Nutrition Careers for Those Who Love Food and What It Can Do
Whether from a lack of food or access to the wrong types of foods, the details on global malnutrition are shocking. More than two billion people lack major micronutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamins A and C in their diet. Two billion adults are obese or overweight while more than 50 million children across the globe are too thin (underweight) for their height. More than 40 million youth are considered obese, and, as of 2017, more than 180 countries have a crisis of diabetes, obesity, or both.
Nutrition services are critical to general health and healthcare systems. There is a growing need for nutrition professionals to help clients develop healthy eating habits and ensure they are selecting optimal foods for their health and wellness. Read on for more about what you can do as a nutritionist and where you can work.
Why Is Nutrition So Important?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetics Association) has expressed the need to promote nutrition services for disease prevention and to reduce the overall need for preventable healthcare services. Dietitians and nutritionists play an important role in these services and, with that role, they must gain an understanding of “politics, administration, [and] healthcare financing” with continuous training and research.
Dietitians and nutritionists can work with patients and clients in a variety of settings.
- Long-term care facilities
- Outpatient care centers
- Community health programs
- Senior care and assisted living
- Local and national government programs
- Clinical and medical nutrition therapy centers
The options are endless and the funding for these vital programs is available. Pursuing the appropriate education is the first step towards a career in the nutrition and wellness field. A successful health nutritionist, clinical dietitian, or registered dietitian is compassionate, well educated in the field, and a forward thinker ready to tackle the current and future issues of public health and eating habits.
Getting Nutrition Smart!
As a certified personal trainer, pursuing a nutrition certification is the first step towards helping clients address the gaps in their diets that are preventing them from reaching their fitness goals. Without a credential, in most states, the ability to give a professional opinion on nutrition is limited.
The ISSA Sports Nutrition Certification is a great starting point to become a general health nutritionist. Certified individuals can work with the general population and athletes on their eating habits to maximize performance and recovery. A public health nutritionist will focus their efforts on local and regional programs that make healthy, whole foods available and affordable for those in need. Volunteering to run grocery store tours, cooking classes, and public information sessions are fun and engaging ways that someone interested in nutrition and dietetics can get involved.
Taking the next step beyond certification, once an approved bachelor’s degree is earned, you can become a registered nutritionist, registered dietitian, or a clinical dietitian. This is essentially a health care profession as you are working in a clinical setting meaning within the healthcare system. Other clinical (healthcare) options include clinical dietitian, nutritional therapists, and registered nutritionists. A secondary degree in nutrition and dietetics prepares you with coursework in medical nutrition therapy, nutrition counseling, nutrition management, and management of food service systems.
A master’s degree, though not required to become a registered dietitian, is an advancement in higher education. An approved advanced degree (bachelor’s degree or master’s degree) is required along with a six- to nine-month dietetic internship to be eligible to sit for the registered dietitian and registered dietitian nutritionist credential. To use the title of a dietitian one must be registered with the AND in 43 states. A dietitian can do many of the same things as a nutritionist. However, the additional requirements prove proficiency and credibility for the registered individual.
In the U.S. there are often options to pay for or supplement the cost of higher education in nutrition and dietetics due to the desperate need for dietitian services. Some local and state governments will help pay for an advanced degree or certification as may the military and some hospital systems.
What Does A Nutritionist Do?
General nutritionists are usually not regulated from state to state. Having a certification in nutrition makes you credible in the eyes of potential clients as an authority on general nutrition. With an accompanying personal training certification, you can work with the general population on fitness programs and accompanying meal planning and healthy food choices and charge for your services. A healthy, balanced diet is 80% of the success of a fitness and wellness program.
On the other hand, clinical professionals are tracked with dietetic registration and licensing bodies. They can work with patients in long-term and outpatient care facilities, hospitals, senior care, medical rehabilitation, and physician’s offices. Clinical nutrition specialists like dietitians help determine a patient’s nutritional needs, implement programs to fill the gaps, and report and evaluate the results. The medical nature of the services allows for closer observation of the patient and, generally, more resources to ensure successful nutrition program implementation.
A public health nutrition professional will generally be a registered dietitian or public health nutritionist tasked with developing, implementing, and maintaining community health and wellness programs. The programs can include improving the nutritional efficiency of school lunch programs in their local area, making healthier food choices available in “food desert” communities, or developing meal plans that fit an institution’s needs, cultural considerations, and cost constraints.
An example of a public health nutrition program is the governmental organization known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC). A branch of the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, WIC provides nutritious foods and supplements to at-risk pregnant and breast-feeding women, postpartum mothers, and children up to the age of 5. The WIC services can be offered in government clinics, mobile clinics, schools, community centers, and public housing and migrant health centers.
All nutrition professionals work closely with or on behalf of those in need of guidance or assistance. To be successful, dietitians and nutritionists must be problem solvers with good social awareness. Staying organized, possessing advanced project management skills, and demonstrating the ability to deliver a program from inception to completion will make you invaluable as well!
Top Places To Work In The Nutrition Field
Certified nutrition professionals are sought after in health clubs, for corporate wellness programs, and with private clients looking to get a hold on their diets and make better food choices. Health clubs and gyms often offer nutrition consults as an added service to supplement personal training sessions and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a certified nutrition professional can average $57,000 per year.
Corporate wellness is a growing trend and most major companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, and Apple employ corporate wellness nutritionists and dietitians. The incentive for having a corporate dietitian to supplement a healthcare program is the reduction of healthcare costs and employer contributions annually when employees are healthier! The average pay in corporate wellness jumps to more than $90,000 per year.
Outpatient dietitians and nutritionists earn an average of $66,000 per year and work in healthcare facilities like adult and children’s hospitals, recovery centers, and health clinics. Outpatient differs from inpatient in that the patients are not admitted for care. Inpatient requires the patient stay for treatment. Depending on what they are being treated for, a stay can range from overnight to months before being discharged.
Government work can vary in nutrition and dietetics. Military dietitians work with the armed forces and work to ensure troops and enlisted members are receiving adequate, balanced nutrition both domestically and abroad. Programs like WIC have a national office and offices in most major cities that employ nutrition professionals to adapt programs to the local community.
The public school system covers kindergarten programs all the way through college. A dietitian within the school system is responsible for balanced and cost-effective menus, food service operations, and reduced and free lunch programs. BLS reports annual salaries for governmental nutrition professionals at an average of $59,000.
Finally, senior care and long-term care facilities, especially those with residential services, employ nutrition professionals to aid with menu planning, food service management, and patient engagement for special populations. The needs of the elderly, ailing, and disabled patients may differ and these nutrition professionals often work closely with medical professionals like nurses, physicians, and home care companions to develop and implement programs. The average pay for patient car nutrition professionals is $58,000 per year according to the BLS.
It’s A Lot to Sink Your Teeth Into!
The bottom line is that nutrition services are a necessity in general health and healthcare systems. There is a growing need for professionals educated in nutrition to help clients and patients develop healthy eating habits and ensure they are getting the proper nutrition from the foods they consume. Nutrition and dietetics are rewarding careers with great pay—the best of both worlds! Enjoy helping others and earn a great living.
Take your seat at the table, tuck in your napkin, and dig into the ISSA Nutrition certification today!