How to Become a Nutritionist
Help your clients to develop a healthy relationship with food.
Are you the friend who's always convincing friends to run a charity 5k or explaining why everyone should eat more antioxidants and omega-3s? If your dream is to help people develop a positive relationship with food and live a healthier lifestyle, you might want to learn how to become a nutritionist.
Food has played an important role in medicine for a long time: Think about chicken noodle soup, hot tea with lemon, or your grandma's herbal remedies. Food plays just as vital a role in preventing and managing modern diseases like heart disease and diabetes. This is where nutritionists step in.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a positive nutritionist job outlook over the next 10 years: Dietitian and nutritionist jobs are projected to grow 8%, which is double the average occupational growth rate. Ready to help people learn to love food that nourishes their bodies and fuels their lives? Here’s what you need to know to learn how to become a nutritionist.
What Is a Nutritionist?
A nutritionist is a health care professional who has expert knowledge of how food contributes to good health. Nutritionist consultants coach clients in transitioning to a diet that's tailored to their specific body, lifestyle, and medical needs to prevent, manage, and treat chronic health conditions. Nutritionist researchers often manage more complicated medical situations or add to nutritional science through clinical research.
What Does a Nutritionist Do?
Nutritionists help clients adopt healthier eating habits to prevent and manage conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. A nutritionist can work with individuals who have a specific health goal or need help managing symptoms or with groups who have similar needs. Nutritionists also help clients to develop a positive, balanced relationship with food and their bodies.
Nutritionists' duties vary depending on where they work, but there are certain responsibilities that all professionals will handle at some point in their nutritionist career, including:
- Evaluating the nutritional and health needs of clients.
- Creating educational materials related to nutrition and healthy food choices.
- Developing tailor-made meal and nutrition plans while respecting clients' food preferences and budgets.
- Guiding clients on how to adopt healthy eating habits.
- Charting clients' progress.
- Remaining up to date with and contributing to the latest research on food and nutritional science.
Check out Monster's nutritionist job description to learn more.
Where Do Nutritionists Work?
Nutritionists have a multitude of choices when it comes to their workplace. They can work in health care institutions like hospitals and nursing homes, universities, research facilities, pharmacies, and even their own homes or own offices if they choose to open their own private practice.
What Is the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?
Dietitians and nutritionists are similar in that they both help clients to adopt healthier eating habits—the main difference is certification. Dietitians need to complete an extra step of obtaining a certification from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
How to Become a Nutritionist
The exact nutritionist career path you need to take varies from state to state, as not all have the same nutritionist education requirements. In certain states, you don't need a license or degree to give individualized nutrition counseling. But even in states where qualifications aren't required, many employers and clients prefer a licensed nutritionist.
Nutritionist Education Requirements
No matter which state you live in, you can get started by pursuing a bachelor's degree in nutrition science, dietetics, applied clinical nutrition, sports nutrition, or exercise science. While pursuing your nutritionist degree, you may take classes in:
- Food science
- Anatomy and physiology
- Food safety and health
- Research methods in nutrition
Although a master's degree is not necessary to learn how to become a nutritionist, it shows potential employers that you have an advanced understanding of nutrition science. If you're interested in certification, you may consider pursuing a master's program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Nutrition Professional Education (ACNPE).You'll need a doctoral degree in nutrition if you want to focus on clinical research.
Nutritionist Certificate Requirements
Instead of or in addition to completing a nutritionist degree, you can obtain a nutrition certificate that verifies that you've completed coursework in nutrition. Note that these certificate programs do not fulfill requirements for legal certification or licensure.
A few of the most common nutritionist certifications are:
- Certified Nutritional Consultant (CNC) from the American Association of Nutritional Consultants
- NASM Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC) from the National Academy of Sports Medicine
- Nutrition and Wellness Consultant Certification from the AFPA, Health, Nutrition, and Fitness
Nutritionist Certification and Licensure Requirements
Nutritionist certification or licensure is needed in some states to practice as a nutritionist. It usually requires you to have a bachelor’s degree, gain professional experience, and pass a licensing exam offered by your state. Certification can be obtained through a nationally recognized licensing body, such as the following:
- Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) from the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists
- Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) from the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board
How Long Does It Take to Become a Nutritionist?
Becoming a nutritionist can take from less than one year for those who complete a certificate program to over eight years for clinical researchers, depending on the state you want to practice in. Earning a bachelor's and a master's degree, completing a certification program, and taking the licensing exam can take about six to seven years.
How Much Do Nutritionists Make?
The median dietitian and nutritionist salary is $56,800 and can range from $45,000 to $71,500. The industries that pay the most are outpatient care centers, the government, hospitals, and nursing and residential care facilities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
You can look up the average salary for nutritionists in your location by using the Monster Salary Guide.
How to Find Nutritionist Jobs
Now that you know how to become a nutritionist, it's time to find a job in the industry. Let's start with the basics: a robust resume and cover letter. A well-written resume and cover letter is key to getting noticed by potential employers and recruiters. Customize each resume and cover letter you write to the job opening you’re targeting, including your work experience, education, skills, accomplishments, and credentials.
When you're ready to land your first job as a nutritionist, head over to Monster's list of nutritionist jobs and start sending applications.
The BLS lists the following five states as having the most dietitian and nutritionist jobs:
The five U.S. metropolitan areas with the most dietitian and nutritionist jobs are:
Not Sure What to Do Next? Romaine Calm! Monster Is Rooting for You!
If after reviewing all the steps of how to become a nutritionist, you know that a career at the forefront of promoting personal health is for you, don’t waste any more time! Ready to get started? Be seen by recruiters and potential employers by making a Monster profile for free.