Nutritionist: Career Profile, Job Outlook and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for nutritionists. Get the facts about degree requirements, salary, job duties and employment outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fitness & Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Nutritionist?

Nutritionists work to promote health and prevent disease through the use of proper nutrition. They will often work with patients to set health-related goals and work towards a healthy lifestyle, starting with what they eat. Nutritionists are trained to identify a patient's dietary needs, counsel patients on eating habits and develop meal plans to meet a patient's needs. They will evaluate a patient's progress, adjust the plan if necessary and keep detailed reports of the process. Nutritionists are often called upon to educate various groups on health topics like diet and managing certain diseases through nutrition. These professionals need to stay updated on the latest research to provide the best care possible for patients. Find out about the postsecondary training necessary to become a nutritionist. By reading the employment and salary projections and job duties in the table below, you can figure out if this field is a fit for you.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Nutrition, dietetics, food service
Key Responsibilities Plan health-conscious menus, teach about healthy eating, conduct nutritional research, review effectiveness of meal plans
Licensure/Certification Most states require nutritionists to be licensed; certification is optional
Job Growth (2014-2024)16% (for all dieticians and nutritionists)*
Median Salary (2015) $57,910 (for all dieticians and nutritionists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will My Job Duties Be as a Nutritionist?

Your duties can encompass both organization and individual planning. You might review the nutritional content of an organization's entire menu, educate the food service staff on nutritional concepts, propose changes and monitor compliance with local, state or federal regulations. Working with an individual, you might assess his or her dietary habits and devise a program that rectifies nutritional deficiencies. You may visit a client's home or consult with his or her physician to coordinate diet and medical care.

Where Could I Work?

The most prominent employers of nutritionists are institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, correctional facilities and schools that serve meals to a large number of people and must abide by federal nutrition regulations. You can also find opportunities in physician's offices, government health agencies, spas or as an independent contractor. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 60,000 people worked as dietitians and nutritionists as of 2015 ( Employment was projected to increase by 16% between 2014 and 2024.

What Degree Programs Are Appropriate?

Nutritionists must hold a 4-year bachelor's degree in food service management, dietetics, nutrition science or a related subject. Dietetics and nutrition science programs overlap considerably but have differences in orientation. Dietetics programs are concerned with promoting health and fighting disease through the application of nutrition principles to meal planning and food preparation. Nutrition science programs examine the role nutrients perform in humans and how nutritional needs vary across the human life cycle. Food service management programs add business administration concepts to a dietetics and nutrition education.

Course topics in each type of program might address food and culture, nutritional evaluation, nutritional therapy and food service delivery. Biology, biochemistry, microbiology and chemistry are possible supporting courses in dietetic and nutrition science programs. Finance, accounting and institutional management might be supporting courses in a food service management program. All bachelor's degree programs require completion of general education courses in composition, mathematics, the humanities or social sciences.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A few related careers that require a bachelor's degree include registered nurses (RNs), health educators and community health workers. RNs provide patient care in a variety of settings, such as hospitals or doctor's offices. They may also educate the public about health issues and provide emotional support to patients. Health educators educate the public and implement plans to promote wellness in individuals and communities. Community health workers collect health data and discuss issues with different groups of people or communities.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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