Nutritionist Job Description
A career in the field of nutrition offers plenty of opportunities once you’ve earned the right education.
Being a nutritionist involves more than just telling people what to eat—you’ll need to take a holistic approach to health. When you first meet a client, you’ll talk with them to assess their overall health, from diet and exercise to things like sleeping habits. Once you’ve gotten to know your client’s lifestyle, you can begin to formulate a “treatment” plan with them, based on realistic needs and goals.
Your main focus will be on crafting the right diet plan, but you’ll also act as a sort of counselor for your client, meeting with them regularly to discuss their progress and any improvements in overall health. You will also be responsible for supporting and motivating your clients as they adjust to their new diets and lifestyles.
What does a nutritionist or dietitian do?
A career in the field of nutrition typically involves dealing with individual clients on a case-by-case basis. Your daily responsibilities in the field will vary depending on where you work, but typical duties for a nutritionist or dietitian include:
- Assessing client health
- Formulating realistic and worthwhile goals for your clients
- Crafting the right diet and exercise plans for individual clients
- Support and motivate clients with regular meetings
- Keep track of client progress
It’s important to remember that there are many different types of clients for nutritionists and dietitians, and who you focus your practice on will help dictate what your responsibilities look like.
You might work with patients who suffer from diabetes, patients with eating disorders, or patients simply pursuing a healthier lifestyle. No matter who you work with, you will be a key pillar of support and motivation.
What degree or certification will I need to become a nutritionist or dietitian?
Your degree will depend on whether or not you pursue a career as a nutritionist or a dietitian. While they’re very similar careers overall, there are some key differences, and the biggest difference is in the degree level.
Basically, dietitians are licensed by most states as Registered Dietitians (RD), so as a dietitian, you will need to have a bachelor’s degree as well as post-graduate training. You’ll also pass a licensing exam and keep your license current by completing continuing education classes (CEs) throughout your career. Dietitians often work in clinical or hospital settings.
Nutritionists do not go through the RD training and licensure, and typically work in more holistic types of nutrition settings. There are now many nutritionist bachelor’s degree programs and training schools that offer degrees in nutrition. Learn more about what you’ll study.
What career paths can I take as a nutritionist or dietitian?
Whether you pursue a career as a nutritionist or a dietitian, you’ll have several options for where to work. Possible workplaces include:
- Hospitals: In a hospital setting, you will work as a part of a team with other health care professionals. You’ll help provide holistic treatment plans for patients to follow both in the hospital and outside. You might specialize in a certain type of patient, or treat generally.
- Nursing care facilities: In a nursing care facility, you will work with elderly patients or other types of live-in patients who need their diets regulated for a specific reason. This might be due to diabetes or kidney damage, or it might simply be a part of maintaining patients’ general health.
- Outpatient care facilities: In an outpatient care facility, you will be responsible for creating diet plans for patients who are recovering from procedures or hospital stays. In outpatient facilities, it is very common for nutritionists to work with patients who are recovering from eating disorders.
- Physicians’ offices: Many physicians will employ dietitians or nutritionists for on-site consultations with patients. Since proper nutrition affects so many different areas of life, even many general practice physicians want to have nutrition counseling available for patients with various needs.
- Self-employment: A great deal of nutritionists will operate their own nutritional counseling or dietetics clinics. While owning and operating your own private practice takes a lot of work and dedication, the benefits include choosing your own hours and priorities.
Learn about pay and salary projections for nutritionists and dietitians.
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