Take Your Career to the Next Level with a CNS® Credential.

Learn how the Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) credential will set you apart and find out how to become CNS® certified.

According to the American Nutrition Association, the Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) certification, is the most advanced certification for professional nutrition practitioners. A Certified Nutrition Specialist® works to empower their clients to live healthier lives through research-based, scientifically-backed holistic nutritional therapies, specifically tailored to their clients’ needs. These professionals seek to provide the most comprehensive and personalized nutritional guidance available.

In the interview below, we speak with Sonoran University of Health Sciences online Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition graduate, Celena Leland about the Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) certification and why this credential will set you apart in the nutrition field.

What is your background and why did you enroll in Sonoran University of Health Sciences online MS in Clinical Nutrition program?
After graduating with my undergraduate degree in psychology, I spent several years exploring different paths, including childcare, farming, and working in the kitchen at a cancer treatment center. During that time, I found myself on my own health journey and became increasingly interested in the power of nutrition to support wellness. I enrolled in Sonoran University of Health Sciences MS in Clinical Nutrition program because I was looking for a program that would provide me with a comprehensive and unbiased understanding of nutrition science, as well as prepare me for a career in a clinical setting.

What is the most interesting aspect of the clinical nutrition field?
The clinical nutrition field is endlessly fascinating, but the most interesting aspect may be the need for personalization. Every client comes with their own medical history, goals, preferences, and barriers–there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. In order to truly help people, our recommendations must be both evidence-based and suited to their unique needs.

Why is the CNS credential valuable?
Aside from the RD credential, the CNS credential is the only one that is recognized by state laws (depending on the state). It shows that you have met rigorous standards of education and supervised practice within the field and sets you apart as a highly qualified practitioner.

Curious about the differences between the Certified Nutrition Specialist CNS® and Registered Dietitian (RD) credentials?

What is the CNS exam?
The CNS exam is a collection of 200 challenging questions designed to test the depth and breadth of your clinical nutrition knowledge.

How does Sonoran University prepare you to take the CNS exam?
For the CNS exam, you need to have a strong foundational understanding of nutritional science and clinical applications; Sonoran University provides you with both. By the time you finish the program, you can be confident that you have been introduced to every topic that will come up on the CNS exam. Better yet, they teach you how to find and appraise new research in nutrition, so you can continue learning beyond graduation.

In what other ways did Sonoran University prepare you for the CNS credential?
Becoming a CNS is about more than passing an exam –it’s about building the skillsets you need to become an effective practitioner. Sonoran University prepares you for this through their Virtual Health Center, which allows you to experience the nutrition care process through the eyes of a nutritionist and gives you practice in developing personalized care plans under the guidance of experienced professionals. Sonoran University also offers a post-graduate Supervised Practice Experience program, which is a great way to earn hours toward your CNS credential and build your clinical skills in a highly supportive environment.

What tips/advice do you have for someone looking to ace the CNS exam?
Be intentional about studying. Make a schedule and pace yourself as you revisit your materials from school. There are also tons of great study resources and practice tests out there; pick two to utilize in the months leading up to the exam. And last –but certainly not least –remember to rest. The best thing you can do the night before the exam is prioritize getting plenty of sleep so you can go in rested, relaxed, and ready to pass!

What are your goals and how are you hoping to apply the CNS credential to your career?
My goal is to start my own nutrition practice. The CNS credential will help set me apart from other nutritionists in a state where nutrition care is unregulated. With this credential, I can show my clients that I have both the education and experience necessary to provide them with the best possible care.

Any final tips for working toward the CNS Credential?
I suppose I have a word to say about the challenge of working toward the CNS credential. The hardest part for me has been cultivating stamina. Like all good things, this process takes time, so it is important to not burn yourself out in the beginning. Remember to give yourself breaks, build a support network, and engage in self-care on a regular basis. This is a long and challenging road, but if you’re passionate about helping people feel their best in their bodies, it is 100% worth it.

Learn more about Sonoran University of Health Sciences online MS in Clinical Nutrition program.

*Please note that the information in this article, including any linked resources, is subject to change without notice. We strongly recommend verifying the accuracy of the information and current state requirements.

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