How to Become a Nutritionist
Nutritionist Careers & Degrees

A nutritionist works with clients, schools, and organizations to provide education and advice about healthy eating habits.

A nutritionist will work with a client to look at their current diet and provide a balanced meal plan to ensure they are getting all the essential nutrients.

Many nutritionists work in hospitals and nursing homes and will perform rounds, much like a medical doctor.

They will speak with each patient about their eating habits, as well as communicate with their doctor to determine a meal plan.

Nutritionists also perform a similar function working out of physicians offices.

Some nutritionists are self-employed and have their own office.

If you enjoy science, are interested in health, and want a job where you work with people, then you should consider a career path as a nutritionist.

There is currently strong growth within the health care industry, so this is a field with good employment prospects.

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Education Requirements to Become a Nutritionist

In almost all places, you are required to be licensed or certified to work as a nutritionist.

The requirements between states vary, but at a minimum you will need a college degree to qualify.

In some places, you may also need a masters degree in nutrition.

The American Society for Nutrition is a good place to start researching a career in this field.

To become a nutritionist, you should study subjects like math, biology, chemistry, health, and English while you are in high school.

You will also need a minimum of a four-year college degree in dietetics, food and nutrition services, or food systems management.

Having an academic background that includes areas like business, statistics, psychology and sociology is also beneficial.

Most accredited courses contain a practical component, similar to an internship.

You will be required to work in a hospital or clinic for a designated amount of hours to get hands-on experience as a nutritionist.

Nutritionist Job Description

A nutritionist’s primary duty is to provide dietary advice to their patients.

They will usually meet with a client one on one to discuss their current eating habits.

They will then prepare a meal plan for the client, and also give them some information about healthy eating, and explain the reasons behind their choice of diet plan.

Here are some of the tasks for which a nutritionist might be responsible:

  • Meeting with clients
  • Discussing clients lifestyle and current diet
  • Providing a meal plan
  • Providing nutritional advice
  • Developing educational materials
  • Communicating with medical practitioners
  • Analyzing research and statistics

Nutritionists work in a range of environments.

The majority work in hospitals, nursing homes, and with other physicians, and may see a large amount of patients in one day.

Others provide more specialty services and operate out of their own consulting offices.

They may help clients with a specific requirement, for instance athletes, people looking to lose weight, or people with food allergies.

Nutritionist Salary and Career Path

Most nutritionists will get their first job working in a hospital or nursing home.

After they are more experienced, they may choose to open their own practice and provide a specialized service.

To become a nutritionist with a private practice, it is important to have a strong network of medical staff who will provide referrals and also be involved in promotion and marketing to the public.

Many nutritionists take on administration roles in hospitals, go on to complete research, or become educators or teachers in the industry.

The median salary of a nutritionist is $45,000 a year.

An entry level role would pay around $35,000 a year.

The top 10% of nutritionists earn over $58,000 a year.

If you’re interested in health and enjoy science, then you should consider a job as a nutritionist.

Employment is secure and this is an industry experiencing growth.

There is also a good amount of variety within the role.

If you become a nutritionist, you will be able to help clients lead healthier lives which can be very rewarding.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$62,330
$38K
$50K
$62K
$74K
$87K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$56,050
Alaska$72,640
Arizona$56,850
Arkansas$59,450
California$77,040
Colorado$61,080
Connecticut$68,350
Delaware$65,060
District of Columbia$69,030
Florida$62,530
Georgia$50,580
Hawaii$71,230
Idaho$51,050
Illinois$59,160
Indiana$56,860
Iowa$52,000
Kansas$57,930
Kentucky$57,970
Louisiana$56,740
Maine$60,640
Maryland$68,550
Massachusetts$72,610
Michigan$56,070
Minnesota$63,710
Mississippi$50,530
Missouri$57,590
Montana$52,030
Nebraska$54,940
Nevada$62,940
New Hampshire$61,320
New Jersey$70,550
New Mexico$58,440
New York$68,590
North Carolina$56,830
North Dakota$58,840
Ohio$58,700
Oklahoma$59,970
Oregon$70,170
Pennsylvania$59,160
Rhode Island$62,320
South Carolina$56,650
South Dakota$55,270
Tennessee$55,180
Texas$57,030
Utah$58,450
Vermont$61,630
Virginia$59,790
Washington$64,770
West Virginia$59,170
Wisconsin$57,060
Wyoming$59,040
Guam$52,100
Puerto Rico$41,780

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $77,040.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $77,040
Alaska - $72,640
Massachusetts - $72,610
Hawaii - $71,230
New Jersey - $70,550
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Dietitians and Nutritionists, OCC Code 29-1031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat is a nutritionist?

Nutritionists advise their clients regarding the best eating habits and explain how diets affect metabolism.

Many nutritionists create customized nutritional programs based on the needs of their clients.

Nutritionists can work in a large variety of settings, such as schools, gyms, nursing homes, and hospitals.

They may also be responsible for buying food and overseeing kitchen staff.

Many states require nutritionists to hold a state license in order to practice.

As a nutritionist, you have to have good interpersonal skills, to be able to understand the science related to nutrition and metabolism and be able to motivate your clients.

Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) are professionals who have an advanced degree in nutrition from a fully accredited institution.

Most nutritionists work full time but they may also work evenings and weekends in order to accommodate patient needs.

QuestionHow much does a nutritionist make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists was $60,370 in May 2018.

Salaries in this field vary based on a variety of factors, including the field of employment; some earn less than $40,000 a year while others make more than $80,000.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a nutritionist?

Educational requirements vary by state and employer.

Many states require nutritionists to hold a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition or a related area in order to apply for licensure.

Tuition costs for bachelor’s degree programs in nutrition can be anywhere between $5,000 and more than $20,000 a year, depending on the school and program you choose.

Diploma programs are also available in this field and usually cost between $600 and $2,000.

A master’s degree program in nutrition costs between $20,000-$65,000.

Certification or licensure requirements for nutritionists differ in each state but registration costs are between $100-$350.

QuestionWhat is the demand for nutritionists?

The wellness industry is in constant growth and employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Holding an advanced degree in this field will give you better job prospects.

Nutritionists will be needed to help prevent and treat obesity, to help the elderly or to assist consumers in making healthy food choices.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a nutritionist?

The answer to this question varies depending on the state where you want to practice and the licensure requirements.

To be able to register with the Association for Nutrition you need an accredited undergraduate or postgraduate degree in nutrition science.

You can find the list of accredited degrees on the Association for Nutrition’s website.

Some states require nutritionists to hold a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field, which usually can be obtained in around 4 years.

In some states, you only need a certificate or associate’s degree to be eligible for your nutritionist license, and these can be achieved in two years or less.

In order to obtain the Certified Nutrition Specialist credential, Nutrition and Health Professional candidates must complete 1,000 hours of supervised practice.

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