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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.
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.
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
• Nutrition counseling
• Vitamins, minerals, and food science
• Community Health
• Exercise Theory
• 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:
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
Research, education and counseling
Support special needs
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:
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.
Median Salary: $66,450
Projected job growth: 6.8%
10th Percentile: $44,140
25th Percentile: $56,490
75th Percentile: $80,430
90th Percentile: $95,130
Projected job growth: 6.8%
|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 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 metro areas for pediatric RDNs
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|
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 6.8% 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:
|General Surgical and Medical Hospitals||19,240|
|Outpatient Care Centers||7,270|
|Skilled Nursing Care Facilities||4,550|
|Special Food Services||4,280|
|Local Government (except for schools and hospitals)||3,730|
Written and reported by:
Natural Healers Team
Updated: August 30th, 2021