What Is A Nutritionist? Duties, Salary, & How to Become One

what is a nutritionist
Image source: Beaumont Health

According to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, three-fourths of the U.S. population consumes less than the recommended amount of vegetables, fruits, and healthy fat while exceeding the guidelines for added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. While these figures show how difficult it may be to avoid junk food, they are also influenced by people’s culture, age, lifestyle, disease, and exercise levels. Not to mention our society’s changing attitudes toward specific nutrients. So, who should you talk to to figure out what nutrients you should be getting? Here’s all you need to know about a nutritionist and how to become one.

What Is a Nutritionist?

A nutritionist is someone who advises others on what foods to eat in order to live a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health objective, such as losing weight or lowering blood pressure.

Most dietitians work in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care institutions, or medical offices, but they can also be found in a variety of other settings.

A nutritionist may be needed to have specific qualifications, certificates, or a license depending on the state in which they operate. However, there are no such regulations in some states, which means that anyone can use the title if they wish to.

What Do Nutritionists Do?

Nutrition is a field of study with numerous real-world applications. Nutritionists interact with the general public through two main areas of specialization.

Clinical Nutritionists

Clinical nutritionists operate in either inpatient or outpatient settings. In analyzing, creating, and implementing dietary plans and nutritional therapy, this is generally done one-on-one with individuals as well as their families.

The goal is frequently to address a specific medical concern, which can include:

  • Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure
  • Diabetes, or diseases that cause an excess of sugar in the blood
  • Obesity is defined as an abnormal accumulation of fat that can lead to a variety of health problems.

Clinical nutritionists are also relied upon to devise a plan of action when a treatment program, such as chemotherapy, has an impact on an individual’s overall diet or causes specific food sensitivities.

Community Nutritionists

Nutritionists can work in the following fields:

  • Schools
  • Clinics for community health
  • Recreational facilities
  • Programs run by local, state, and federal governments
  • HMOs (Health Maintenance Organizations)

Specific populations, such as children, the elderly, and at-risk families, are frequently targeted in programs meant to address specific nutritional challenges in these settings.

Nutritionists are among those who help explain the implications, educate the public, and implement plans of action for meeting the new goals as the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services publish revised USDA Dietary Guidelines based on the most recent scientific data.

Where Can You Find a Nutritionist?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that between 2021 and 2031, there will be around 5,600 additional employment for nutritionists and dietitians. With this much development, combined with the availability of flexible online nutrition degree programs, the job options for individuals are bright.

Nutritionists can work in a variety of settings, including private practice, industry, research, publishing, and university.

Nutritionists may find employment in a variety of settings, including:

  • Personal practices
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Clinics that provide holistic treatment
  • Sporting venues
  • Companies that produce nutraceuticals
  • Corporations
  • Non-profit and community health groups

What Does a Nutritionist Do on a Daily Basis?

The day-to-day work of a nutritionist is determined by their chosen workplace and expertise. For example, if your work is mainly administrative, you will be in charge of managing your staff’s performance and may not have much face-to-face time with individual clients.

A nutritionist may also be responsible for developing nutrition education materials, talking with clients, advising therapeutic dietary modifications, publishing reports, or giving clinical support to other healthcare providers.

Nutritionists, in general, do daily activities such as:

  • Educating the client on nutrition and how it affects them.
  • Evaluating clients’ health and diet.
  • Setting short-term and long-term health objectives.
  • Creating meal planning while keeping expenses and customer preferences in mind.
  • Evaluating the effects of meal programs and making necessary changes.
  • Giving diet and nutrition seminars to groups to promote better nutrition.
  • Keeping up with the most recent nutritional science studies.

While your day-to-day responsibilities may change, as a nutritionist, your primary focus will always be on nutrition and how it affects health.

Specialties of a Nutritionist

Some nutritionists identify an area of practice where they want to concentrate their efforts. Additional training and a broader range of expertise may be required to become a specialist.

Nutritionist for athletes

Athletes and active adults who want to improve their athletic performance might seek advice from sports specialists. Sports dietitians are increasingly being hired to provide nutrition and hydration regimens tailored to certain athletes or teams.

Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) is a new accreditation for sports nutrition professionals. If you’re looking for a sports nutritionist in your area, the International Society of Sports Nutrition has a trustworthy online search directory to help you.

Nutritionist for Children

These professionals work to improve the nutritional health of newborns, children, and adolescents. For registered dietitians, the Commission on Dietetic Registration now offers Board Certification as a Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition.

Nutritionist for Seniors

These professionals create, implement, and monitor safe and effective dietary solutions to improve the health and well-being of older persons. These specialists have what is called “must-have” expertise at a time when nutrition is becoming even more recognized as a key component of healthy aging and disease management.

Nutritionist specializing in renal or nephrology

Individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which defines the progressive loss of kidney function, require dietary therapy. It is critical for someone who is informed about specialized dietary needs to assess and provide tailored medical nutrition therapy (MNT) to patients with this illness.

MNT, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, can slow the progression of CKD, prevent or treat consequences like malnutrition, and enhance quality of life. MNT can also help to reduce healthcare costs.

Average Salary of a Nutritionist

A nutritionist’s average annual pay in the United States is $52,669, with others earning between $14,000 and $123,000. Salary is determined by the employer, experience, education, and location. Because they have a bachelor’s degree and certification, registered dietitians often earn a higher salary.

How To Become A Nutritionist

While the processes to becoming a nutritionist differ based on the nutritionist job route you choose, the following are the most common and consistent:

#1. Choose between becoming a nutritionist and a qualified dietitian.

Nutritionists and registered dietitians both study nutrition and help people choose healthier foods, but there are several differences that may influence your career choice:


Nutritionists oversee overall nutritional behaviors and objectives. Dietitians are trained to diagnose and treat eating problems as well as other medical diseases.

The education requirements for nutritionists vary by state. Depending on where you live, you may be permitted to provide nutritional advise without being certified. To become a registered dietitian, you must first obtain a certification granted by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

Title Recognition

The title “nutritionist” is not legally recognized in the United States. Registered dietitians, on the other hand, are nationally recognized and have legal protection for their title. It is critical to recognize that a dietitian is a nutritionist, but a nutritionist is not always a dietitian.

After deciding on a career route, earn a Bachelor of Science in Health, Nutrition, or a related discipline, such as dietetics or food service system management. A Bachelor of Science in Nutrition or Health Care Administration Leadership, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with an emphasis in health care, are popular degrees among nutritionist professionals.

A Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition is required to become a clinical nutritionist. This curriculum will include more advanced topics such as advanced biochemistry, research and evidence-based practice, and counseling. As a clinical nutritionist, you will concentrate on an individual’s nutrition rather than the demands of the entire population.

Choose a bachelor’s degree that has been accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics if you want to become a registered dietitian.

#3. Increase your education by pursuing a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in Nutrition.

While additional degrees are not often required to work as a nutritionist, they can lead to roles as an instructor or researcher in the area. A master’s degree is also required to become a certified nutritionist.

A master’s degree program can be completed in an extra two years of full-time study. Statistics, medical nutrition therapy, molecular biology, public politics, and health issues are frequently covered in coursework.

If you want to pursue a doctorate in nutrition, you can take graduate-level nutrition, chemistry, and biology classes, as well as advanced nutrition and research applications. You must also conduct fieldwork and write a dissertation.

#4. Complete internships to allow you to gain valuable experience.

You should complete an internship, either during your college school or immediately after graduation, to obtain hands-on experience and networking benefits. Most certifications require prior experience. Depending on your objectives, you should put in 500 to 1200 hours of experience in a nutrition-related workplace.

#5. Learn about the certification requirements in your state.

The certification and licensing criteria for dietitians vary by state. Some states require dietitians to be certified in order to function lawfully, whereas others do not.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) presents a list of states that do not require formal certification, license, or occupational regulation for nutritionists. Investigate the criteria in your area.

Be aware that some businesses prefer to hire qualified nutritionists, even in states where nutritionists are not required to be licensed. The conditions will also vary depending on the type of nutritionist you wish to be.

#6. Obtain a nutritionist certification that is recognized.

To increase your chances of finding work, you should become certified and registered with a nationally recognized organization. The following are examples of common nutritionist certifications:

CNS (Certified Nutrition Specialist)

To earn this certification, you must have a Master’s Degree in Nutrition or a related discipline, at least 1,000 hours of practical experience, and a passing grade on the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS) nutritionist certification boards.

Nutritionist in Clinical Practice

A Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition is required, as well as extra courses in herbology, nutrition and aging, and nutrition. Then, pass the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) exam.

Health Coach Certification

A Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition is required, as is a passing score on an examination administered by a credentialing organization such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) or the National Society of Health Coaches (NSHC).

Sports Nutritionist Certification

A Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition and a passing score on the Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) test are required to achieve this certification.

Holistic Nutritionist Certification

To obtain these credentials, you must finish a National Association of Nutrition Professionals-approved course, gain a minimum of 500 hours of practical experience, and pass a certification exam administered by the Holistic Nutrition Credentialing Board.

#7. Become a registered dietitian nutritionist.

If you want to receive Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Registered Dietitian (RD) credentials from the CDR, you must first graduate from an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics-approved bachelor’s degree program and then complete a minimum of 1,200 hours of supervised experience at an accredited community agency, healthcare facility, or foodservice corporation. The Commission on Dietetic Registration then requires you to pass a national exam.

#8. Keep your certification current.

To keep their board certification, registered dietitians must complete continuing professional education requirements each year. Certified clinical nutritionists, for example, must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years.

They must also complete a recertification exam every five years. RDs must develop a learning plan and keep an activity diary to show how they are carrying it out. They must also complete a professional growth evaluation throughout their first five years of practice.

Degrees Required for Nutritionists

Anyone who has earned a degree in nutrition can usually call oneself a nutritionist. This could include a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, a master’s degree in nutrition, or a Master of Public Health with a nutrition specialization. The number of years of study and training required will vary depending on whether you want to be a certified nutrition expert (CNS) or a certified/clinical nutritionist (CN).

The Board of Certification for Nutrition Specialists (BCNS) regulates certifications such as certified nutrition specialist (CNS). The following qualifications are required to become a certified nutrition specialist:

  • A master’s or doctoral degree in nutrition or a related subject
  • 35 hours of relevant curriculum related to customized nutrition practice
  • 1,000 hours of practice under supervision
  • Reports on five BCNS tailored nutrition case studies

What Is the Difference Between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian?

Nutritionists deal with general dietary goals and behaviors, as opposed to dietitians, who are competent to diagnose eating disorders and plan diets to address specific medical diseases. Nutritionists are frequently employed in schools, hospitals, cafeterias, nursing homes, and sporting groups.

Does a Nutritionist Help You Lose Weight?

A skilled nutritionist can assist you in reaching your objectives by creating a customised plan based on your health status, unique demands, and lifestyle.

Is It Worth Getting A Nutritionist?

If your food is a major cause of your sickness, a nutritionist may be able to assist reduce its severity. They can assist you in developing a positive relationship with food. A qualified nutritionist will not only assist you in determining what to eat, but they will also assist you in maintaining a positive connection with your diet. 

Is It Better To See A Dietician Or A Nutritionist For Weight Loss?

According to researchers, working with a qualified dietician may be the most effective strategy for many people to lose weight. 

In Summary

A nutritionist is a specialist in the use of food and nutrition to treat and improve general health. Nutritionists can work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, and health clinics.

Individuals with general health concerns may seek advice from a dietitian. Some may also have a specialization.

While the terms nutritionist and dietitian are frequently used interchangeably, they have distinct definitions, educational qualifications, and areas of concentration.

  1. The Role of Family Support in Student Mental Health and Well-being
  2. COMMUNITY SERVICE BLOCK GRANT: Programs, Applications, Scams
  3. CASE MANAGEMENT: Definition, Models, Examples, and Processes
  4. SOCIAL WORKER: Career Objectives, Salary, Requirements & How to Become One


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like