awarded, and may not use, the CNS credential until the supervised experience is completed and approved.

Pathway 2: For Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN)

All RDN candidates must submit:

  1. Documentation of completion of dietetic internship (RD registration will fulfill this requirement); and
  2. 5 personalized nutrition* case studies occurring within the past 5 years in accordance with CNS Practice Experience Case Study Template; and
  3. 75 Continuing Education credits in personalized nutrition* obtained within the past 5 years.

*Personalized nutrition is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon a broad range of sciences to advance human health. It considers the unique makeup of individuals, and specifically identified sub-groupings of people with similar characteristics, and encompasses a person-centered approach to nutrition science evidence, education, and clinical care.

RDN Candidates must have completed the 3 above requirements to apply to sit for the examination.


Examination Requirement

The candidate must achieve a passing score on the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists, offered twice a year, typically in the spring and fall.

The examination 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 we may approve those who have not yet completed the experience requirement to sit for the examination, evidence shows that those with experience perform better than those without.

The examination contains 200 multiple-choice, single answer questions. It covers a broad spectrum of basic and applied nutritional science based on an explicit set of competencies. These have been determined through a job analysis study conducted on practitioners.

The competencies are grouped into domains, subdomains and tasks. As the examination may only assess knowledge pertaining to these competency statements, they serve as the outline, or blueprint for the examination.

See How to Prepare for the Examination and the Examination Content Outline.

Recertification Requirements

To maintain the CNS credential, all CNS certificants must recertify every five years and document 75 Continuing Education (CE) credits. Learn more about recertification.