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Pediatric nutritionist career guide: education, job duties, & salary

young-girl-holding-an-apple-above-her-head-and-smiling-at-a-pediatric-nutritionist

The nutritional needs of children and adolescents differ from those of adults, and kids and young adults need to eat healthy foods for proper growth and to stave off certain health conditions. The role of a pediatric nutritionist is to help them achieve that goal.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found eating a healthy diet that includes good hydration is associated with better memory, better mood, and lower school absenteeism in children.

Research also indicates that young people do not consume enough water. Added sugars and solid fats account for 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents between 2 and 18 years, affecting the quality of their diets.

In This Article

40% of children’s daily calories come from added sugars and solid fats says the CDC

If you want to improve these statistics, love to be around children, and have a knack for food and various diets, a career in children’s nutrition could be for you!

What is a pediatric nutritionist?

Pediatric nutritionists (also known as pediatric dietitians) are trained, registered, and licensed to give food and diet advice to children and adolescents. 

Childhood nutritionists teach parents and children about healthy eating habits. These professionals also provide nutritional counseling when children have specific dietary needs such as allergies, sensitivity to certain foods, and medical conditions which require special nutrition such as asthma and diabetes.

How to become a pediatric nutritionist in 5 steps


Earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

students throwing graduation hats in the air outside university

You need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level employment and a graduate degree to advance in the field. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, biology, dietetics or a similar field from an accredited higher learning institution. Coursework subjects must be approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

These programs take around four years of full-time study to earn and cover several aspects of children’s nutrition and health to help you understand issues such as phases of average child growth and kid’s nutrition requirements, common feeding problems with kids, and the effect of diet histories. Some typical courses include:

• Human anatomy and physiology
• Nutrition and its life cycle
• Food Science
• Biochemistry
• Nutrition counseling
• Vitamins, minerals, and food science
• Community Health
• Exercise Theory
• Metabolism
• Biology
• Physiology
• Dietary systems management

Acquire practical experience through an internship.

pediatric-nutritionist-handing-mother-and-child-a-document

You must complete several hundred hours of hands-on, supervised training or an internship. Your pediatric nutrition program may include an internship element, but internship standards such as length and available placements vary between institutions.

Taking an internship at a hospital, children’s hospital, pediatrician’s office, community health center, or field experience helps you learn practical clinical skills and contribute to your total practice hours.

Become a registered dietitian nutritionist.

smiling-rdn-extending-a-small-salad-bowl

Many employers prefer to hire certified dietitians. In essence, a pediatric nutritionist is a registered dietitian who specializes in children’s nutrition. Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree and Dietetic Internship (DI), you will be eligible to take the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) exam.

Once you pass the exam and receive your certification, you must maintain your status by earning 75 continuing education credits every five years according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Gain specialized knowledge.

students-in-a-library-high-fiving-and-smiling

Specializing in pediatric nutrition requires training and coursework above and beyond what you learned in your bachelor’s program. You can earn these credits through additional certification, practical experience, or taking a degree program specifically designed for pediatric dietitians.

Earn advanced certification and licensure.

paper-certificate-with-rolled-up-paper-tied-in-a-bow

The Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) is the most advanced nutrition certification offered by the Board of Certification of Nutrition Specialists. The CNS certification shows your commitment to meeting the highest industry standards and is increasingly becoming a key pediatric nutrition requirement to stand out in the job market.

To attain this certification, you need to have maintained your RD certification for at least two years since your last exam date. Additionally, at least 2000 hours of practice experience within the past five years. Your past professional experiences including internships can count toward the 2000 specialty hours up to a maximum of 800 hours. 


Where do children’s nutritionists work? 

Many dietitians specializing in childhood nutrition work full time and some may work part-time, in the evenings, or during the weekends based on their patients’ needs. They are employed in facilities such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Clinics
  • Schools
  • Private practices
  • Public health agencies
  • Research labs
  • Foodservice

What do pediatric dietitians do?

Pediatric dietitians (also called pediatric nutritionists) are responsible for the health and nutrition of children with or without special needs. They support healthy nourishment by providing their expertise across a diverse set of circumstances.

Diet planning and management

  • Creating personalized meal plans based on children’s dietary needs
  • Developing weight management programs
  • Preparing meals for patients in hospitals or other facilities, including ordering food from commercial suppliers 
  • Tracking and keeping reports on patient progress
  • Monitoring clients’ health status to identify signs of illness and stress by measuring their height, weight, and body mass index (BMI)

Research, education and counseling

  • Healthy eating and lifestyle education for children and their parents, guardians, or caregivers
  • Providing nutrition counseling and education to patients at their homes or in schools
  • Identifying and addressing the critical health needs of individuals or communities
  • Establishing trusting relationships with patients and their families to provide effective growth, nutrition, and behavioral counseling
  • Researching ways to better children’s health and well-being
  • Producing educational materials (brochures, magazines) on topics such as healthy eating habits, the importance of holistic nutrition, and food allergies
  • Teaching parents proper feeding techniques for infants and toddlers, such as how to prepare pureed food or use a bottle

Support special needs

  • Providing transitional support to mouth-feeding for children who are using a feeding tube
  • Giving nutritional assistance to children with complex illnesses
  • Recommending foods to help manage some medical conditions like diabetes
  • Working with children who have sensory challenges that make eating difficult by desensitizing them to certain foods or planning customized balanced diet menus.

Traits and skills for success in pediatric nutrition

A career in pediatric nutrition can be an exciting opportunity if you love to meet new people, solve unique challenges daily, and travel at times. You also get the satisfaction of helping people change their lives through proper diet.

You need a set of personal skills in addition to professional training programs to be a pediatric nutritionist. Some of the skills that will be handy include: 

  • A passion for science and food aspects
  • An interest in caring for others
  • A strong empathetic spirit
  • Interpersonal skills as you will need to build trusting relationships with clients
  • Team working skills to work as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • Willingness to research, learn and grow with the latest developments in the field
  • Ability to simplify complex issues for your clients
  • Good listening skills
  • Analytical skills to assess, detect, prevent, and manage issues affecting children.
  • Good record-keeping skills 
  • Exceptional writing skills as you may need to make some publications

How much does a pediatric nutritionist make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states the median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists is $61,650 as 2021.

As with most professions, the pay varies. Factors that may affect a pediatric dietitian’s salary include the level of education and experience, advanced credentials, and location.

Dietitians and Nutritionists

National data

Median Salary: $61,650

Projected job growth: 6.8%

10th Percentile: $42,530

25th Percentile: $49,490

75th Percentile: $77,430

90th Percentile: $93,640

Projected job growth: 6.8%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $75,730 $47,410 $97,680
Alabama $59,280 $42,280 $76,430
Arkansas $57,800 $42,920 $77,210
Arizona $60,530 $43,500 $79,340
California $79,340 $47,590 $116,690
Colorado $61,350 $47,150 $91,110
Connecticut $62,170 $47,150 $94,870
District of Columbia $77,810 $47,150 $101,220
Delaware $69,550 $46,980 $87,750
Florida $60,290 $42,290 $79,100
Georgia $48,000 $22,830 $78,380
Hawaii $76,920 $58,000 $97,310
Iowa $60,570 $47,020 $76,920
Idaho $59,540 $35,880 $79,460
Illinois $62,920 $47,150 $79,500
Indiana $59,720 $46,450 $78,230
Kansas $60,450 $47,040 $89,410
Kentucky $59,720 $37,150 $77,740
Louisiana $60,130 $46,980 $77,960
Massachusetts $62,410 $47,210 $99,770
Maryland $69,210 $50,340 $98,820
Maine $60,850 $47,040 $99,770
Michigan $60,180 $45,070 $77,600
Minnesota $62,060 $48,450 $78,690
Missouri $48,980 $43,370 $77,060
Mississippi $46,730 $18,070 $71,120
Montana $60,110 $37,620 $77,210
North Carolina $60,040 $37,310 $78,230
North Dakota $60,490 $47,020 $77,670
Nebraska $60,570 $47,100 $78,220
New Hampshire $63,650 $46,710 $89,150
New Jersey $76,270 $59,280 $94,880
New Mexico $61,090 $45,200 $80,200
Nevada $61,310 $36,900 $78,940
New York $75,000 $48,000 $98,540
Ohio $60,850 $47,230 $78,760
Oklahoma $60,560 $30,180 $77,560
Oregon $74,660 $57,440 $99,220
Pennsylvania $61,650 $45,800 $79,730
Rhode Island $74,970 $38,160 $100,650
South Carolina $59,280 $27,050 $77,560
South Dakota $59,320 $47,020 $97,720
Tennessee $58,550 $23,450 $78,940
Texas $61,350 $37,880 $85,820
Utah $49,860 $29,530 $78,610
Virginia $60,590 $37,560 $85,630
Vermont $61,940 $47,740 $100,660
Washington $70,260 $47,380 $89,710
Wisconsin $60,400 $46,090 $78,940
West Virginia $61,940 $42,090 $87,820
Wyoming $61,220 $33,280 $127,470

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. 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.

Highest paying industries for children’s nutrition

IndustryAnnual mean wage
Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing$93,920
Merchant Wholesalers$85,880
Home Health Care$79,110
Federal Executive Branch$78,830
Scientific Research and Development Services$74,990

Highest paying metro areas for pediatric RDNs

Metro Area Median Annual Salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $97,640
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $96,900
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $95,750
Santa Rosa, CA $83,720
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA $82,940
Napa, CA $82,090
Salinas, CA $80,460
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA $80,230
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA $79,020
Modesto, CA $78,990

How does a pediatric dietitian’s salary compare to similar careers?

Career Median Annual Salary
Dietitians and Nutritionists $61,650
Health Education Specialists $60,600
Rehabilitation Counselors $38,560

Job growth

There is a growing demand for dietitians and nutritionists overall. With it may come a rise in demand for pediatric dietitians as well. The BLS estimates a 7% increase in the field through 2031. Additional schooling requirements contribute to the projected increase in demand. The expected growth is an above-average figure compared to other professions.

The projected job openings are at 5,600 per year and are mostly attributed to workers who shift to other professions or those who retire or leave work. Your job prospects will increase if you are certified and have an advanced degree.

The level of employment varies depending on the industry. General medical and surgical hospitals top the list, followed by outpatient care and nursing care facilities as shown below:

IndustryEmployment
General Surgical and Medical Hospitals19,240
Outpatient Care Centers7,270
Skilled Nursing Care Facilities 4,550
Special Food Services4,280
Local Government (except for schools and hospitals)3,730

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Written and reported by:
Natural Healers Team

Updated: August 30th, 2022