How to Become a Nutritionist

How to Become a Nutritionist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a nutritionist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a nutritionist:


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

• You have an interest in helping others

• 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


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a nutritionist. 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 Nutritionist

In order to become a nutritionist, you typically need a bachelor’s degree with a major in dietetics, food and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related field, as well as a master's degree in your desired area of specialty. For example, if you want to work as a public health nutritionist, you would likely need a master's degree in community nutrition. 


Canada: If you want to become a nutritionist 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.


United States: If you want to become a 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.


Coursework such as biology, microbiology, mathematics, statistics, psychology, and sociology are often core course requirements in academic fields that relate to becoming a nutritionist.




Nutritionist Job Description

A nutritionist is a person who advises on matters of food and nutrition as they impact individual and public health. Different professional terms are used in different countries, employment settings and contexts. Such terms may include nutrition scientist, public health nutritionist, dietitian-nutritionist, clinical nutritionist, and sports nutritionist.


The specific job description for a nutritionist varies, depending on their area of specialty. For example, nutritionists that work in a healthcare setting may work towards the prevention and treatment of illnesses (such as hypertension and obesity) through proper dietary care, and nutritionists that work in conjunction with personal trainers or athletic coaches may be responsible for helping athletes reach optimal levels of performance.


Nutritionists often work in nursing homes, hospitals, school cafeterias, sports organizations, private practice and other many other settings.



Nutritionist Job Duties

• Oversee meal preparation

• Plan meals for hospitals, sports teams, nursing homes, schools or for clients in private practice

• Plan out meals in accordance with the needs of patients, students, athletes or clients

• May promote public health and dietary education to the general public

• May prepare public health advertisements

• May be involved in educational seminars at schools and other venues

• Order food supplies and monitor preparation and proportion of meals



Who Creates Jobs for Nutritionists?

Nutritionists are employed on a part-time, full-time and contractual basis by the following types of organizations:


• Hospitals, clinics and long-term healthcare facilities

• Social service agencies

• Correctional services

• The armed forces

• Pharmaceutical and medical supply companies

• Fitness centres

• Home health agencies

• Corporations (for employee wellness programs)

• Food processing, food service and catering companies, including restaurants

• Food science and nutritional research firms

• Non-profit and community organizations

• Colleges and universities

• Public and private schools and school districts

• Self-employment (as a consultant)




Skills Needed to Become a Nutritionist

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


• Able to effectively evaluate the health status of patients

• Able to manage the nutrition of many patients or clients simultaneously

• 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

• Able to communicate technical knowledge to non-technical people

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





Characteristics Needed to Become a Nutritionist

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


• A genuine interest in public health

• Dedication to patients and clients

• A keen interest in science, food and nutrition

• Honest, empathetic, ethical and responsible

• A results-oriented approach to work activities

• An interest in having variety and challenge in the workplace

• Interested in motivating clients and patients 



Nutritionist Salary

The salary level of nutritionists can vary, depending on factors such as:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience and aptitude

• The size and type of their employer

• The specific responsibilities of their job


Nutritionist Salary Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Dietitians and Nutritionists occupational group earn an average salary of $73,064.00 per year.


Nutritionist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Dietitians and Nutritionists occupational group is $48,610 per year.


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



Differences Between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian

While many registered dietitians refer to themselves as nutritionists, not all nutritionists can refer to themselves as registered dietitians. Although the careers of Dietitian and Nutritionist are similar in nature, they have many key differences among them. These differences exist mainly in the augmented levels of experience, education, accreditation and accountability needed to become a dietitian, versus those needed to become a nutritionist.


Differences in Education and Experience


Dietitians must earn a Bachelor’s degree specializing in food and nutrition, and must complete supervised practical training through a university program or an approved hospital or community setting. However, in most Canadian provinces there are no formal education and supervised requirements needed to become a nutritionist.


Differences in Accreditation and Accountability


In Canada, Dietitians must be registered with provincial regulatory bodies, and are the only professionals who can use the legally protected titles “Registered Dietitian”, “Professional Dietitian” and “Dietitian”. The letters R.D., P.Dt. or D.Pt. after a Dietitian’s name can identify them as registered members of the profession. Because of this registration, Dietitians are accountable to provincial regulatory bodies for their professional conduct and the care they provide.


For nutritionists on the other hand, there are no regulatory standards that protect the term “Nutritionist” by law in Canada, thus there are no regulating bodies to be accountable to.



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Working Conditions for Nutritionists

The work environment, conditions, setting and hours of nutritionists vary considerably based on the size and type of their employer, and the specific responsibilities of their job.


In general however, nutritionists work regular weekday working hours, although they may be on call outside of these hours or required to deliver programs during evenings or weekends. For example, nutritionists who work in a clinical setting may have to work shift work, which can involve working from late at night into the early hours of the morning.


Nutritionists may work in settings that range from offices, laboratories, hospitals, athletic facilities, commercial and industrial kitchens, and classrooms, oftentimes working in more than one of these settings during the workday or workweek.


Nutritionists must be prepared to work in environments that are not always equipped with modern conveniences, or that fall short of prescribed standards.



Careers Similar to Nutritionist

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



Exercise Physiologist

Food Scientist

Osteopathic Physician

Personal Trainer



References: How to Become a Nutritionist

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


Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Dietitians & Nutritionists.” (n.d.). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Healthcare:Dietitians and Nutritionists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Education & Career Planning:How to become a Dietitian (or Nutritionist).” (March 28, 2019). Learner Support Services - Athabasca University website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.

Content:Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist - What’s the Difference.” (May 9, 2013). MyVega website. Retrieved January 6, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Nutritionist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Nutritionist can be found on our Nutrition Scholarships page.


Success Tip: 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!



Becoming a Nutritionist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a nutritionist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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