Dietitians and nutritionists are health care professionals who specialize is in food and nutrition. They often work with individuals with special dietary needs, such as diabetics and bulimics, and implement modifications in their diet to promote a healthier lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal. However, dietitians and nutritionists are not the same thing and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Dietitians are legally considered experts in nutrition. An individual with a “registered dietitian” as their designated title must be registered with the Commission of Dietetic Registration (CDR). They are required to have completed a bachelor’s degree program accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, an internship program, and passed the national exam administered by the CDR. Nutritionists are not legally considered an expert in nutrition and do not require any formal education.

Nutritionist Job Description

Nutritionist are health providers who specializes in the study of nutrition, which includes preventive nutrition, diseases related to nutrient deficiencies, and the science of nutrition. Dietitians can be considered as a nutritionist, but not all nutritionists are dietitians. In fact, nutritionist is not regulated by any professional regulated body or a legally protected term, hence anyone can essentially refer to themselves as nutritionist, whether they are self-taught or possess a graduate degree in nutrition. Nutritionists are often found in hospitals, outpatient clinics, schools, community and public health settings, culinary and food service, scientific research, businesses, in private practice and other health care facilities.

Typically, the nutritionist job description includes:
  • Provide nutritional counselling and create a clinical treatment plan
  • Evaluate the nutritional needs of patients
  • Consulate with other health professionals on nutrition management for individual patients
  • Educate public about nutrition
  • Research the affect of nutrients on the body

Types of Nutritionist

Clinical nutritionist

A clinical nutritionist works in a nursing room, hospital, clinic or outpatient facility. She/he focuses mainly on malnutrition, both over nutrition and under nutrition and help the clients/patients deal with them. They give attention to the consumption, digestion, assimilation of food in your body. They deal with the biochemical and physiological aspects of food in your body and direct you to follow programs that will bring you back to health. You can become a clinical nutritionist by taking a four year degree course as well as master’s degree in clinical nutrition or a get certificate course in clinical nutrition along with related science degree like microbiology, physiology or biochemistry.

Sports nutritionist

A sports nutritionist is a lucrative career for individuals who wish to make difference in the lives of sports personalities. Because food is as important as fitness, nutritionists in league with trainers and coaches help prepare athletes and sportsmen for their tournaments, games and events. They help to improve the athletic performance of individuals. Advanced degree in Sports Nutrition, master’s degree in Sports Nutrition Therapy or specialized certificate in Sports Nutrition is the way to enter the field. They are usually employed on a contract basis and their salary may go up to $300,000 a year depending who they work for.

Public health nutritionist

A public health nutritionist uses her/his knowledge about food and nutrition to research, assist and create policies that will improve the health of population as a whole. They can involve themselves in community, state and national level programs as well as be a part of non-profit organizations aimed at improving the nutritional status of the public. A master’s degree in Public Health is usually offered to graduates of human nutrition or allied sciences.

Freelance nutritionist

With a bachelor degree in nutrition and experience in various industries that offer role for nutritionists, you can open your own clinic and practice as a freelance nutritionist. A freelance nutritionist also works in various clinics, provide expert opinions, turn a consultant to companies, give talks, presentations and write columns or blogs related to nutrition and health. Additionally, they can also provide nutrition counseling online.

Nutritionist Job Outlook

In recent years, the public has become more aware of how eating habits can affect their general health. This is especially true among the aging population where many are starting to develop diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Obesity is also a fast growing problem that threatens the United States health care system if no government intervention is present. To tackle this issue, US government is spending more money on public promotion of health eating and utilizing services provided by dietician and nutritionists to diagnose, treat and prevent health related problems arising from diet. As these trends will inevitably continue, the number of dietitians and nutritionists should increase sharply over the upcoming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dietitians and nutritionists should expect 21% job growth by 2022.

How to Become a Nutritionist

Nutritionists are not required to have formal education in some states, however they often do hold a bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition, dietetics, food service systems management and other health related courses. The four year undergraduate program provides classroom learning in clinical dietetics in order to prepare students for entry into a internship. After graduation from an accredited college program, students take part in supervised training that should last for several hundred of hours. The training is normally in the form of internship. Successful candidates can become a licensed nutritionist once they pass an written exam.

Nutritionist Programs

Nutritionist Certification

The term nutritionist is not a legally protected term, so in states where nutritionist and dietitians are not required to be licensed, anyone can refer themselves as a nutritionist. Registered Dietitians, however, is a more regulated title and unauthorized using of this title can result in prosecution.

Some nutritionist may take up further education to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS). These individuals require at least a master’s or graduate degree in nutrition (at least three years) from an accredited college, supervised clinical practicum, and passing of the certification exam. This title is protected and usually results in higher salary and increased job opportunities.

Nutritionist Salary

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Nutritionist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the nutritionist job description:
  • Specializes study of nutrition
  • Not required to be licensed
  • May have a graduate degree
  • 21% employment growth by 2022