Health Coach or Nutritionist? Which Path Is Right for You?

Nutrition Education

Over the years, I’ve had many people reach out to me for advice regarding which path to choose when studying nutrition.

Most people are looking to make a life changing career move, away from corporate and towards something more meaningful to them. Perhaps they’ve had a parent with an illness or have been dealing with a chronic health issue themselves. They know there are alternative modes of healing, other than doctors, surgery and drugs. They’re looking for answers.

Somehow, they’ve come across the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), it’s intriguing, and want to know more and talk to someone who’s completed the program. That’s where I come in. I am a proud grad and ambassador of IIN and completed the program in 2005 when it was still an in-person progr

am located in NYC. Now, an on-line distance-learning program accessible to anyone all over the world, is the largest nutrition school there is. So, because I have completed the health coaching certification from IIN and also have completed a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition, people want to know what the differences are. And here they are:

First, let’s talk time:

IIN is a 9 month program, completed online.

A master’s degree took me two and a half years to complete while working full time. My first semester, I had to take Biochemistry and Anatomy because I didn’t have those classes as part of my undergrad education.

Now, let’s talk money:

IIN’s program now costs a mere $5,000. At the time I was enrolled I believe it cost $7,000 because it was live and we were given tons of books and swag every weekend that we had classes. My master’s program, with a few extra loans to supplement my income at the time, came to about $40,000, which I now will be paying off for the next thirty years of my life. (PS – That $40K turns into $90K by the time you finish paying off all of the accrued interest!)

Now, let’s talk content:
As an IIN student, you receive a mentor, so you get to have a health coach as you go through the program. The curriculum also contains business-building skills and gives you tools you need to build a successful practice.At IIN I learned directly from many of the top experts in the field of holistic nutrition and alternative health. Some of my favorite speakers were and still are; Deepak Chopra, Dr. Andrew Weill, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. David Katz, Neil Barnard, Sally Fallon and of course, Joshua Rosenthal, the school’s founder. These are people with impressive resumes who all believe in healing the body naturally with food.

Going through the master’s program at the University of Bridgeport, I learned a ton of science that I never really put into practice. I learned it, it’s in my brain somewhere, but I probably couldn’t rattle off how the Kreb’s cycle works without reviewing it first. It’s not until later in the program that I took some interesting classes like Food Therapeutics and Herbs and Supplements.

I am by no means discouraging anyone from furthering his or her formal education. I’ve never regretted going back to school for my post-graduate degree. I’m sure there have been many times that I have gotten consulting jobs because of my education.  The initials at the end of my name do hold weight. As a clinical nutritionist, I am able to suggest supplements for clients and write nutrition programs for individuals or groups. This article is to simply lay out the differences in educational paths.

So, if you are teetering on the edge of a boring career and looking into what you can do next to further your education in nutrition, I would ask yourself, how much time, energy and money can you invest right now in your education? Next I would ask, when do you want to start working with clients? If the answer is soon, then IIN is your answer. You are able to start working as a health coach within 9 months of beginning the program, where as going back to school for a master’s degree will take you at least two years.

I think IIN is an excellent start to a healthy career change. From there, I would encourage you to create a niche and further your studies within that niche, for example, women’s health, nutrition for athletes, or busy moms, whether that means going for a post-graduate degree or not. Learning is a journey that should never stop, especially in the ever-changing world of nutrition and health.

I hope that helps. If you have any specific questions about IIN’s program or my experience, please feel free to reach out via my email contact form.

In good health,


  • Autumn says:

    Hi Jennifer! Your story is so inspiring; I’m signing up with IIN as soon as I graduate from massage therapy school this June.

    You stated above, “As a clinical nutritionist, I am able to suggest supplements for clients and write nutrition programs for individuals or groups.” How are certified health coaches allowed to address supplements and nutrition programs, when requested by clients?

    Thank you so much for your time!

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Autumn!
      It’s such a great program, congratulations on taking the plunge. You will never regret it!
      As for your question, to be honest, I am not 100% sure and I believe that it varies from state to state. I think that by law a health coach, personal trainer, etc. cannot prescribe supplements or written diets, although so many do. I remember Joshua telling us that we can suggest supplements to clients. However, I graduated back in 2005, so things may have changed. Good luck and let me know if you need any other help. You can contact me through the contact page on my website. Be sure to ask if there are any ambassador discounts available when you are ready to register. You can use my name 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    This is such a great post! Thank you for writing it! I love the line that “learning is a journey that should never stop.” Well put and I could not agree more!

  • Robin says:

    This is a great post. I’m currently going back to get a masters in health education, but would like to incorporate ingrative medician. I’m so glad I came across this post and will be looking into IIN.

  • Mary says:

    I have not completed my bachelor degree and I have always been interested in health and nutrition, would IIN be a great alternative to getting some form of education in nutrition without all the formal training from a college education? I want to pursue a career in health/nutrition but I don’t necessarily want to go back to college for a BA. Any advice would be great! Thanks!

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