How to Become a Clinical Nutritionist


The first step for becoming a clinical nutritionist, is to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. So, does the following describe you?


• You have a keen interest in science, food and nutrition

• You have an interest in helping others

• You want to work in a healthcare setting

• You enjoy the idea of collaborating with and advising other professionals

• You are kind, empathetic and patient

• You have a results-oriented approach to work activities


If that matches you, then read on below - we've outlined what else you'll need to get started in this field. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Clinical Nutritionist

Although the educational requirements for becoming a clinical nutritionist vary by region and by employer, you typically need a bachelor’s degree in an area such as Food and Nutrition, Dietetics, Clinical Nutrition, or a related field.


To work in Canada, completing a degree in one of these areas from a university program that has been accredited by Dietitians of Canada (DC) is highly recommended.


To be a clinical nutritionist in the United States, completing a bachelor’s degree at a college or university that is U.S. regionally accredited, and includes coursework accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is highly recommended.


Many employers may prefer candidates whom have a master’s degree in one of these areas. Having a master’s degree may also allow you to qualify for a higher salary level within your job. While master's level degree programs in Clinical Nutrition do exist, you can also pursue a degree in Dietetics or Nutrition with a Concentration in Clinical Nutrition.





Clinical Nutritionist Job Description

Clinical nutritionists are responsible for identifying nutritional problems and assessing the nutritional status of patients in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.


Once the status of the patient has been determined, clinical nutritionists must work directly with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to develop therapeutic diets and implement meal preparation and service for the patient.


They are also responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of nutritional interventions and counseling patients on making special modifications to their diets.



Job Duties Typical to This Profession

• Consult with physicians and other health care professionals

• Determine the nutritional needs and dietary restrictions of patients

• Develop menus for therapeutic diets based on medical and physical conditions of the patients

• Inspect meals served to ensure they conform with prescribed diets, as well as for palatability and appearance

• Instruct patients and their families in matters related to nutritional health, dietary plans and meal preparation

• May engage in research

• May instruct classes or supervise co-op students



Who Employs Clinical Nutritionists?

Clinical nutritionists are hired by organizations that are involved in the creation and implementation of therapeutic nutritional strategies for individuals in a healthcare setting. Such organizations may include:


• Hospitals

• Clinics

• Long-term healthcare facilities

• Correctional services

• The armed forces

• Fitness centres

• Non-profit and community organizations

• Colleges and universities





Licensing and Certification Needed to Become a Clinical Nutritionist

Certification is not typically required to become a clinical nutritionist, and it may or may not be required by employers (licensing and certification requirements vary by region and employer). Regardless of the formal employment requirements associated with becoming certified as a nutritionist it has several benefits, such as demonstrating professional aptitude, a commitment to the profession, and adherence to professional standards. 


Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN): Certification is available through the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB)


Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS): Certification is available through the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists (CBNS).



Skills Needed to Be Successful

To be effective in a career as a clinical nutritionist, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• Able to evaluate the health status of patients

• Ability to stay organized and manage the nutrition of many patients simultaneously

• Able to listen carefully in order to understand the goals and concerns of patients and healthcare professionals

• Able to determine appropriate food choices for a client to improve overall health or manage a disease

• Able to work effectively with other healthcare professionals

• Must be able to explain complicated topics in such a way that people with less technical knowledge can understand



Characteristics Needed to Work in This Field

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a clinical nutritionist, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• A keen interest in science, food and nutrition

• Willing to keep up to date with the latest nutrition research

• A keen interest in helping others

• Enjoy consulting with and advising other professionals

• Results-oriented approach to work activities

• Honest, ethical and caring personality

• Enjoy analyzing information



Salary Level Typical to This Field

The salary level of clinical nutritionists can vary based on their level of education, their level of experience and aptitude, the size and type of their employer, and many other factors.


Clinical Nutritionist Salary - Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Dietitians and Nutritionists occupational group earn an average of $85,056 per year.


Clinical Nutritionist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of American workers in the Dietitians and Nutritionists occupational group is $55,240 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries in this occupational group are below $34,500, and the top 10% are above $77,590 per year.



Job Postings - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has "clinical nutritionist" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.


Similar Career Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to clinical nutritionist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.



Osteopathic Physician

Registered Nurse

Sports Nutritionist




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a clinical nutritionist.


Occupations in Alberta:Dietitian.” (December 5, 2012). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

Healthcare:Dietitians and Nutritionists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

Work:Clinical Nutritionist vs. Registered Dietitian.” Fred Decker (n.d.). Houston Chronicle website. Retrieved November 4, 2019.

Explore Careers:Dietitians and Nutritionists.” (October 16, 2019). WorkBC website - Province of British Columbia. Retrieved November 4, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Clinical Nutritionist

The scholarships on our Nutrition Scholarships page are all relevant for becoming a clinical nutritionist. Just be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants.



Relevant College and University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below will serve as an excellent educational foundation for this career. 


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Clinical Nutritionist