Share your knowledge of food and health by beginning a career as a nutritionist

If you have a passion for food, wellness and helping people, nutrition just might be your calling. It requires an interest in how food and drink affect the body, as well as a strong grasp of science, including biology and chemistry. There are multiple paths you can go down as a nutritionist, whether it's working for a school or hospital—with the benefit of steady hours—or venturing out to open your own health consulting business, which offers flexible hours but not necessarily a steady paycheck.

Job Description

A career as a nutritionist requires a deep dive into the study of how food can promote health. In meeting with clients, nutritionists advise what sort of diet to eat to live a healthy life or achieve a certain health-related goal.

For example, a nutritionist might meet with patient who has been diagnosed with diabetes and works closely to help the client understand how to manage the disease through low-carb eating.

Education Requirements

While licensing isn't technically required to call yourself a nutritionist, you might consider becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), so you have the education and training to back up your expertise.

The first step to becoming an RDN is to study a related field, such as dietetics, nutrition, clinical nutrition, food service systems management or public health, during your undergrad years. A number of dietitians and nutritionist have advanced degrees, such as a master's or doctorate, in the field.

After you've earned your degree, a dietetic nutritionist goes through an internship, which requires hundred of hours of training. This training can be done in a variety of settings, including a hospital, medical clinic or a school. To earn the RDN, which is awarded from the Commission on Dietetic Registration, part of the Academy of Dietetics, you need—at minimum—a bachelor's degree and 1,200 hours of supervised training via a dietetic internship.

If you don't think going the route of RDN is up your alley, you can sit for the Certified Nutrition Specialist credential, awarded by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists. This credentialing program requires a master's or doctoral degree, as well as 1,000 hours of supervised training and passing an exam.

Industry

Nutritionists have plenty of options when it comes to workplaces, as they work in places such as outpatient care centers, hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, schools, and government organizations.

The median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists hovered around $59,000 as of May 2016. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nutritionists working at outpatient care centers earned the most, $64,880, while those who worked for the government earned the least, $56,230.

Years of Experience

Of course, salary can depend on the amount of experience a nutritionist has under her belt. The median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists was $58,920 in May 2016, that is, half the workers in an occupation earned earned less than that amount. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,410.

Job Growth Trend

This particularly industry is growing fast, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates it will rise 14 percent between 2016 and 2026—that's faster than average for job industries in the U.S.

The BLS suggests that the popularity of the industry might be due to a growing interest in combatting the country's obesity epidemic, as well as taking care of an aging Baby Boomer population.

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