What is a Nutritionist

A nutritionist is someone who offers direction and advice on matters related to food and nutrition, and the impact this has on health. While occasionally confused with a dietitian, these two terms are not interchangeable; dietitians require more training, and must be certified in order to use the title, whereas a nutritionist holds no such legal requirements. “Nutritionist” is a title used in both standard and alternative medicine. For more on job description, please visit our nutritionist job description page.

Where do Nutritionists Work

The work environment for nutritionists is exceptionally variable. As there is no specific required training for the title, nutritionists can work from their home, in hospitals, in schools, or nearly any other setting. While those in hospitals or schools will have an inherently higher respectability on starting their career, those who are skilled will quickly earn a reputation, allowing for a greater versatility in their chosen profession, and the chance to branch in to many other environments such as conferences, sports organizations, and community health centers.

Work Schedule

Work schedule it highly variable depending on the nutritionist. Those in a medical center can expect to work standard business hours; those working in their own practice can aim for this, but would be better served working post-business hours in order to draw a larger clientele from which to build their reputation. The schedule depends highly on the desired setting.

Nutritionist primarily work in hospitals. Some may work in long-term care facilities, schools, physician clinics, and cafeterias. About 15% are actually self-employed, allowing them to work in their own private clinics or work in different healthcare settings on a contract basis.

Mean Annual Nutritionist Salary

The mean annual nutritionist salary is $56,170. The mean salary is calculated by adding all the wages within the occupation and dividing that value by the total number of employees. Lowest 10% of this occupation makes less than $34,500 and the top 10% makes over $77,590.

Nutritionist Salary: Quick Summary

2012 Mean Salary$56,170 per year
$27.00 per hour
Top 10% Salary
$77,590 per year
$37.30 per hour
Bottom 10% Salary$34,500 per year
$16.59 per hour
Number of Jobs, 201258,240

Nutritionist Job Outlook and Prospects

With recent increased awareness in health and the effect of various foods, the demand for nutritionists has grown. This holds true particularly for an aging population, seeking new methods of prolonging life and maintaining good health into their nineties. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics is predicting a 21% growth in jobs over the coming decade, as more people seek dietary means of treating and preventing potential health problems.

What affects a Nutritionist’s Salary

The primary factor affecting nutritionist salary is one of industry. The choice of setting the nutritionist opts for in the industry will greatly impact their salary, by nearly $40,000. Similarly, the geographic location in which they work will also bring a significant change in potential earnings.

On average, nutritionist salary runs around $56,170 per year. However, given the wide variability within the career field, this can fluctuate greatly, ranging from less than $40,000 to nearly $90,000.

Experience and education are further important factors to consider when pursuing a career as a nutritionist, as they can offer significant advantages.

Education and Specialization 

There is no specific education required to be a nutritionist. This is not the case for all areas of employment, but one looking to set out on their own with a private practice need simply open their doors and announce their field.

When seeking a position with an employer, however, often certification as a certified nutrition specialist (or CNS) will be required, if not a Master’s degree in nutrition.

Those who pursue an education can find a wide degree of potential specialization within the field; working with agricultural and food systems, environmental toxicology, or various fields within human nutrition will all lead in different directions, all of which can be quite lucrative; those with specific training will be more desirable for well-paid jobs.

Experience and Position 

Experience is one of the primary factors affecting nutritionist salary. Whether it is experience within a larger organization, allowing a greater level of knowledge within the field, or more experience as a private nutritionist and developing a greater reputation, experience on the job will lead to great gains in annual salary.

With experience can come higher-level positions within an organization. One can move from an entry-level position to a head of a department with the proper training and experience; as in other careers, a managerial role will provide a salary increase, as well as benefit gains.


Where one chooses to seek employment in the industry may be the primary factor influencing nutritionist salary. While the average pay is $56,170, nutritionists who choose to work in the Animal Food Manufacturing sector can see an average wage of $88,100. Working with wholesalers brings a mean wage of $74,270, whereas working in general medical or surgical hospitals will provide an average of $55,970.


Location holds a similar variability in wages; Utah is one of the lowest paying states, with an average wage of $46,850 (though Puerto Rico’s average is $32,410). By contrast, nutritionists in Maryland can expect an average wage of $82,650. The wide variability means one must research the current market when setting out on this career path.