Pediatric Nutritionist: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a pediatric nutritionist. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Fitness & Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pediatric Nutritionist?

Pediatric nutritionists, also called pediatric dietitians, design nutrition plans for children and families. When working with individual clients, they assess the dietary needs of the child and develop a plan that is specifically tailored to their needs. The plan may be designed primarily to ensure normal growth and instill lifelong eating habits, or it can be part of a treatment plan for an illness or chronic condition, like celiac disease or lactose intolerance. Some pediatric nutritionists also plan meals for larger groups of children at schools or children's hospitals, where they work to develop a general program that can support the needs of many different children.

The following chart describes some career expectations for pediatric nutritionists.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Education Field of Study Dietetics, nutrition, food service management and similar fields
Licensure Required Most states require a license
Key Responsibilities Planning nutrition programs, advising patients and their families on how to develop healthy eating habits to prevent and treat major health issues in hospital, school and private clinic settings
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for all nutritionists and dietitians*
Average Salary (2015) $58,410 for all nutritionists and dietitians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Does a Pediatric Nutritionist Do?

A pediatric nutritionist, also called a pediatric dietitian, specializes in the dietary needs of growing infants and children. They plan nutrition programs and advise patients and their families how to develop healthy eating habits to prevent and treat health issues such as diabetes and obesity. Pediatric nutritionists can be found working in hospitals, private clinics and schools. Most people who work in the field of nutrition and dietetics are employed in outpatient care centers.

What Education and Certification Do I Need?

A pediatric nutritionist is a registered dietitian (R.D.) that has specialized in nutrition for children, so you must first become a registered dietitian. You could enroll in a bachelor's degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. As a dietetics major, you would study nutritional science, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, culinary arts, sociology and communication. You would also study biology, anatomy, and chemistry. Besides the coursework, an accredited experiential program is required for certification.

You must also pass an exam issued by the Commission on Dietetics Registration to earn your certification as a registered dietitian. Even after certification, you need to continue your education with 75 credit hours every five years. Laws governing the practice of dietitians vary by state.

How Can I Get Experience?

Participating in a dietetic internship after attaining a bachelor's degree is one way to get clinical experience in graduate school. An online graduate program in clinical pediatric nutrition is another option that would hone your skills in a particular area of pediatric nutrition and provide you with an opportunity to use your knowledge in clinical practice. You could participate in courses in pediatric nutrition plus specialty courses that would give you expertise working with high-risk infants and newborns or children with special health needs.

Further experience can be gained by working in hospitals or ambulatory community care through a pediatric nutrition fellowship program. Participating in such a program could prepare you to manage the nutrition of high-risk infants, children and adolescents. Prior clinical experience is necessary for a fellowship, and you should also be enrolled in a master's degree program.

What Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2015 that the average annual salary for dietitians and nutritionists was $58,410. The industries that paid the largest salaries to dietitians and nutritionists were grantmaking services, grocery wholesalers and the federal government. Experience also impacts annual pay.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want a job supporting the health of children, you could consider becoming a registered pediatric nurse (RN). Nurses can provide advice on many health-related issues, healthy lifestyle practices like nutrition and exercise. For patients with conditions that can be improved with better nutrition, they may work as part of a healthcare team that also includes nutritionists. To become a registered nurse, you need to complete an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Alternatively, if you want to get a job in the food industry, you could think about becoming a food services manager. In this job, you would be responsible for overseeing the operations of a food service establishment like a restaurant, cafeteria or catering company. This would include staff supervision, budget allocation and food preparation oversight. The minimum educational requirement for food services managers is a high school diploma, but previous industry experience can boost your job prospects.

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