How to Become a Nutritionist
Nutritionist Job Details
Skills and Qualities Needed to Become a Nutritionist
Nutritionist Salary
Influential Professional Nutritionists
Leading Nutritionist Organizations
Top Cities for Nutritionist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Nutritionist

The best way to become a dietitian or nutritionist in the United States is to obtain a bachelor's degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related field. Nutritionists are considered experts in matters regarding the human body and how diet affects the human body. Because a nutritionist provides consultation regarding lifestyle, food, nutrition, and giving expert advice on how to eat healthy and eat right, the completion of a four-year accredited nutrition degree program at a college or university is required.

High school students who are looking to pursue a career as a nutritionist should take courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, health, and communications. College students should make sure they take courses in foods, nutrition, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, institution management and health, communications, and physiology.

Thirty-five States and jurisdictions require licensure, and license requirements vary according to each State. In these States, only people who are licensed can work as dietitians and nutritionists. If you intend to become a nutritionist, you need to be aware of the requirements of the State in which you choose to practice before taking for any exam.

Although it is not required, the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association provides a Registered Dietitian credential to those individuals who complete the required academic course work, a supervised internship, and who pass their national exam. This is not the same as the licensure that is required by some States that was discussed previously.

To obtain a Registered Dietitian credential, you must complete an accredited Commission on Dietetic Registration program, which generally lasts 4 to 5 years. You can also complete an accredited 900-hour, supervised practice experience internship program, which can last from 6 months to 2 years. To maintain the status of Registered Dietitian, you must complete at least 75 credit hours of approved continuing education classes every 5 years.

What does a Nutritionist do?

Nutritionists are mainly responsible for planning diets for patients and educating people about healthy eating habits. Their job is to study, interpret, formulate or develop client and patient eating patterns. Besides this, a nutritionist also provides counseling on the required lifestyle and essential exercises for a healthy life. The goal of the nutritionist is to encourage patients or clients to acquire new eating habits to combat illness and disease.

Specifically, nutritionists plan diets for patients and educate people about eating healthy foods. Some supervise food preparation and service food operations for hospitals and schools, and promote sound, healthy eating habits through education.

Typically, the nutritionist plans and suggests diets for various cases. He or she supervises the preparation of food, and applies their knowledge for the development of diet therapies regarding various conditions. In such cases, the nutritionist analyzes foods, food content, and food labels, prepares literature for distribution, and provides detailed reports on dietary fiber, vitamin supplements, or the nutritional content of food recipes.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Nutritionist?

If you are thinking about becoming a nutritionist, it is important for you to have a passion for healthy eating, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Good communication and interpersonal skills are highly desirable, and teamwork is an absolute necessity.

The skills and qualities you need to become a nutritionist are: the ability to lead and persuade others, a willingness to help and instruct others, being a problem-solver, demonstrating creativity and initiative, and enjoy contact with the public. Many nutritionists are on their feet for much of the workday, so good physical stamina is required.

As most nutritionists provide ongoing coaching and support to their patients and clients, you must possess caring and patience for the people you are helping. True dietary change takes time and continued effort, and most clients and patients require ongoing support. Therefore, a nutritionist must demonstrate the ability to work well with others, and be willing to be accountable to medical personnel, patients and clients.

How much does a Nutritionist make?

A Nutritionist's salary can vary according to the place of employment, experience, and geographical location. On average, a nutritionist salary in the United States as of May 2007 was $50,030. Fifty to ninety percent of all Nutritionists made between $49,010 and $71,130 during the same year. Nutritionists who work in outpatient care centers often make more money than those working in hospitals and nursing care facilities. Nutritionists who employ others or those who own their private practice in the diet and nutrition industry make significantly more than all others in this field.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

The late Ann Litt, MS, RD, LD was an author of three books, and a nutritionist who traveled throughout the United States teaching nutritionists the basics of starting a private practice. She was a consultant for the White House Athletic Center and member of the Washington Bullets professional basketball team. Georgia Kostas, MPH, RD, Marilyn Laskowiski-Sachnoff, MA, RD, and Margaret Powers, PhD, RD, CDE were winners of the distinguished 2007 American Dietetic Association's Medallion Awards. Becky Dorner, RD, LD won for best consultation and business practice, and Linda Hofmeister, MM, RD, LD, FADA, CHE, won for best management practice.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The American Dietetic Association (ADA), headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The ADA and its credentialing agency, the Commission on Dietetic Registration's mission is to enhance the nation's health, and advance the nutrition and dietetics profession through research, education and advocacy.

The International & American Associations of Clinical Nutritionists (IAACN) is a professional organization of practicing clinical nutritionists who work in a variety of health care professions. The organization ensures that nutritionists maintain the highest standards of competency and practice in the nutrition and dietetics industry. Nutrition Entrepreneurs (NE) is a dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association. The organization's goal is to help members reach their professional and financial potential by providing them with the tools they need to build and maintain a successful nutrition-related business.

What are the top cities for Nutritionist jobs?

Prospects for people who are interested in nutritionist jobs are excellent. Top cities for nutritionist jobs are Oakland, Freemont, and Hayward, California, followed second by San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara, California. The top third cities for nutritionist jobs are San Francisco, San Mateo, and Redwood City, California, while Modesto, California is fourth. Leominster, Massachusetts come in a distant fifth place. Nutritionist jobs are projected to increase by 9 percent between 2006 and 2016.

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