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A nutritionist counsels patients on nutrition and food to improve their health and help them meet their weight and health goals. Although some nutritionists work alone in private practice, the majority work in hospitals, nursing homes, clinics and cafeterias. The duties of nutritionists typically include:
- Assessing patients' diet and nutrition needs in light of their medical history
- Counseling patients on how to eat for adequate nutrition
- Designing eating plans according to patient goals, tastes, and health needs
- Analyzing the results of eating plans and adjusting them as needed
- Addressing groups about healthy eating
- Documenting eating plans and patient progress
Nutritionists sometimes specialize, such as pediatric or sports nutritionists. Related opportunities include working as a registered dietitian or nutrition educator .
Nutrition careers typically require a bachelor's degree in food and nutrition, clinical nutrition, food service systems management, dietetics, or a related field. The coursework for these degrees usually includes biology, chemistry, psychology, and nutrition. Certain employers may prefer or require a master's degree. While earning a degree or shortly thereafter, nutritionists commonly do an internship in which they receive on-the-job instruction during hundreds of hours of supervised practice.
The majority of states require nutritionists to have a license. In most states, nutritionists must earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited program, complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours, and pass an exam to obtain a license. Most nutrition professionals are credentialed with an RDN (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist), which is mandatory for some jobs.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reports that the United States now has 67,400 dietitians and nutritionists, and 14,200 additional such jobs will open up in the next decade. This represents an employment growth rate of 21 percent for nutritionists, which is higher than the national average. A growing elderly population will increase the demand for this profession, as will the worsening obesity epidemic. Health care's increasing focus on preventive care will also drive growth in this sector.
According to the BLS, dietitians and nutritionists earned an average of $56,300 in 2013. Nutritionists in the 90th percentile for income earned $78,720, and those in the 10th percentile made $33,980. The top-paying industries for the profession are the grant making and giving services ($71,400), federal government ($69,220), and office administrative services ($66,210). By contrast, nutritionists who worked for local government ($50,760), special food services ($54,620), and general hospitals ($56,960) have the lowest average salaries.