How to Become a Food Nutritionist

Overview

Food nutritionists are expert when it comes to the area of nutrition and the foods that we eat.  These professionals give others advice about what they should be eating and taking into their bodies to remain healthy.  Someone that makes the decision to enter this profession will work with others to help them understand any issues related to nutrition.  They also work very closely with patients to help them develop meal plans that they can afford. It is also important for these professionals to stay up to date with all nutritional breakthroughs and the science related to food and how it effects the body.

Special Qualities

The ability to research new nutritional information is vital for this job.  Therefore, anyone thinking about this career needs to have strong analytical skills. Organizational skills are required in order to care for patients, plan meals and even budget the costs of meals. This can be time consuming and complicated.  Individuals who are organized often do best with these tasks.  Excellent communication skills are also necessary in order to explain rather complicated issues to patients from time to time. It will be important to explain things in a manner that the patient will fully understand.  Because these professionals will often be interacting with elderly patients it is very important to be able to break down complex issues into facts that are easier to understand.

Specialties Within this Job

Individuals who consider becoming a food nutritionist may find it helpful to know that there are many specialties that can be focused on.  This may include clinical dieticians who will work in hospitals and long term care facilities.  Management dieticians will work within different settings where food is served.  These professionals plan the meals. It may also be possible to work in schools or cafeterias.  Finally, a food nutritionist could specialize in community dietary needs and work on educating the public.  Some of these specialists will be working with pregnant women or even with the parents of children that are suffering from diabetes.

Work Environment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics at least one third of food nutritionist will work in hospitals.  This accounts for more than 30% of those individuals that are working as nutritionists.  However, there is the potential to work on your own and be self-employed when it comes to this profession.  In fact, more than 10% of nutritionist professionals are self-employed.  The majority of nutritionist will work full time.  But, there are still some that are only going to work approximately 20 hours a week.  Those that are able to carry out consultation services may be considered self-employed.  These professionals have a great deal more flexibility with their job and what they work.

Education

In order to become a nutritionist, individuals must have at least a bachelor’s degree.  Some of the courses that will be completed include biology, nutrition and even physiology and chemistry.  Training with a supervisor will also be required.  This training cannot be completed in one day as nutritionists are required to have numerous hours of supervision. Many times this supervision cannot begin until the student graduates from college.  But, there are some colleges that will make this part of the student’s coursework.  There are many states that require the individual to be licensed in order to obtain a job as a nutritionist.

Licenses or Certification

Many states will require the nutritionist student to obtain a license and will require the individual to have a bachelor’s degree, complete their supervision hours and then pass the license exam.  Registered Dietitian credential can be obtained through the Commission on Dietetic Registration.  This is the credentialing agency.

Salary

Nutritionists make a good living for themselves and their families.  The average salary for someone in this profession is $53,250.  This was the pay for 2010 according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.  There are roughly 10% of professionals that make more than this amount.  But, there are also 10% that will be making less than the average.

Job Growth

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this career choice will increase at least 20% between 2010 and 2020.  Preventative health care has been on the rise when you stop and consider the medical arena.  Therefore, it only seems fitting that this job would begin to rise as more and more people have started to take an interest in nutrition and food.  It is known that nutrition is going to effect one’s health.  The risk of heart disease and even diabetes can be greatly decreased when it comes to nutrition and eating properly.  Insurance companies will be more willing to pay for preventative measures through a nutritionist compared to paying for medical treatment related to different illnesses and diseases.

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