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How to become a nutritionist

Published: Tuesday 16th March 2021

Nutritionist sitting beside a bowl of food

Are you wondering how to become a nutritionist? You’re not alone! Thousands of people choose to enter this field every year. To truly excel in this role, you’ll need a passion for food and healthy eating, and a desire to help people make better choices with their diet and food choices.

Here’s how to become a nutritionist. 

What is a nutritionist?

A nutritionist is an expert in food and nutrition that helps people better manage their diets and nutrient intake. They generally promote healthy lifestyle choices and advise clients on individual nutrition plans to help them meet their health goals. 

A nutritionist will assess a client, their diet, and their activities. they will then discuss any goals with the patient, such as losing weight or lowering blood pressure. Once this is complete, the nutritionist will develop a meal and diet plan to help that patient meet their goals. This can involve recommending certain foods and avoiding others.

The information and plans nutritionists provide are usually tailored to the individual in question, taking into account pre-existing conditions, blood sugar levels, physical activity, lifestyle, and other factors. For example, a dietitian may recommend a meal plan with lots of healthy fat and limited sugar in order to help someone at risk of heart disease. 

Many nutritionists are self-employed and are responsible for sourcing their own clients. Others will work in facilities like hospitals, clinics, and private practices. Still others take on a community role and help educate and inform the public on topics related to food and health. these nutritionists will work with organizations like nonprofits, health maintenance organizations, and public sector agencies. 

What education do I need to become a nutritionist?

To become a nutritionist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, clinical nutrition, public health nutrition, or a related subject. Degree programs often teach modules in subjects like nutrition, psychology, chemistry, and biology. It is common for nutritionists to get advanced degrees in the subject. 

Do I need any other experience or certifications?

Nutritionist holding a bunch of fruits and vegtables

Upon graduation from a nutritionist degree program, it is common for you to do a supervised internship. This will help you gain experience in your chosen area of practice. 

Many states require that nutritionists be licensed in order to practice, while others require only state registration and certification to use certain titles. Other states have no regulations whatsoever. Requirements for registration and licensure differ by state.

Nutritionists can get a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CDN) in order to show your level of knowledge in the field. Most states accept this certification. 

To get this credential, you must have a master’s degree or doctoral degree in nutrition or a related field and complete 1,000 hours of supervised experience. You will also need to pass an exam. To keep this credential, you will need to complete 75 hours of continuing education every 5 years. You can find more information about this credential through the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists

You can also get certifications in different areas of specialty from the Commission on Dietetic Registration. These areas could include oncology nutrition, sports dietetics, or oncology nutrition. 

Main duties

Your duties as a nutritionist will vary depending on your specialty and position. However, duties common to all nutritionists will include:

  • Determining a patient’s nutritional needs.
  • Providing advice on diet, nutrition, and healthy eating habits.
  • Developing meal and nutrition plans.
  • Analyzing the effects of meal and nutrition plans on the patient and changing plans as needed.
  • Promoting good nutrition through health education programs.
  • Creating educational materials to help patients with good nutrition.
  • Documenting a patient’s progress.

Where are all the nutritionist jobs?

Nutritionist writing on a pad

Nutritionists can work anywhere in the country where they are cleared to practice. Most nutritionists work in hospitals, government agencies, nursing and residential care facilities, and outpatient care facilities. However, many nutritionists also work on a freelance basis.


The median salary of a nutritionist in the US is around $61,000, though this can vary from region to region and between employers. This salary can rise to more than $83,000 depending on education, training, and where in the country you work. 

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