Nutritionist Programs Overview
Nutritionists are experts in food, nutrition, diets and healthy lifestyles. The day-to-day life of a nutritionist might include working with clients to meet their health goals, selecting menu plans for patients, regularly evaluating the outcome of nutrition plans, and writing reports to document patient progress. They might work with those who simply want to live healthier, or they might work with patients who have significant health issues, such as diabetes or kidney failure. They might also speak to groups or individuals about the importance of healthy nutrition.
Those who choose to become a nutritionist typically earn at least a bachelor's degree. There are numerous majors that can lead to the proper degree, such as food service systems management, dietetics, food and nutrition, or clinical nutrition. Any degree through nutrition schools will typically focus heavily on nutrition, biology, chemistry and psychology courses.
It is very common for nutritionists to take their education further, earning advanced degrees in the field. These might include the master's degree or doctoral studies in nutrition and related degrees. Courses in advanced degree programs take nutrition education further, and may include the following:
- Research methods
- Clinical behavior and change
- The role of food in society
- Communications in health care
- Finances of nutrition and wellness
In most states, nutritionists or dieticians must be licensed. Requirements for licensure typically include graduating from an accredited bachelor's degree program in nutrition or a related field, several hundred hours of supervised training and passing an exam.
Nutritionists go through several hundred hours of training in order to become proficient in their field. This training is supervised, often in the form of an internship shortly after graduation from the degree program. Some colleges and universities offer specialized programs that allow students to earn the experience they need while taking courses.
Nutritionists might choose to earn several certifications in order to enhance the services they can offer their patients. Many nutritionists choose the Certified Nutrition Specialist credential, or CNS. In order to earn this certification, students must complete a master's or doctoral degree, as well as complete 1,000 hours of supervised work. Some choose to pursue the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential, or RDN. This requires a bachelor's degree and completion of an internship program.
In 2011, work as a dietitian was listed as one of the least stressful jobs, according to CareerCast. Nutritionists and dietitians work in hospitals, private officers, residential care facilities, schools cafeterias and more. Most work full time, and 11 percent are self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). Hours might include meeting with clients on evenings and weekends.
As understanding of the role food plays in health has increased, so have the employment options for nutritionists. Job growth of 21 percent is expected in the field from 2012 to 2022, according to the BLS. Much of this growth can be attributed to the fact that one-third of U.S. adults are now considered obese, and many of those will seek help with diet and nutrition. The demand for nutritionists will also increase as the baby boomer generation ages and seeks out new ways to stay healthy. This aging population is also expected to spur the growth of jobs for nutritionists in nursing homes and home health care.
10 Least Stressful Jobs of 2011, CareerCast, http://www.careercast.com/content/10-least-stressful-jobs-2011-2-dietitian
Dietitians and Nutritionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm