Being a nutritionist is an incredibly rewarding experience; being able to help guide people on the road to better health and fitness can be deeply fulfilling. Nutritionists are well-versed regarding the nutritional needs of different populations, and they must possess a necessary combination of both educational understanding and interpersonal skills. This blog serves as a resource for individuals who may want to learn more about being a nutritionist, whether they want to become one themselves or simply gain better knowledge on the role. We’ll provide information on what being a nutritionist entails, how to become one, and how to make the most out of being part of this meaningful profession.
What Does a Nutritionist Do?
A nutritionist advises people about what foods are best for them in relation to their own individual health. This might be to help ease symptoms of a chronic condition such as arthritis, to help their body heal after surgery, or to enhance their performance before a sporting event. They also plan food service programs for institutions like schools, hospitals, community food programs, and nursing homes.
Where Do Nutritionists Work?
Nutrition specialists work in a variety of settings. These include hospitals, schools, nursing homes, local and state government offices, cafeterias, and clinics. Some nutritionists even work from a home office or for sports venues, such as Olympic training centers. Occasionally, a nutritionist will set up their own business and consult with clients to improve their eating habits and address chronic health conditions through better nutrition.
Areas of Specialties
Most nutritionists focus on a particular aspect of nutrition, for example sports nutrition, where a nutritionist advises individual athletes or teams on the diet that will promote good performance and aid in healing sports injuries. Other specialties include public health nutrition, which focuses on getting the word out about healthy eating and easy ways to incorporate those foods in a diet.
A clinical nutritionist works in a healthcare setting as part of a patient’s healthcare team. Based on the patient’s diagnosis, a clinical nutritionist helps design an eating plan to aid in their recovery. Oncology nutritionists help cancer patients ease their symptoms and boost their general health through the foods they eat. With a degree in nutrition and a little extra training, you can also become a veterinary nutritionist and advise pet caregivers on the best foods for their cats, dogs, and other animals.
Another subset in the nutrition field is pediatric nutrition. A pediatric nutritionist helps parents choose the foods that are best for their children to help manage chronic conditions like allergies and asthma, or to simply help their children thrive.
One nutrition field that is becoming increasingly popular is corporate nutrition. A corporate wellness consultant helps a company devise programs and incentives to help boost the health of its employees. Since healthy employees take fewer unplanned days off, this improves a company’s productivity.
The daily responsibilities of a nutritionist vary depending on their specialty and where they work. However, a typical day might include meeting with clients or patients, planning menus for an institution’s cafeteria, writing public health announcements, or following up with patients to gauge their healthy eating progress. One day’s responsibilities are rarely the same as the next with a career in nutrition.
Typical Career Paths
There are a number of career paths you can follow with a degree in nutrition. With this degree, you can pursue a career as a licensed nutritionist and work for a healthcare facility, government agency, nursing home, or school. You can also pursue a career as a registered dietitian and create healthy eating plans for schools, sports training centers, cafeterias, and other venues. You could work with government agencies to help inform the public about healthy eating. A degree in nutrition is also a qualification for a job in sports nutrition, helping sports teams or individuals maximize their performance and health with food.
Nutritionist vs Dietitian: What’s the Difference?
While many people outside the healthcare industry view a nutritionist and dietitian as being roughly the same thing, there is a distinct difference. A dietitian is essentially a nutritionist who has met the legal and government standards and has registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration for licensure as a certified registered dietitian (CRD). Requirements to be a CDR include earning at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field from an accredited school, taking a CRD training course, and passing the CRD exam.
There is no such licensure requirement for nutritionists. However, nutritionists who want to add an extra degree of credibility can become a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). Requirements for this certification include earning an advanced degree in a related field, completing 1,000 hours of practical experience, and passing the CNS exam.
Both the CRD and the CNS certification require individuals to complete professional continuing education courses in order to maintain the credential.
Education Needed to Become a Nutritionist
A bachelor’s degree in nutrition is generally preferred for nutritionists or for a career in a related field like sports nutrition. Nutritionists are also typically required to serve an internship where they are supervised by a licensed and experienced nutritionist. Most states, including New York and Illinois, require that nutritionists be licensed. Two of the largest states that don’t require nutritionists to be licensed are California and Texas.
While a bachelor’s degree will get you started in the field, a master’s degree is often necessary for career advancement.
Career Forecast for Nutritionists
The job outlook for nutritionists is good, with the number of jobs expected to grow 11% between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is faster than the national average for all jobs. They also report that the median annual salary for a nutritionist in the United States is $61,650 or about $29.64 per hour. The median annual salary for sports nutritionists, according to Comparably, is $64,705, although they report the high end of salaries for this specialty can exceed $330,000 annually.
Is Becoming a Nutritionist Right for You?
The nutrition field combines food and science. If you enjoy cooking and learning about new foods, are fascinated by the relationship between food and health, and enjoy sharing your knowledge and helping others, then a career in nutrition might be right for you. Most nutritionists will tell you that the job is rarely boring.
Earn Your Degree in Nutrition from Johnson & Wales University
If you enjoy working with people, eating a balanced, healthy diet and sharing your knowledge, you should strongly consider a career in nutrition. Johnson & Wales University offers a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition. This four-year degree program explores the connection between food and health. Coursework includes classes in chemistry, human physiology and microbiology, as well as classes in food service management, culinary fundamentals and nutrition.
Johnson & Wales also offers a two-year master’s degree in nutrition that is available exclusively online to make it easier for students to fit the program into their busy home and work lives. The program focuses on career-related topics, including nutritional counseling and education, nutrition for athletic performance, advanced clinical nutrition, and grantsmanship and publication.
Applicants for the two-year master’s program are required to have earned an undergraduate degree in nutrition, dietetics or a related field, such as exercise physiology, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, health sciences, kinesiology, microbiology, or physician assistant studies. Applicants with degrees in other fields are not considered for admission into this program. Successful candidates with degrees in fields other than nutrition and dietetics may have to take one or two nutrition courses in addition to the main course material.
If you’re interested in becoming a nutritionist, earn your master’s degree in nutrition online from Johnson & Wales University. For more information about completing your degree online or on-campus, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].