How to become a nutritionist

Article Sources
  • Adult Obesity Facts, Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html, Accessed August 2017
  • Occupational Employment and Wages: Dietitians and Nutritionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2016, on the internet at https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291031.htm Accessed August 2017
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Dietitians and Nutritionists, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm Accessed August 2017

According to a 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 36.5 percent of Americans are classified as obese. While nutritionists and dietitians cannot wave a magic wand to solve this problem, they can help people learn how to make smarter food choices and change unhealthy eating habits. Because of a growing interest in food's role in health and wellness, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that through 2024, nutritionists and dietitians will see 16 percent growth in their job opportunities nationwide, which is well above the average for all careers combined.

What is the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietitian?

It can be hard to understand the difference between a nutritionist and a registered dietitian. An expert adviser when it comes to food and nutrition, a registered dietitian (RD) is a nationally recognized profession certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). A nutritionist is not nationally recognized, but individual states sometimes require nutritionists to be licensed.

The new designation, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RND), was introduced to convey certification that focuses on a broader concept of wellness as well as treatment of conditions.

What do nutritionists and registered dietitians do?

Although the difference in certification between these jobs is distinct, the responsibilities of the two positions have some overlap. Some of the daily activities of each job include:

  • Answering nutritional questions and assessing health needs
  • Developing individualized meal plans
  • Monitoring the progress of clients and adjusting meal plans as needed
  • Advocating the importance of proper nutrition and exercise to individuals and communities
  • Studying the latest information on proper eating habits, disease prevention and diagnosis

What are the different educational requirements?

If you are interested in working as an RD or an RDN, the following are some of the steps you may have to take in order to qualify for the position:

  • Earn a bachelor's degree in clinical nutrition, food service systems management, dietetics, foods and nutrition, or a related field
  • Pass a competency exam
  • Complete a Dietetic Internship Program
  • Earn the RD or RDN credential
  • Earn a state license

While a bachelor’s degree is often a minimum requirement for many RD and RDN careers, many dietitians and nutritionists have advanced degrees.

How much money can dietitians and nutritionists make?

According to the BLS, the mean annual wage for nutritionists and registered dietitians in the U.S. was $59,670  in 2016. At the same time, the top five states for average annual salaries for these professions:

  • California: $71,430
  • Maryland: $67,440
  • Oregon: $67,040
  • Hawaii: $66,870
  • New Jersey: $66,540

Please consult the visual below to learn more about what nutritionists and registered dietitians do, where they work, and how they help everyday people live healthier lives.

Article Sources


How to Become a Nutritionist
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