If you’re interested in health and passionate about helping others, you might consider a career as a nutritionist. As many of today’s Americans rely on fad diets and give into the convenience of fast food, there’s a need for professionals to help them stay on the right track to combat both short- and long-term health problems. Learn more about the nutritionist career path and find out what it takes to become one.
Demand for nutritionists
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 39.8% of American adults are obese. Meanwhile, the prevalence of obesity in youth is 18.5%. The exact obesity rates vary significantly based on age, but research has shown that the epidemic is more prevalent based on other factors, such as socioeconomic status, race, education level and gender. More than ever, the nation needs dieticians and nutritionists to provide support for individuals who want to change their health-related practices and prevent illnesses that are often linked to poor diet, such as heart disease and diabetes.
If you’re interested in becoming a nutritionist or dietician, you’ll be glad to hear that these jobs are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roles as dieticians and nutritionists are on the rise in the foreseeable future, with an increase of 15% between 2016 and 2026. This faster than average projection shows that a career in nutrition is more than just an aspiration; it’s completely doable.
The day-to-day of a nutritionist
As experts in health, nutritionists spend a majority of their day-to-day assessing patients’ health needs and providing them with advice and expertise on healthy eating and exercise habits. They might work individually or in collaboration with their clients to develop meal plans, taking certain components into account, such as dietary restrictions, taste preferences and budgets. Because developing healthy habits isn’t normally something that happens overnight, nutritionists will follow up with their patients on a regular basis, ensuring they are following through on their plan and making steady progress.
Nutritionists might step outside the health center, taking their work elsewhere. Many visit schools, encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits in children and teenagers. Others take to larger crowds, creating local and global followings. In today’s tech-based society, many nutritionists have developed an online presence by creating blogs, Instagram accounts and YouTube channels in which they educate others on healthy living.
How to become a nutritionist
Once you’ve earned your Bachelor of Science, you might be ready to jump right into a career as a nutritionist. However, you may not be ready to join the field just yet. Many states require nutritionists to obtain a license to practice. Though the requirements for licensure vary by state, most of them require candidates to complete supervised practice and pass an exam, in addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in food science, nutrition or another relevant field.
Even though you may be able to secure a job as a nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree alone, many individuals in this profession obtain advanced degrees at some point in their careers. Especially if you’re interested in getting the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential, you will need to earn a master’s or doctoral degree in Nutrition. In addition to an advanced degree, you’ll need to complete 1,000 hours of supervised practice and pass the CNS exam to achieve this credential, which is administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists. The benefits of earning the CNS credential include higher earning potential and increased respectability in the field.
Whether you’re interested in pursuing the CNS or not, you can check out different graduate schools to find the right advanced degree to start or grow your career as a nutritionist.