How to Become a Nutritionist:
The Definitive Guide


Fad diets are out.

Good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are in.

As a person who loves eating healthy, maintaining a good weight, and helping others, you may be just the right one to start a career as a Nutritionist.

Every day, more and more people are seeking the advice of Nutritionists in order to proclaim a better, more active, lifestyle.

If this sounds like something you would be interested in, read on to find out more information.


What is a Nutritionist?

As a Nutritionist, it is your duty to understand the health benefits of eating and exercising habits.

When speaking with a client, a Nutritionist will begin by assessing the client’s dietary practices and physical needs.

Then, the Nutritionist will discuss changes the client can make to their diet or lifestyle.

Working together, the client and Nutritionist can solve ailments, disorders, and other issues together.

You’ll provide encouragement and motivation to your clients to ensure that they keep on task and begin the journey they desire.

Duties

As a Nutritionist, you’ll work closely with each client to fully understand their needs.

Some of the things that you can expect to do on a daily basis include:

  • Create meal plans for clients who wish to lose weight
  • Consult with clients about healthy choices
  • Provide nutritional counseling
  • Research fitness and health
  • Educate the public on health issues

Salary

As a Nutritionist in the United States, you can expect to make around $62,000 a year on average.

Those that are just starting out in the career will likely make less at around $56,000.

With more education, experience, certifications, and location, many Nutritionists can end up making around $68,000 a year.

People who work in larger cities with a higher population will likely make more than those who have a career in a small town.

Any extra education or certification will help you when it comes to salary as well, many employers look for extra knowledge and competence before hiring.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $62,330

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

Average Annual 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

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

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.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become a Nutritionist

Step 1Obtain an Associates Degree

There are several paths to walk down on your journey to becoming a Nutritionist.

The logical first step is education.

You’ll want to begin with an Associates’ degree in a field like Science.

The Associate of Science degree in Nutrition will give you a basic overview of what is expected in this career.

Students that enroll in this program will likely take general courses, as well as specific courses to prepare you for work in the field.

Some of the classes you’ll likely take include math, writing and public speaking, Biology, weight management theory, sports nutrition and sustainable food systems.

An Associates’ degree can typically take two years to finish, but you’ll be halfway done with your Bachelor’s if you decide to go this route.

Step 2Earn a Bachelors Degree

After you have earned your Associates’s degree, it’s time to think about greener pastures, your Bachelor’s degree.

Many entry-level Nutritionists have a Bachelor’s degree in a field such as Food Science, Microbiology, Anatomy, Psychology and Dietetics.

Bachelor’s degrees can take around four years to complete, but if you’ve gained an Associates’ degree, it will only take around two more years.

Something else to think about when obtaining your Bachelor’s degree is an internship.

Internships provide on the job training and education that a classroom just can’t provide.

This can also help you with a career in the future.

An internship is not mandatory, but it will give you an extra push.

Step 3Become Certified

Perfect.

You’ve graduated from college, you’ve got a bright shiny new degree, so now what?

It’s time to get certified.

Licensing and certification requirements are different in each state, so you will want to check your local procedures before moving forward.

Some states require special certifications, while others require that you complete an exam to show your knowledge.

If you are looking for a couple of specific qualifications that may work in your state, check out the Registered Dietician Nutritionist and the Registered Dietician credentials.

In order to earn one of these certifications, you’ll need to:

  • Graduate from an accredited degree program
  • Complete a supervised practice program
  • Pass a national test
  • Complete continued training requirements

If you have obtained a Master’s degree and have worked for 1000 hours of experience, you are able to earn the Certified Nutrition Specialist credential.

Keep in mind that you may need to become recertified every few years in order to maintain good standing.

Step 4Complete an Advanced Degree

This is an entirely optional route.

You don’t have to do anything beyond your Bachelor’s degree if you don’t want to.

However, if you expect to work as an educator or researcher in the nutrition field, this may be the best plan for you.

A Master’s degree program can take around two years to complete as well.

Some of the classes you can expect to take include:

  • Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Public Policy and Health Issues

You can likely find Nutritionist Masters degree programs online so you don’t even have to leave your house to go to school.

Step 5Find Your Career

It’s likely that by this point you’ve already secured a career in the field that you have studied so hard for.

However, if not, then this is your perfect chance to get out there and show the world what you can do.

Nutritionists typically work in hospitals, long term care facilities, clinics, as well as private practices.

Clinical Nutritionists provide medical nutrition therapy.

Community Nutritionists create programs and counsel the public on topics related to food and nutrition.

Management Dieticians create meal plans in foodservice.


Education

There are a few choices you can make when you decide that you would like to go to school to become a Nutritionist.

First, you must decide if you’d like to gain your Associates, Bachelors, or Masters degree (Even Doctoral at some levels as well!).

Once you have decided what you want to do, you’ll need to enroll in a program.

Most Associate degree programs can take up to two years.

A Bachelors’s program can take you an additional two years.

While a Master’s can add on another two years to that, which means a total of six years of school, plus an internship.

You are able to do the internship while in the program, which should cut down on some time. In order to become a Registered Nutritionist, you will need at least a Bachelor’s degree in the field.

Some of the courses you can expect to take include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Disease
  • Counseling strategies

Plus many more.

Expect to earn a degree in Clinical Nutrition, Dietetics, Foods, and Nutrition, or Food Service Systems Management.

When it comes to your Master’s degree, there are several programs that you can begin.

As long as you are a licensed Nutritionist, you can get your Masters degree as a/an:

  • Clinical Nutritionist- Works in places like hospitals, long term care facilities and clinics.
  • Public Health Nutritionist- Works in community organizations like the government.
  • Animal Nutritionist- Works with animals in a vet clinic or farm.
  • Sports Nutritionist- Works with athletes.
  • Management Nutritionist- Plans meals in clinical settings.
  • Nutritional Consultant- Works in a private practice providing counseling.

As a Nutritionist, you will have many opportunities, and the more education that you receive, the wider the horizon becomes.

It’s possible to create an incredible career with only an Associate’s degree, however many Nutritionists suggest at least obtaining your Bachelor’s degree in order to get the best from your career.

Video About The Career


Certification & Licensing

Every state is different when it comes to the licensing procedure that they implement.

You will need to check with your state’s local boards to know what you are required to do.

However, in case you do require certification or licensing, you must know that in order to become licensed you must:

  • Obtain a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school.
  • Complete 6-12 months of work in an accredited program.
  • Pass the CDR test.
  • Maintain certifications.

Some of the most desired certifications include:

Certified Nutritional Consultant- which can you become after passing the open-book exam administered by the American Associate of Nutritional Consultants

Certified Clinical Nutritionist- this must be done through the Clinical Nutritionist Certification Board.

In order to become a CCN, you’ll need:

  • A Bachelors or Masters degree
  • 900-hour internship completion
  • 56 hours in nutritional studies
  • Pass the test given by the CNCB
  • 40 hours of continued education every two years
  • Pass a recertification test in 5 years

Certified Nutrition Specialist- this certification is a little more difficult to obtain.

You’ll need:

  • Masters or Doctoral degree
  • 1,000 hours of supervised internship
  • Pass the exam by the CBNS
  • Finish 75 hours of education credits every 5 years

Many of the exams will cover the same types of subjects.

If you are preparing for a certification exam, you may want to study up on:

  • Food Science
  • Nutritional composition of food
  • Sustainability
  • Planning and Intervention
  • Quality Improvement
  • Screening and Assessment
  • Diagnosis

These certifications are just the tip of the iceberg, there are many more career paths to follow as a Nutritionist.

If you are considering a career as a Nutritionist, it would be wise to look into the licensing requirements for your state before you begin a program.

This way, you’ll know what is required of you before you begin a long process.

Certification Example:

nutritionist certification example

Average Training Program Duration: 4+ Years

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

As of 2019, the job outlook for a Nutritionist in the United States is expected to grow around 11 percent in the next ten years.

This is much faster than many other careers in the same field.

The reason for this rise is that many companies, including hospitals, schools, and offices are adopting the idea of having a Nutritionist on board to help staff and clients.

Also, the baby boomer generation is growing older, which means more people are required to have dietary restrictions.

This is a very lucrative career with many possibilities and will not be stopped any time soon.

Employment Growth Projection: 11%

70,900
2018
78,900
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 8,000 jobs.

Nutritionist: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Nutritionist?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

One of the great things about a career as a Nutritionist is that the satisfaction of the work is incredible.

There are flexible hours within this career, especially if you work on your own.

Plus, many people find that it is easy to gain raises and promotions.

This is more likely after certifications and education, but the possibilities are endless.

The downside to this career is that the stress level can be high at times, especially when you are working with more than one client at a time.

Average Salary: High

Average Salary

The average salary for a Nutritionist in the United States is around $62,000 a year.

Nutritionists that are new in the field can expect to make around $56,000 a year.

Those that have more experience, education and certifications can expect a salary of around $68,000 a year.

The more education you receive, the more likely you’ll make more money.

People who earn an Associates’ degree will make less than a Nutritionist with a Masters’s degree in the field.

Not only do more job opportunities open up, but also many pay raises happen due to education and certifications.

Job Growth Outlook: High

Job Growth Outlook

It looks like the role of Nutritionists will be safe for the next decade, at least.

The job will likely grow around 11 percent within the next ten years.

This means that more jobs will be opening as more facilities have come to the conclusion that dietary education is necessary.

We can expect to see Nutritionist careers pop up in gyms, schools, hospitals, and offices around the country.

There are also many different paths in this career, which can lead you to work in different atmospheres.

Education Duration: 4+ Years

Education Duration

The length of your education on your quest to become a Nutritionist can vary.

Some people obtain an Associates’ degree, which can take around two years to finish.

Others decide to gain their Bachelor’s degree, which can add another two years for a total of four years.

You may add in any internships, which you can do during your education, as well as the length it takes to gain a Masters’s degree.

If you choose to go for your Master’s degree, this can take another two years to complete.

All in all, it can take around 6 years to become a Nutritionist.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

As a Nutritionist, you’ll be working closely with clients who need help with their dietary and fitness needs.

Due to a Nutritionist’s close work with the public, you will want to make sure that you have these skills:

  • Teamworking skills
  • Interest in the impact of diet on health
  • Scientific knowledge
  • Communication skills
  • Motivation skills
  • Interpersonal skills

A Nutritionist must be an open, understanding person who can see past physical boundaries in order to help clients toward the lifestyle that they deserve.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a Nutritionist?

We all need to eat and drink, but many of us make choices that don’t coincide with a healthy lifestyle.

That’s where a Nutritionist steps in.

A Nutritionist is an expert on food, nutrition, and what it takes to get the healthiest body possible.

There are many things that are required of a Nutritionist.

First, they must evaluate their client’s food choices, exercise, and other factors.

Then, they come up with a plan to help the client with their goals.

A Nutritionist must keep a log of the client’s progress, and also check in from time to time to ensure that they are on the right path.

It may sound easy, but it can get challenging with several clients and many meal plans/exercise plans.

With that being said, this job is perfect for people who enjoy helping others in a fast-paced career.

Q. How much does a Nutritionist make?

As of the year 2019, the average salary for a Nutritionist in the United States is $62,000 a year.

That is higher than the average of several careers in the same field.

It takes a while to become a Nutritionist, but the payoff is excellent.

Especially if you decided to work toward your Master’s degree, or if you decide to gain certifications.

These can help you to make even more money, up to almost $70,000 a year!

When just starting out, you can expect to make around $56,000 a year.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Nutritionist?

There is a lot of education involved when becoming a Nutritionist.

There are a few different paths you can take.

First, you must at least obtain your Associate’s degree, which can cost anywhere from $3,000 annually to $14,000 annually, depending on where you decide to enroll.

If you want to earn a Bachelors’s degree, that can cost another $14,000 to $30,000 annually.

Some people even choose to gain their Master’s degree, which can cost upwards of another $30,000.

Although it is not cheap to become a Nutritionist, the career is very lucrative and becoming mandatory.

Q. What is the demand for Nutritionists?

Every day people are changing their diets and lives so that they can stay fit and live longer.

With this mental 180, so many more people are requiring the services of Nutritionists to help them decode the secrets to weight loss and health.

A Nutritionist is an important part of the equation for many people, therefore the demand for Nutritionists now and in the future will continue to grow.

Q. How long does it take to become a Nutritionist?

That really depends on you.

What we mean by that is that there are several choices when it comes to becoming a Nutritionist.

You can earn an Associates’ degree, and obtain an entry-level job, which can take around two years.

Or you can push for your bachelor’s, which can take around four years.

Some people even work toward their Masters or Doctoral degree, so add another 2-4 years onto that.

Although it can take a while to become a Nutritionist, it is worth it, as this is a wonderfully rewarding career.


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