*As of 1/1/25 there will no longer be a MD/DO pathway to the CNS. Please see the Nutrition Professionals pathway for all applicants.  

There are three eligibility requirements to earn the CNS: Education, Practice Experience, and Examination.


All candidates must meet the following degree and coursework requirements:

Degree Requirement
  • All candidates must hold an MD or DO degree from a regionally/institutionally accredited medical or osteopathy school or foreign equivalent; and
  • All candidates must hold a current licensure to practice medicine in the US (or in the country of practice).
Coursework Requirement
  • Coursework must be from a regionally/institutionally accredited institution; credits are semester credit hours (please convert to semester credit hours if they are not).
  • Coursework should be balanced to provide the foundational knowledge for the development of core competencies required for the practice of effective personalized nutrition** as indicated by the CNS Examination Content Outline.

**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.

Coursework must include a minimum of 35 credits the following 5 categories:

1. Graduate Nutrition Science Courses – Twelve (12) semester credit hours* or 180 Continuing Education (CE) credits:
  • Foundational Nutrition: 4 semester credit hours or 60 CE
  • Advanced Nutrition: 8 semester credit hours or 120 CE
2. Graduate or undergraduate Biochemistry Courses – Six (6) semester credit hours

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Biochemistry of Nutrition
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Medical Biochemistry
3. Graduate or undergraduate Physiology or Anatomy/Physiology – Three (3) semester credit hours

Examples may include but are not limited to:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I, II
  • Anatomy
  • Medical Physiology
  • Physiology
  • Health and Wellness Physiology I
4. Graduate or undergraduate Clinical or Life Sciences – Twelve (12) semester credit hours

May be prerequisites for the above courses and include, but are not limited to:

  • Biology
  • Botany
  • Micro-Biology
  • Nutrition Science
  • Organic/Inorganic Chemistry

Eligible Courses

5. Graduate or undergraduate Behavioral Science- Three (3) semester credit hours

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Psychology
  • Motivational Counseling
  • Principles and Practices of Health Behavior and Self-Care
  • Foundations of Health Behavior and Health Education

Practice Experience

  • MD/DOs must hold a license to practice and are required to complete one Personalized Nutrition (PN) Case Data Collection form for a case occurring in the last 5 years with at least three visits and three months of care. 

Certification Examination

Applicants are required to pass the Certification Examination for Nutrition Specialists℠ to demonstrate that their education, experience, and training have resulted in a mastery of the knowledge and skills required of the Certified Nutrition Specialist®.

The examination is offered two times per year, typically in the spring and fall. Unsuccessful candidates may re-take the examination.  

The examination contains 200 multiple-choice, single answer questions, and covers the broad spectrum of basic and applied nutritional science, based on an explicit set of competencies outlined in the Examination Content Outline. Competencies are determined by a job analysis study conducted on practitioners.

Candidates must complete the Exam Application for MD and DO and upload to their portal along with supporting documentation.