The basic definition of a certification is that it’s a form of proof that you’ve completed coursework in a given field. In addition to studying certain topics, such as nutrition, you’ve also mastered the material enough to pass a final exam — and probably a few others along the way — that demonstrate your grasp of the material.
In many ways, though, a certification is so much more than that. If you’re studying a field like nutrition, here’s what a certification can offer:
A certification program provides a deep dive into a specific set of topics that’s geared toward a specific outcome.
For example, a Sports Nutritionist Certification helps you identify the effects of eating disorders on sports performance, know the importance of meal timing for optimal results, and discern a healthy carbohydrate from one that’s not so healthy. But a Weight Management Specialist Certification has other learning objectives, like understanding the causes of obesity, assisting clients in finding their ideal weight, and articulating the harmful effects of being overweight.
Both programs offer comprehensive knowledge that’s founded on proven, foundational nutrition research. They simply differ in how you would use that information to create actionable results for clients. Certifications give you that level of competence to help clients achieve their goals.
In addition to insights on the topic, a certification indicates that you’re willing to put in the effort and time to fully comprehend a complex subject like nutrition.
That communicates to employers, clients, and even yourself that you’re committed to learning the subject at a deeper level than a simple lecture series can offer. Certifications are not always easy; they sometimes require setting family time aside and doing coursework outside of your day-to-day profession. Demonstrating that you’re willing to put in that kind of dedication is notable, and a certification emphasizes that commitment.
The more you explore a topic like nutrition, the more you tend to understand the complexities that can crop up between different health subjects. For instance, focusing on food habits and behaviors can help you see the links between how people eat and how they sleep, exercise, work, and even interact with others.
A certification program is designed to provide comprehensive knowledge that goes beyond knowing macro and micro nutrients (although that’s helpful too). You learn how food truly affects people, and you can bring that insight into your professional practice.
The knowledge you gain also opens up a wealth of opportunities, giving you the ability to expand your services. You might decide to pair fitness training with nutrition coaching, or to become a nutrition and wellness writer in addition to a wellness coach. A certification opens doors you might not have even thought were there.
With a nutrition certification, you certainly obtain a designation that you can put on your resume or a piece of paper to hang on your wall. But you also receive the confidence that comes with having worked hard to understand a complex topic and translate that into action for your clients and yourself. A certification isn’t something you get, it’s an achievement you earn.