Nutritionist - How to Become a Nutritionist

Nutritionist

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Nutritionist Job Description

 

Nutritionists and dietitians are similar, but different by credentials. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) doesn't nationally recognize registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN), but they have introduced the RDN designation and the position is recognized on the state level where they need a license. Like dietitians, nutritionists are experts in food and nutrition. Their main function is to help patients lose weight and live healthier. They help patients choose the right food, plan menus, and advise them on the health effects of certain foods.

Nutritionists frequently work closely with individuals who have medical issues, such as those with diabetes or those undergoing chemotherapy, to help them find the right foods to eat for their best possible health.

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Responsibilities

 

Nutritionists help their clients stay focused on losing weight and becoming healthy. They encourage them while discussing the pros and cons of their diet and exercise. The list of responsibilities is long for a RDN and a lot of them are similar to a dietician. Here are some of their duties:

  • Discuss the pros and cons of specific diets and foods

  • May test for specific food allergies or autoimmune disorders such as celiac disease (gluten intolerance)

  • Assess patient’s current dietary habits and needs

  • Educate about healthy eating habits

  • Ensure the menus are working

  • Document a patient’s progress

  • Speak to groups about good nutrition health through food

  • Develop individualized meal plans

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Skills

 

Communication Must be able to clearly explain treatment paths and information about diet and nutrition to patients. Must correspond with other healthcare professionals if necessary for their patients. 
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing patient to make sure they are responding well to diets and make improvements or take corrective action when necessary. 
Critical Thinking Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Detail Oriented  Must be able to pinpoint small details about a nutrition plan that doesn't work or that needs to be improved. 
Complex Problem Solving Must be able to identify complex problems with nutrition or diet, and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 
Empathy Must be able to empathize with a patient's pain and difficulties. Need to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves. Work with many people who are sensitive about their body image. 
Science Must know all about the human body and interactions it has with it's environment. Must know chemicals and reactions to foods and allergies that could arise. 
Troubleshooting Must be able to hypothesize and test different meal plans that could work for different patients and make corrections as necessary. 
Patience Must be patient with clients who have a hard time responding to treatment plans and who fall back into old habits. 

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Working Conditions

 

Nutritionists can in various settings. Many work as self-employed entrepreneurs, as well as in hospitals, clinics, schools and a variety of holistic and alternative medicine environments. Depending on education, nutritionists can be in high demand in food and health-related businesses and work with high-end clients and sports groups. 

They usually work typical work hours and schedules. They don't need to be on-call or work nights, weekends, or holidays, unless their clients explicitly want them to work with them during these times; then it's up to the nutritionist to build their schedules.  

 


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How to Become a Nutritionist:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

To become a nutritionist you need a bachelor's degree in health, nutrition, dietetics, or food service system management.  Before enrolling, make sure that the program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND)Find Approved Programs here. 

 A degree program to become a nutritionist could look like the following:

Grade Level Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • Nutrition I
  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Psychology I
  • Pre-Calculus
  • Calculus I
  • English I
  • English II
  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Sophomore Year

  • Human Physiology
  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Nutrition II
  • Microbiology I
  • Life Span Nutrition
  • Statistics I
  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Physiological Chemistry
  • Foodservice Operations Management
  • Communication I
  • Medical Terminology
  • Technical Writing
  • Food Preservation and Packaging
  • Vitamins and Minerals
  • Energy, Metabolism, and Metabolic Integration
  • Humanities Requirement/Electives

Senior Year

  • Food & Nutrition in the Community
  • Foodservice Systems Management
  • Professional Issues in Dietetics 
  • Clinical Nutrition I
  • Clinical Nutrition II
  • Nutrition Counseling 
  • Interpreting Current Nutrition Research
  • Nutrition Counseling
  • Remaining Electives

You can complete this program in 4 years. During the undergrad program, or directly after, students must also complete an internship. 

 

2. Earn the Required License & Certifications

 

Many states have formal licensing and certification requirements that nutritionists have to obtain to work in the field. Even if your state doesn't have specific requirements, employers and clients like seeing the credentials and will be more willing to hire you if you have them. It needs to be noted that some states only require you to take a couple of tests. It's important to check your states requirements, because everything is different depending on which state you live in. 

The Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential, is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and meets the requirements for licensing in some states.

In order to earn this credential, you need to graduate from an accredited bachelor's degree program; complete an internship; and pass a national examination.

 

3. Consider Earning a Graduate Degree

 

It's not necessary, but nutritionists can continue their education and complete a master’s or doctorate degree program in nutrition. Completing graduate school can prepare nutritionists to work as educators and researchers in the field.

These programs usually take an additional two years and includes courses like:

  • Medical nutrition therapy

  • Probability or Statistics

  • Molecular biology

  • Public policy and health issues

If you want a Ph.D, you need higher level classes and more time. Doctoral programs require students to take graduate-level courses in the following nutrition, chemistry, and biology. Along with these courses, you must perform fieldwork, complete a dissertation, and get more experience through working in the field. 

Once you graduate and complete 1,000 hours of fieldwork, you can earn the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential administered by the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists (CBNS)

 

4. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education

 

The continuing education hours vary by state, but if you live in a state where you need a license and credentials, you must maintain them every year. Check with your state to see how many CE credits you need.  

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
02.04.2017
Do not use unless requested by Dir/AVP of Nutrition Division Provides clinical nutrition services including medical nutrition therapy (MNT), assessment, education, developing, monitoring, and implementing MNT for patient assigned units. Home...
02.07.2017
Provides clinical nutrition services including medical nutrition therapy (MNT), assessment, education, developing, monitoring, and implementing MNT for patient assigned units. Essential Functions Assesses nutritional status of patients...
02.06.2017
Provides clinical nutrition services including medical nutrition therapy (MNT), assessment, education, developing, monitoring, and implementing MNT for patient assigned units. Essential Functions Assesses nutritional status of patients...
02.07.2017
Provides optimal nutritional care by effectively identifying age specific patient needs, assessing nutritional status, designing appropriate care plans and monitoring to maximize clinical outcomes. Provides evidence-based nutritional information...
02.20.2017
Interacts as a member of the patient focused care team, uses the patient care process (assesses, plan, implement and evaluate for individual patients) in determining nutrition interventions for patients across the continuum of care and ensures...
04.20.2016
Boston Medical Center (BMC) is more than a hospital. Its a network of support and care that touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in need each year. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New...
01.06.2017
Boston Medical Center (BMC) is more than a hospital. Its a network of support and care that touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in need each year. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New...
01.06.2017
Boston Medical Center (BMC) is more than a hospital. Its a network of support and care that touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in need each year. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New...
02.07.2017
Coordinates effective diabetes education (nutrition and general information) for patients and their family members. Assists with in-service classes and workshops for staff. Essential Functions Serves as an expert resource on diabetes-related...
02.07.2017
Coordinates effective diabetes education (nutrition and general information) for patients and their family members. Assists with in-service classes and workshops for staff. Essential Functions Serves as an expert resource on diabetes-related...
02.20.2017
At Our Lady of Lourdes we offer you much more than just a job in the healthcare industry. We offer career opportunities for people who have a calling to share their gifts and talents as part of our healing ministry. As a Catholic hospital, we are...
02.20.2017
The Transplant Practice Specialist provides support to the multi-disciplinary clinical team by managing the patient appointment schedule, obtaining insurance approval for appointments, and answering the main phone line. Serves as a primary point...
  1. Dietitian Nutritionist/Dietary Services-Patient/PRN Charlotte, NC Carolinas HealthCare System
    Do not use unless requested by Dir/AVP of Nutrition Division Provides clinical nutrition services including medical nutrition therapy (MNT), assessment, education, developing, monitoring, and implementing MNT for patient assigned units. Home...
  2. Dietitian Nutritionist/Outpatient-Inpatient Pediatric/CMC Main-Part Time Charlotte, NC Carolinas HealthCare System
    Provides clinical nutrition services including medical nutrition therapy (MNT), assessment, education, developing, monitoring, and implementing MNT for patient assigned units. Essential Functions Assesses nutritional status of patients...
  3. Dietitian Nutritionist/Dietary Services Patient-CHS University-FT Charlotte, NC Carolinas HealthCare System
    Provides clinical nutrition services including medical nutrition therapy (MNT), assessment, education, developing, monitoring, and implementing MNT for patient assigned units. Essential Functions Assesses nutritional status of patients...
  4. Dietitian Springfield, MA Sisters of Providence Health System
    Provides optimal nutritional care by effectively identifying age specific patient needs, assessing nutritional status, designing appropriate care plans and monitoring to maximize clinical outcomes. Provides evidence-based nutritional information...
  5. Clinical Dietitian St. Cloud, MN CentraCare Health
    Interacts as a member of the patient focused care team, uses the patient care process (assesses, plan, implement and evaluate for individual patients) in determining nutrition interventions for patients across the continuum of care and ensures...
  6. Per Diem Registered Dietitian I- Clinical Nutrition (Rotating Shift, Per Diem Hours,) (AFSCME) Boston, MA Boston Medical Center
    Boston Medical Center (BMC) is more than a hospital. Its a network of support and care that touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in need each year. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New...
  7. Outpatient Registered Dietitian- Endocrinology/Diabetes (PT, 16 hrs, Days) Boston, MA Boston Medical Center
    Boston Medical Center (BMC) is more than a hospital. Its a network of support and care that touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in need each year. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New...
  8. Outpatient Registered Dietitian- Endocrinology/Diabetes (FT, 40 hrs, Days) Boston, MA Boston Medical Center
    Boston Medical Center (BMC) is more than a hospital. Its a network of support and care that touches the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in need each year. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New...
  9. PT-Diabetes Teaching Dietitian- CMC- Carolinas Diabetes Center Charlotte, NC Carolinas HealthCare System
    Coordinates effective diabetes education (nutrition and general information) for patients and their family members. Assists with in-service classes and workshops for staff. Essential Functions Serves as an expert resource on diabetes-related...
  10. Diabetes Teaching Dietitian Charlotte, NC Carolinas HealthCare System
    Coordinates effective diabetes education (nutrition and general information) for patients and their family members. Assists with in-service classes and workshops for staff. Essential Functions Serves as an expert resource on diabetes-related...
  11. Clinical Dietitian-PRN Lafayette, LA Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center
    At Our Lady of Lourdes we offer you much more than just a job in the healthcare industry. We offer career opportunities for people who have a calling to share their gifts and talents as part of our healing ministry. As a Catholic hospital, we are...
  12. Transplant Practice Specialist Boston, MA Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
    The Transplant Practice Specialist provides support to the multi-disciplinary clinical team by managing the patient appointment schedule, obtaining insurance approval for appointments, and answering the main phone line. Serves as a primary point...