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How to become an animal nutritionist
What is an animal nutritionist?
An animal nutritionist helps to create food and diets to support animal health. “An animal nutritionist is someone who specializes in a certain species or group of species and their specific nutritional requirements,” explains Dr. Rachel Mottet, PhD, Equine Nutritionist and owner of Legacy Equine Nutrition.
Animal nutritionists may perform several different types of work. “A nutritionist might work with animal owners and make nutritional recommendations for their herd. They may also do research,” says Mottet. “Some nutritionists work with a company sales team, delivering a scientific message in an easy-to-understand format. Some people work as animal nutritionists in a zoo-type setting.”
What does an animal nutritionist do?
Depending on their specialty and work location, animal nutritionists may perform a wide variety of tasks:
Interview animal owners to learn about current diets and challenges
Help feed manufacturers develop appropriate, easy-to-understand messaging
Review animal body condition and health
Perform laboratory research on nutrition
Research and provide nutrition recommendations for animal owners, farmers, and more
Perform public presentations to share information about nutrition and answer questions
Mottet explains that animal nutritionists can play a key role in transforming an animal and improving its health and appearance. “Often, people come to me because their horse doesn’t look, feel, or perform as well as it has in the past, and they’re looking for solutions that are nutritional in origin,” she says. “The best part of my job is seeing that transformation over time in the horse’s best interest.”
Who should become an animal nutritionist?
According to Mottet, anyone considering becoming an animal nutritionist should have passion for animal science, love animals and be very science-minded. She notes that to become an animal nutritionist, you should be prepared to earn a master’s degree at the very least, if not a PhD. “You need to really love this subject,” she says.
“…anyone considering becoming an animal nutritionist should have passion for animal science, love animals and be very science-minded.”
Animal nutritionists will also benefit from some key skills. Strong math skills are essential in evaluating and calculating diet and nutrition needs. Nutritionists need strong problem-solving skills and critical thinking capabilities to evaluate and find solutions for each animal or situation. Additionally, strong written and verbal communication skills are essential, too, since nutritionists need to communicate with animal owners and will gain key information from those conversations.
Animal nutritionists who hope to go independent and start their own business will benefit from business skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. The ability to market a business, keep appointments organized, follow up with clients and manage bookkeeping will all be important to independent business owners.
What education is needed?
While human nutritionists and dietitians must meet strict requirements and often must be licensed, Mottet explains that regulations surrounding animal nutritionists are more relaxed. While there is no licensing requirement for animal nutritionists, education is used more to qualify individuals as professional animal nutritionists.
“The expectation is that you have your PhD in animal nutrition,” Mottet says. “There isn’t any type of licensure required to do this professionally. To be respected and taken seriously, amongst the scientific community in particular, you do need a PhD in animal science, equine nutrition or a highly related field.”
Animal nutritionist salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics, dietitians and nutritionists earned a median annual wage of $66,450. The BLS does not provide data specific to animal nutritionists.
Median Salary: $66,450
Projected job growth: 6.6%
10th Percentile: $44,140
25th Percentile: $56,490
75th Percentile: $80,430
90th Percentile: $95,130
Projected job growth: 6.6%
|State||Median Salary||Bottom 10%||Top 10%|
|District of Columbia||$85,380||$63,980||$103,010|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.
The job outlook for nutritionists is promising, with employment projected to increase by 6.6% through 2032. That growth is slightly faster than the average for all occupations.
When it comes to getting started, education is the first step, followed by gaining experience. Mottet notes that animal nutritionist positions are often listed on job search websites.
“These positions are extremely competitive and it can be difficult to find them,” she cautions, which is why building up a professional network ahead of time can be so important. Taking the time to create a network of professors, feed companies and other nutritionists may help you to learn about new opportunities and get your first professional position as an animal nutritionist.
Published: June 20, 2023