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Understand the Nutritionist Career Outlook
A nutritionist is a food expert who advises and teaches people about healthy eating habits. Although nutritionist is a popular career choice in the nutrition field, there are numerous other nutrition careers that graduates can pursue, such as food scientist or dietetic consultant. If you are considering a degree and career in nutrition, you should know that employment in the field is expected to increase by 20 percent through 2020, much faster than average of all other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, nutrition professionals can expect to earn a median salary of $53,250; however, some of the highest paid professionals in the field earn more than $75,000 per year. Nutritionists, dietitians, food researchers, and other professionals within the industry typically work full time, although about 20 percent work part time.
Outlined below are some of the most popular career choices in the nutrition industry. Take a look at the following job descriptions to learn more about what the various food and nutrition careers entail and how to prepare for them.
Explore Nutrition Careers
This comprehensive list of careers will help you understand what types of jobs are available to those who earn a nutrition degree, what the annual pay is like, and who is most qualified. Additionally, the following directory of careers in nutrition will help you determine if you would be a good fit for a specific job based on your interests and abilities.
- Clinical Nutritionist
- Dietetic Consultant
- Food Service Manager
- Food Science Researcher
- Pediatric Dietitian
- Pharmaceutical Sales Rep
Work environment: Hospitals, medical clinics, private practice office
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree. Some clinical nutritionist positions are available to candidates with the credential of registered dietitian (RD), conferred by the American Dietetic Association (ADA), or licensure as a dietitian (LD). To obtain the credential of Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN), students must complete the Post Graduate Studies in Clinical Nutrition (PGSCN) program, provided by the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB). To be eligible for the program, students must have a bachelor’s degree and must have taken core science courses, as well as five courses in nutrition.
Job description: Clinical nutritionists help individuals achieve healthy physiological function by assessing their nutritional needs through biochemical laboratory testing. A clinical nutritionist uses these test results to establish an individual nutritional program. Clinical nutritionists provide clinical nutrition therapy for patients with chronic illnesses and health issues and may refer clients to licensed physicians for specific medical treatments that aid in improving their overall health.
Why would I want to do this? Become a clinical nutritionist if you have strong analytical-thinking skills and excel in science. As a clinical nutritionist, you can anticipate conducting thorough assessments of patients’ medical history and nutrition. You will also have to assess outcome measures and clinical indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of patients’ treatment plans.
Work environment: Hospitals, medical clinics, schools, nursing homes, food products companies, public health agencies
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree. Most states require dietetic consultants to be licensed as Registered Dietitians (RD).
Job description: Dietetic consultants, similar to nutritionists or dietitians, are concerned with human nutrition and how it can prevent or lead to various diseases or illnesses. Dietetic consultants are clinically trained nutrition professionals who assess a client’s nutritional needs and determine how they can improve their diet to promote better health. Responsibilities range from developing food plans for diet modification to consulting with a client’s healthcare practitioner to monitor and assess health and determine whether a client needs dietary restrictions.
Why would I want to do this? Become a dietetic consultant if you have strong evaluative skills and if you thrive when working independently. You can expect to conduct a holistic nutritional evaluation of your clients. Dietetic consultants should also be excellent teachers, allowing them to instruct clients about proper nutrition and explain complex physiological metabolic processes in language that clients can grasp.
Work environment: Hospitals, medical clinics, schools, nursing homes, private practice office
Entry-level education: To become a registered dietitian (RD), you will need to meet the following requirements: 1) complete at least a bachelor’s program at an accredited university and coursework accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 2) complete an ACEND-accredited practicum with supervision at a healthcare institution, community agency, or food service organization; and 3) pass a national exam provided by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). You’ll also be expected to meet continuing education requirements in order to maintain registration.
Job description: Dietitians are nutrition experts who help people understand the science behind food and nutrition enabling them to make smarter and healthier food choices. Dietitians work in private practices, community organizations, or medical settings to teach people how the foods they put into their body can affect their health. Additionally, dietitians develop programs for weight loss and disease prevention.
Why would I want to do this? Choose this career path if you have excellent communication skills and would enjoy helping people live healthier lifestyles by teaching them about healthy eating habits. Dietitians must be able to identify the individual nutritional needs of each client to develop client-specific nutrition programs. If you pursue this profession, you can expect to consult with physicians regarding dietary restrictions for certain patients, in addition to developing and organizing dietary educational materials for patients and their families.
Work environment: Restaurants or other food service establishments
Entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent
Job description: Food service managers oversee daily restaurant operations ensuring all activities comply with health regulations and that customers are satisfied. As a food service manager, you will provide management to all areas of a food service establishment by monitoring food preparation activities, service staff, and financial transactions. Food service managers also oversee budgets, payroll, and food inventory.
Why would I want to do this? Pursue a career as a food service manager if you possess excellent communication and problem-solving skills. You can expect to create employee schedules, train staff, and carry out disciplinary measures. You will also be in charge of ensuring proper food presentation and portion sizes, as well as addressing customer complaints.
Work environment: Research universities, laboratories, on-site field locations
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree, but a graduate degree or higher is often required
Job description: Food science researchers study the chemical composition of foods and other nutrients. They conduct scientific testing using principles of chemistry, microbiology, and engineering to better understand the sources and make-up of food. Food science researchers examine food to determine vitamin, fat, sugar, and protein levels to develop food labels. They also ensure the safety of food packaging, storage, and distribution.
Why would I want to do this? Choose a career as a food science researcher if you excel in chemistry and biology and have a strong grasp of research methodology. You can expect to develop new ways to preserve and package food, as well as sanitary regulations and waste management practices. As a food science researcher, you can expect to work both independently and with other scientists in laboratory testing environments, or on-site at field locations collecting food samples.
Work environment: Hospitals, medical clinics, schools, nursing homes, private practice office
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree. In some states, nutritionists must obtain licensure or certification. To learn more about licensure requirements, contact your state’s licensing board.
Job description: A nutritionist is a professional who also counsels people on how to lead healthier lives by helping them understand that what they put into their body can affect their overall well-being. Specific job duties are often similar to those of dietitians, including assessing a client’s nutritional needs, developing meal plans, and tracking their progress. Nutritionists often help clients achieve health-related goals such as lowering cholesterol or learning how to better manage diabetes.
Why would I want to do this? Become a nutritionist if you have strong listening skills to understand clients’ nutritional needs and health problems. If you choose this nutrition career, you can expect your work to involve education, both on an individual level in a clinical setting and on a group level in organizations and schools. If you choose this nutrition career, you can also advise on nutritional public policy issues, such as food labeling and food fortification.
Work environment: Hospitals, medical clinics, schools, private practice office
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree. Most states require dietitians to be licensed as Registered Dietitians (RD).
Job description: Pediatric dietitians provide nutritional counseling to families and children from birth to age 18. Pediatric dietitians focus on the diet and nutritional needs of a child’s growing body from infancy through adolescence.
Additionally, pediatric dietitians may work with overweight children to help develop a healthy nutritional plan, or to decrease the risk of developing disease into adulthood, such as high cholesterol. Daily responsibilities of a pediatric dietitian include teaching children and parents about dietary components, outlining meal plans, assessing and tracking progress, and making referrals as necessary.
Why would I want to do this? Pursue a career as a pediatric dietitian if you excel at teaching and working with children. You will have to converse appropriately with children and their parents, conveying complex nutritional concepts in language they can understand. As a pediatric dietitian, you can expect to calculate nutrient requirements for each child and utilize educational assessment tools to gauge understanding.
Work environment: Office settings or in the field traveling to hospitals, medical clinics, and pharmacies.
Entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
Job description: Pharmaceutical sales representatives sell and promote pharmaceutical products to hospitals, physicians, patient advocacy groups, pharmacies, and nursing homes. Pharmaceutical sales representatives are usually employed with drug companies and work to get their product in the hands of the consumer. As a pharmaceutical sales representative, you may also attend sales meetings and deliver drug samples to physicians. While not in the field, pharmaceutical sales representatives work out of an office contacting prospective leads.
Why would I want to do this? Choose this career path if you have an outgoing personality and the ability to persuade others. You will be expected to be informed about all aspects of particular drugs and explain the benefits to physicians in order to convince them to begin prescribing them. You will also learn about competitor medications in order to develop comparative sales strategies.
Apply to Jobs Using these Resources
The following list of resources will help you find a career in nutrition. This list contains general job boards, nutrition-specific job sites, and healthcare websites that will help you discover open positions within the field of nutrition and how to apply for them.
- DietitianCentral.com – This site lets you explore what jobs are available to nutrition professionals, seek advice from experts in the field, and even explore continuing education opportunities.
- HealthECareers.com – This job search resource allows nutrition professionals to search job listings and post their resumé to be reviewed by potential employers.
- HealthJobsStartHere.com – This is a complete job resource site that helps professionals find jobs in the nutrition industry and learn who is qualified for these positions. It even provides job alerts to job seekers.
- iHireNutrition.com – This website is a complete job resource guide for nutrition professionals that allows you to search for positions by job title or location.
- Indeed.com – This website allows you to search for nutrition-related jobs throughout the country and post your resumé for potential employers to view.
- Jobs.Nutrition.org – This resource is offered by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) and is a place where nutrition job seekers can search for openings in the field.
- NutritionistJobs.com – This comprehensive career guide allows you to search for nutrition jobs and learn about nutrition career salary information, in addition to assisting you in writing your resumé.
- NutritionJobs.com – This guide to nutrition jobs allows professionals to search openings within the field, post their resumé, and explore other job resources such as interviewing tips.
Join Professional Associations
Discover professional nutrition associations that can help you learn insider information about the industry. The following list of nutrition associations gives you access to various resources, such as nutrition journals, job resources, and certification programs, which can help you advance within the field. While exploring these organizations, you will notice that some offer exclusive membership benefits. Additionally, belonging to one or more of these professional associations can significantly enhance your resumé, demonstrating to employers your commitment to the field of nutrition even as a student. To learn about these nutrition organizations, explore the list below.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Membership requirements: Membership is available to Registered Dietitians (RDs), Registered Dietetic Technicians (DTRs), students enrolled in an ACEND-accredited program, healthcare practitioners, and retired nutrition professionals.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics exists to provide advocacy and promote professions within the nutrition industry. Nutrition students will find the academy’s nutrition journals and other industry resources helpful, and recent nutrition graduates may find the career resources page helpful in landing their first position in the field. Furthermore, whether you are a nutrition student or graduate, you will find the Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Technician certification information helpful.
American Society for Nutrition
Membership requirements: Any person with a bachelor’s degree or higher in nutrition from an accredited school, or students enrolled in at least an undergraduate medical-related degree are eligible.
The goal of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) is to promote research in the nutrition industry by bringing together nutrition practitioners and researchers. As a student member, you can apply for travel grants and scholarships and enjoy access to ASN’s journal publications. Recent graduates can take advantage of the job board, where employers list open positions within the field. The ASN also provides its members with additional resources to promote career growth, including annual meetings, conferences, and continuing education opportunities.
American Nutrition Association
Membership requirements: Membership is open to everyone.
The American Nutrition Association (ANA) promotes nutritional health and well-being in the U.S. Nutrition students and recent graduates will benefit from access to lectures, publications, networking opportunities, and even tools and tips for practicing nutrition. You can also leverage the Intern Matching Program and submit articles and videos to the ANA website. The ANA also provides a job board where recent nutrition graduates can search for current openings within the field.
National Association of Nutrition Professionals
Membership requirements: Nutrition professionals, students enrolled in an accredited nutrition program, graduates of occupational certification programs in holistic medicine, and other healthcare professionals who incorporate holistic nutrition techniques in their practice are eligible.
The National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP) sets the minimum educational standards for nutrition consultants and natural chefs. The goal of the NANP is to promote the holistic nutrition approach in medicine. Nutrition students will find the association’s publications useful for new industry information, and professionals receive a free listing in NANP’s directory, in addition to job alerts.