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Pediatric nutritionist career guide: education, job duties & salary


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states the median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists is $66,450.

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: $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 data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $60,320 $37,210 $80,500
Alaska $74,340 $49,530 $95,100
Arizona $65,440 $49,890 $87,860
Arkansas $53,990 $37,120 $75,730
California $80,270 $30,600 $111,460
Colorado $74,700 $49,620 $92,920
Connecticut $75,680 $51,010 $93,430
Delaware $63,420 $54,490 $101,290
District of Columbia $85,380 $63,980 $103,010
Florida $63,240 $46,240 $81,910
Georgia $61,660 $36,970 $83,290
Hawaii $77,490 $56,490 $94,690
Idaho $62,530 $38,200 $85,290
Illinois $63,970 $42,890 $88,340
Indiana $61,700 $48,070 $81,660
Iowa $61,360 $46,150 $76,430
Kansas $62,590 $49,600 $88,490
Kentucky $61,910 $42,500 $78,520
Louisiana $62,290 $46,070 $81,720
Maine $67,630 $52,000 $129,450
Maryland $71,770 $55,200 $102,480
Massachusetts $66,050 $36,530 $94,180
Michigan $63,680 $48,830 $79,810
Minnesota $66,530 $52,320 $85,910
Mississippi $52,000 $23,550 $77,500
Missouri $59,590 $35,860 $78,670
Montana $60,840 $33,510 $77,440
Nebraska $63,180 $45,610 $80,160
Nevada $64,300 $35,750 $96,710
New Hampshire $67,840 $53,260 $87,840
New Jersey $80,140 $52,440 $107,290
New Mexico $63,960 $46,940 $79,010
New York $76,640 $50,820 $102,540
North Carolina $60,110 $44,350 $83,030
North Dakota $64,820 $50,570 $86,070
Ohio $62,650 $48,000 $79,440
Oklahoma $61,850 $36,670 $81,250
Oregon $75,160 $59,470 $98,410
Pennsylvania $63,320 $45,680 $84,940
Rhode Island $67,590 $51,120 $99,470
South Carolina $61,610 $33,860 $81,620
South Dakota $60,030 $47,720 $86,070
Tennessee $61,490 $31,160 $76,130
Texas $63,690 $43,210 $86,940
Utah $59,170 $33,580 $87,290
Vermont $72,900 $54,980 $96,700
Virginia $68,940 $44,420 $90,110
Washington $75,570 $54,280 $96,250
West Virginia $68,310 $48,870 $88,940
Wisconsin $62,650 $46,570 $81,720
Wyoming $63,510 $38,500 $93,030

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.

Highest paying metro areas for pediatric RDNs

Metro Area Median Annual Salary
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA $102,680
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $102,660
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $97,760
Santa Rosa, CA $91,960
Modesto, CA $89,540
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA $86,220
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV $84,880
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA $84,600
Rochester, MN $84,600
Stockton-Lodi, CA $84,430

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

Career Median Annual Salary
Dietitians and Nutritionists $66,450
Health Education Specialists $59,990
Rehabilitation Counselors $39,990

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 6.6% increase in the field through 2032. 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:

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


Written and reported by:
Natural Healers Team

Updated: August 30th, 2021