Proper nutrition is one of the keys to longevity. This encompasses eating the right food, eating enough food, and getting adequate macro and micronutrition daily. But for many, this is harder than they think!
Helping people examine and change their eating habits is not for the faint of heart. The people that do this detailed work are nutritionists and dieticians. They have the education needed not only help clients with food choices, but to help them examine how they make choices. The secret to nutrition coaching is effecting long-lasting change!
A nutritionist or dietitian can work in a variety of settings. They can work in health and fitness facilities, long-term care homes, or even as clinical nutritionists in a healthcare setting. Some larger companies are even hiring nutrition professionals to guide their employees as part of greater organizational health initiatives. The level of education one has will determine the sites they are qualified to work in. For example, those with a nutritionist certification or education in general can work with the general population. However, someone with a bachelor's degree or higher may also have a licensure that allows them to work clinically with clients.
As health educators, nutritionists are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth for health educators is projected much higher than other fields. Specifically, dietician and nutritionist positions are expected to blossom more than 8 percent by 2029 (adding nearly 6,000 more jobs)!
Let's explore where a nutritionist can work, how to get started, and get you some great resources to chow down on.
Research shows that dieticians and nutritionists can make between $50,000 and $75,000 a year. A dietitian will fall a little higher in that range due to their extensive education and licensure requirements. But, as you can see, nutrition coaching can earn you a very good living!
The locations that nutritionists interact with clients serve different functions.
Outpatient care centers: Clients are typically referred from their physician to get help with meal planning, food choices, and general nutrition questions.
Long-term care: This can be in hospitals or a care home; clients are there long-term and the nutritionist uses nutrition therapy to plan and deliver their meals to ensure their health needs and treatment plans are being fulfilled. For this professional, food is medicine! This role typically requires additional education or licensure since these professionals help with disease management and feeding tubes in some cases.
Clinics: Clients often come in for a little more than just general advice. They may be managing an illness or chronic condition or have a prescribed plan for weight loss or body composition change. Those with eating disorders may come to clinics for guidance and treatment, too.
Gyms and health facilities: These clients are the epitome of the general population. They have likely been cleared for exercise and are often looking for guidance with calorie goals, food logging, and general fitness or athletic goals.
In-home: Some clients will prefer the privacy of their own home for help with tasks like creating grocery lists, cooking their food, modifying their eating habits, and general nutrition advice.
Want to learn more about the various levels of nutrition coaching and nutrition clients? Check out this informative ISSA blog post: Nutrition Coaching: What You'll Actually Do
To start your own nutritionist practice, start with the education! Learn as much as you can about nutrition. Not from magazines and blogs, but certifications, college courses, and the like. The more education you have, the more you can share with clients! Did you know that technically anyone can call themselves a nutritionist? Certification and licensure are not required, but they give clients the confidence that you know what you are talking about.
Nutritionists and dietitians that go through accredited college degree programs and licensure can register themselves with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Fees to register after becoming licensed can range from $30 to $60 annually, so it's worth the investment! In fact, some jobs on the clinical side of nutrition may look specifically for a registered nutritionist. This ensures they are getting a professional with the right education to help clients effectively.
Online job boards like Indeed and ZipRecruiter will have plenty of nutrition jobs posted. They can be sorted by type of work, education required, and physical location. Nutritionjobs.com is a great search board for all jobs related to nutrition as well. This site also includes tools like nutrition-related podcasts, career tools, and blogs on building your nutrition career and business.
So, we've talked about a few different nutrition job titles. Let's discuss the differences.
You've got three main options when it comes to nutrition: the certification route, the degree path, and the licensure route. The ‘best' route will depend on how much time and money you are willing to spend and how in-depth you want your coaching to be!
Nutritionists with a certification have put in the leg work. Certification means you have learned the important information on food, digestion, and even behavior change and coaching clients. Certified nutrition professionals are fully capable of helping clients assess and make changes to their diet to support their health and fitness goals.
Certification cost: $499- $999
Time to complete: 2-6 months
The degree path takes a nutritionist through an accredited bachelor's degree program. For those who really want some in-depth knowledge, a degree may be perfect for you! However, a bachelor's degree in dietetics generally takes a lot longer than a certification and, in the end, you'll have the same capabilities. You'll be able to coach clients on nutrition, food choices, and changing their behaviors.
Degree cost : $5,000 - $50,000+ depending on the school you attend
Time to complete: 3-4 years (6-8 semesters)
Some of the most affordable bachelor's programs in dietetics and nutrition can be found across the country. Check out a list here.
In some cases, some nutritionists pursue higher degrees like a master's degree or a Ph.D. This may put them on track for the third option: licensure.
Those who complete an accredited degree and seek licensure take their nutrition practice to the next level. Passing the licensure exam and completing all internship requirements makes them a dietician! Dieticians can do a lot more than a general nutritionist due to their additional education and testing. They can prescribe diets, work with clients and physicians in a clinical setting, and use nutrition to treat people with health conditions.
Licensure cost: cost of the degree ($5,000-$50,000+) plus study materials ($50-$1,500+) and licensure exam ($200). Annual renewals of licensure cost about $60.
Time to complete: 5 or more years for education, internships last between 8 months and 2 years
Learn more about the differences between a nutritionist and a dietician in this informative ISSA blog post.
You've got to start somewhere! You clearly have a passion for nutrition, so start learning more! Get started on the ISSA's Nutritionist course today!
By becoming an ISSA Nutritionist, you'll learn the foundations of how food fuels the body, plus step by step methods for implementing a healthy eating plan into clients' lifestyles.