What Are the Duties of a Nutritionist?
Nutritionist responsibilities and daily activities include working to help their clients achieve a healthier lifestyle through nutrition education and healthy food choices. Explore various nutritionist responsibilities and other facts about the career.
Nutritionist Job Description
Students wondering 'what is a nutritionist and what do they do?' should know that a nutritionist is a professional who works with clients to give individualized food and nutrition guidelines that help the client work towards a healthier lifestyle. Nutritionists tend to use a holistic approach and consider factors like biochemistry, environment, mental health, and more to help patients. These professionals must complete formal education and training before earning state licensure to practice. Nutritionists typically work full-time and may need to keep irregular hours to work with their patients. Learn more about what a nutritionist does below.
Nutritionist Responsibilities and Daily Activities
Nutritionists work with their clients to help them reach a variety of goals, such as weight loss, healthier eating habits, and managing stress. This may involve equipping patients with tools for behavior modification and adjusting their dietary approach. Nutritionists may work in a clinical or community setting but in general, these professionals may be responsible for duties such as:
- Evaluating clients' health needs
- Discussing nutrition and eating habits with clients
- Developing educational resources for clients
- Determining the best nutrition plan for each client
- Adjusting plans as needed
- Monitoring clients' progress
- Staying updated on the latest research in the field
- Helping clients manage disease (such as diabetes) through nutrition
Clinical Nutritionist Responsibilities
Clinical nutritionists typically work in hospitals and other medical facilities with patients who need medical nutrition therapy. Some of these nutritionists may specialize in working with a specific subset of patients, such as those with diabetes or kidney disease. These professionals focus on using nutrition to help manage the disease and improve a patient's overall health. Specific job duties may include:
- Screening patients for nutritional risk
- Developing medical nutrition therapy plans
- Discussing plans with doctors and other health care team members
- Talking about nutritional issues with patients and their families
Community Nutritionist Responsibilities
Community nutritionists tend to work in nonprofit agencies, public health clinics, government agencies, and other organizations with direct contact with the public. These nutritionists work to educate the public on nutrition, food, and other health-related topics. Job duties for community nutritionists may include:
- Speaking to groups about nutrition and health
- Creating educational programs for the public concerning nutrition
- Developing programs/plans for specific demographics (elderly, adolescents, etc.)
While students can pursue an associate's degree in nutrition up to a Ph.D. in Nutrition, most nutritionists only need a bachelor's degree. Some bachelor's degree programs, such as a bachelor's degree in holistic nutrition, are available in online formats, but many of these degree programs are on-campus due to the hands-on nature of the field.
Students can most commonly pursue a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nutrition. These programs may offer tracks to become registered dieticians or tracks that lead to other nutrition-related careers in research, community work, and more. These degree programs usually include an internship and/or other hands-on experiences working with clients.
Nutritionists must also usually meet state requirements for licensure to practice. Some states may accept the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential from the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists. This credential requires a graduate degree in nutrition, an exam, and over 1,000 hours of supervised experience.
In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that dieticians and nutritionists made an average annual salary of $61,210. The highest level of employment for these professionals was in general medical and surgical hospitals, where they made an average salary of $62,640. The highest average salary of $73,910 was made by dieticians and nutritionists working in the grantmaking and giving services industry the same year.
The BLS also reported a much faster than average job outlook for dieticians and nutritionists of 11% from 2018 to 2028. This may be due to the growing levels of obesity in the nation and the need for these professionals to provide care to patients.