How do you become a nutritionist?
Nutritionists are specialists in understanding how food and nutrients impact our health. Career nutritionists can help bridge the gap in knowledge about dietary needs and supplements, as well as offer recommendations for healthy eating and living. Nutritionists may also serve as a source of enlightenment about the physiological effects of consuming certain types of food and the role nutrients play in alleviating medical conditions and preventing the onset of disease.
Depending on your state of residence, you may need to meet certain educational requirements in nutrition-related subjects to practice as a nutritionist. Additionally, employers and clients may prefer to hire nutritionists with formal training or licensure in nutrition principles and practices. So, it’s important to check the nutrition counseling laws in your state to understand educational requirements.
A nutritionist is not the same as a registered dietician. Registered dieticians must follow a specialized program and receive certification, while nutritionists may be able to embark on a chosen career path in less time with less training necessary.
Top 6 nutrition major jobs
When you equip yourself with a nutrition degree, you’ll have the skills and expertise to explain the nutritional value of food and suggest changes for a healthy diet and lifestyle. This knowledge can prepare you for a range of careers in educational institutions, fitness complexes, public health organizations, private practices, restaurants and more. From being a banquet chef or line cook to a community health worker or food quality analyst, your line of work has the potential to change our perception of food and nutrition while improving our quality of life.
Browse the career descriptions below to see what might align with your passions. Please note some of these careers may require additional schooling, training or certification. Nutritionist careers include:
Whether you’re an aspiring executive chef for a large-scale industrial kitchen or a specialist chef in a certain type of cuisine for a small restaurant, the culinary industry may be a perfect fit for you to execute your nutrition expertise. As a chef, you’ll need a comprehensive understanding of food production and processing as well as customer service and management principles.
Chefs have a range of daily duties and responsibilities to oversee kitchen operations and maintain an efficient schedule. These may include checking food quality and freshness, determining food presentation, instructing cooks and culinary assistants, inspecting kitchen equipment and monitoring employee sanitation practices. Chefs may also be responsible for creating recipes, hiring kitchen staff and reporting to the restaurateur.
You’re not limited when it comes to being a chef. You can be a banquet chef, pastry chef, meat chef, sous chef or another type of specialized chef. If you want to be more of a managerial chef, you can set your sights on becoming a certified executive chef or a corporate executive chef.
If you have a passion for healthy living and want to help people improve their lives, a career as a community health worker may be the right path for you. As a community health worker, you’ll develop rapport with the community you serve and act as a liaison for health care information and services. You’ll need a basic understanding of advocacy, community education, outreach, informal counseling and social support. This skill set will give you the tools to connect your community with proper health care options and improve health outcomes.
The responsibilities of community health workers may vary based on the location or population they serve. Depending on the specific role, community health workers may advise on how to address health concerns, identify at-risk community members, distribute relevant educational materials and provide referrals to health care providers. Community health workers may also be responsible for providing basic health services, such as preventative screenings and first aid.
You have a range of job titles available if you take the community health worker route. These include community health program coordinator, community health promoter, community nutrition educator and HIV counseling and testing services specialist.
If you want to turn your love for food into a career but aren’t at chef-level status yet, you might want to consider becoming a cook. As a cook, you’ll be responsible for understanding the physical and chemical properties of food. This knowledge will give you the tools to prepare, season and cook a variety of foods in a healthy way.
You’ll have many responsibilities as a cook such as sanitizing your cooking station, ensuring the freshness of the ingredients and preparing high-quality nutritious dishes. You’ll need a comprehensive repertoire of basic cooking methods, from baking, broiling and blanching to simmering, steaming and stewing. It’s also important to be highly detail-oriented as a cook, so you can follow recipe directions to a T in a high-paced environment.
You can likely find a cooking role that suits your individual interests. If you like working with children, you can become an elementary school cook. If you want to promote healthy living, you can become a dietary cook or a food and nutrition services assistant. Other potential job titles include a dinner cook, first cook, lead cook or a food service specialist.
Your nutrition degree may also come in handy for a career as a food quality analyst. This job will allow you to pursue your interest in food chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. You’ll inspect, test and evaluate the production of food and beverage products. To be successful as a food quality analyst, you’ll need skills in quality control, critical thinking and food science.
The responsibilities of a food quality analyst include assisting food scientists and technologists in quality control, recording and compiling test results, blending or cultivating ingredients, grading and sorting products and discarding inferior products.
Your job opportunities as a food quality analyst include being an agricultural laborer, apple sorter, corn lab technician, distribution technician, grader and sorter.
Does food science pique your interest? If so, a job as a food scientist may put your nutrition degree to good use. Food scientists improve the safety and sustainability of food to maintain and expand our food supply. Through research and experimentation, food scientists explore the biological and chemical processes affecting crop and livestock growth. They also create new methods for improving the quality, quantity and safety of food.
Food scientists have a range of job responsibilities. In this role, you’ll study the structure and composition of food, inspect food processing areas for sanitation and safety, evaluate food packaging and storage operations, research methods to improve the nutritional value of food and test new food products for adherence to government standards.
You can pursue a range of careers as a food scientist, such as food chemist, food technologist, food and drug research scientist, product development scientist and research food technologist.
If you have a knack for leading teams and ensuring effective and profitable operations, you might consider becoming a food service manager. Food service managers oversee day-to-day operations in a restaurant, cafeteria or other food and beverage service. They need a comprehensive skill set comprised of coordination capabilities, analytical skills, people skills and the ability to adapt to an ever-changing and fast-paced workplace environment.
As a food service manager, you’ll have a range of duties to make sure customers remain satisfied with their dining experience. These responsibilities include overseeing food preparation and presentation, inspecting supplies and equipment, managing budgets and payroll and ensuring employees abide by the health and safety standards.
There are a number of food service manager positions you can pursue. Your potential job titles include banquet manager, cafeteria manager, food production supervisor, food and nutrition services supervisor, kitchen manager, kitchen supervisor and restaurant manager.
What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietician?
A dietitian is a type of nutritionist, but the two careers aren’t synonymous as some people might think. Unlike nutritionists, dietitians require specialized certification to earn the registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) designation administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Registered dietitians need to have an approved four-year degree, complete a supervised internship and pass a national exam. Learn more about the eligibility requirements for how to become a registered dietitian.
Do you think the registered dietitian career path is right for you? ASU’s on-campus BS in dietetics degree is the first step in becoming a registered dietician or registered dietitian nutritionist.