What Does a Nutritionist Do? As a nutritionist, you’ll be working with patients who have varying degrees of dietary issues. Whether someone wants to lose weight or they have a medical issue in need of a diet modification, you are trained to help by:
- Taking into account the client’s dietary needs
- Giving advice
- Creating a customized nutrition plan
- Working as part of a medical team to treat a patient
- Researching effects of nutrition
- Keeping documentation on clients progress
- Speaking to people and groups about proper nutrition
Types of Nutritionists
- Clinical Nutritionist: You work one on one with patients within a hospital, doctor’s office, or other medical facility. You listen to the patient and the medical staff and create a customized nutrition plan. You may choose to specialize and work with diabetics, autoimmune disorders, digestive disorders, or other health issues. Your goal is to help your patient’s health improve through his or her diet.
- Community Nutritionist: You go into schools, retirement homes, and related facilities and speak to groups about health through nutrition. You work on more of a counseling and speaking track, working in government and nonprofits, public health clinics, and various other agencies.
- Public Health Nutritionist: You’ll work within a community or government agency.
- Sports Nutritionist: Working in an athletic setting, you help your patients use both diet and exercise to achieve maximum health benefits.
- Animal Nutritionist: Your patients are animals, and you work in research for pet foods, zoos, and veterinarians.
How Do I Become a Nutritionist?
You’re going to be an expert on foods and nutrition; it doesn’t happen overnight. To become a nutritionist, you must:
- Get your high school diploma.
- Get your bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition, dietetics, public health, or another related degree from an accredited program. It should take four years if you go to school full time.
- Associate’s degrees are also available, but you won’t be able to become a licensed nutritionist with one.
- Complete an internship. This should take a few hundred hours.
- Most states require both nutritionists and dieticians to get licensed.
- You’ll need the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist designation through the Commission on Dietetic Registration. To be eligible, you’ll need to:
- Graduate from an approved and accredited program
- Complete your internship
- Pass the national exam
- Finish 75 credits of continuing education every five years, along with a retest to keep the certification active
- Consider going on for your master’s or doctorate.
- From there, you can get Certified Nutrition Specialist designation but you’ll need to:
- Have 1,000 hours of supervised experience
- A master’s or doctorate
- Pass the exam
- Keep up the certification by taking 75 continuing ed credits every five years
How Much Money Will I Make?
You’ll probably work full time, and you may decide to work evenings and weekends to make time for clients who can’t otherwise get to you during the day. The median annual salary is over $59K, with the top 10 percent earning over $82K. You’ll find that outpatient care centers are the top payers in your industry, with the average salary being $65K. You’ll find the best paying jobs to be in California, Maryland, Oregon, Hawaii, and New Jersey, especially if you work in animal food manufacturing, the federal branch of the government, or in various types of medical facilities.
Are There Jobs Available?
Employment outlook is predicted to grow much faster than most other occupations for nutritionists. There will be close to 10K openings through 2026, which is a 15 percent growth rate. However, that is combined with the dieticians’ job outlook . The states with the highest concentration of jobs are Vermont, North Dakota, Hawaii, Nebraska, and New York.