How to become a Nutritionist

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Nutritionist? What Nutritionists do? Degrees for Nutritionists, Steps to become Nutritionist and much more.

Nutritionists are experts in the field of food and nutrition. Their primary job is to advise people on what to eat to lead a healthy lifestyle and achieve their health goals. A nutritionist may work in various settings including hospitals, nursing homes, cafeterias, and schools and some of them are self-employed. To know more about how to become a nutritionist here are details on the degree, courses, and career path.

What does a Nutritionist do ?

Some of the main purposes of a nutritionist include developing meal plans taking both cost and the client’s preferences into account, evaluating the effects of meal plans and change plans as needed, promoting better nutrition by giving talks to groups about diet, nutrition and, the relationship between good eating habits and preventing or managing specific diseases and keeping up with the latest nutritional science research. 

There are several specialties within the occupation of a nutritionist which include Clinical Dieticians, Management Dieticians, Community Dieticians. Clinical Dietetics work in hospitals, long term care facilities and other institutions, and provide medical nutrition therapy. Management dieticians work in service settings such as cafeterias, hospitals, and food corporations and are responsible for planning meal programs, buying food and in some cases overseeing kitchen staff. Community dieticians work with specific groups like pregnant women in settings like public health clinics, government and non-profit agencies, health maintenance organizations, and other settings, and educate the public on topics related to food and nutrition.  

Steps for becoming a Nutritionist


Obtain A Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a nutritionist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, dietetics, health sciences, or related field of study including food science, microbiology, biology, the chemistry among others. Bachelor’s degree program typically takes four years to complete. Prospective nutritionists need to complete a definite period of supervised training in the form of an internship during or immediately after the completion of a bachelor’s degree.


Earn Necessary Certification, And Licensing

The requirements for registration, certification, and licensing differ from state to state. While some states require nutritionists to take and pass tests to prove their mettle, many states require nutritionists to earn advanced certifications in order to practice. 

In order to get either credential Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist (RDN) or Registered Dietitian (RD) administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, candidates need to meet the following requirements:

  • Candidates must be graduates from an approved and accredited bachelor's degree program

  • Candidates must have completed a supervised practice program. 

  • Candidates must pass a national exam

  • Candidates must complete continuing education requirements

Nutritionists with master’s or doctoral degrees and one thousand credit hours of experience may apply for and earn the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential by the Certification Board of Nutrition Specialists.


Get Employed 

After completing a bachelor’s degree program and the necessary certifications and licensing for practice, the next step for a nutritionist is to land a job. While some get employed with hospitals, clinics, and other places like schools and cafeterias,  some opt to start their own private practice.


Earn An Advanced Degree

Advanced certifications and degrees although not compulsory, if pursued will allow nutritionists to earn recognized certifications through the CBNS. If CBNS requirements are met and candidates pass the exam, they will earn the credential CNS ( Certified Nutrition Specialist). 


Continue Education

Practicing Nutritionists needs to continue education throughout their lifetime of practice. Continuing education credits are a requirement for the renewal of license and certification.  The number of credit hours differs state-wise. For most states, candidates will have to complete around 75 continuing education credits every 5 years. 

Nutritionist Salaries


Nutritionist Degree Levels


The associate degree of science in nutrition typically takes up to two years to be completed and lays the foundation for students who want to pursue a career in nutrition in the future. An associate degree program in nutrition not only gives basic idea of the discipline but also provides hands-on training that prepares them to work in the field. Although an associate degree doesn’t earn students a license to practice those that want to start early can land jobs for the position of dietetic technicians working under the supervision of registered nutritionists. 

Normal Nutrition
  • Conducting food lab experiments

  • Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins

  • Nutrient analysis

  • Provides an overview of the nutrition field

  • Principles of nutrition science

  • Nature and functions of carbohydrates

Modified Diets
  • Diets for medical conditions

  • dietary recommendations

  • dietary modifications

  • Relationship between nutrients and body functions

  • Health and medical conditions

  • Diets

Nutrition and Fitness
  • body fat composition

  • dietary supplements

  • Exercise

  • Relationship between diet and energy

  • Physical performance

  • Cardio


Students who want to pursue doctoral degree programs in Nutrition are licensed and practicing experienced nutritionists. Doctoral programs are focussed on research and train students to contribute to the field by conducting original nutrition studies. A doctoral degree program typically takes anywhere between five to seven years of intensive research and study to be completed. Students graduating doctoral degree programs often focus on careers in academia and research. 

Eating Disorders
  • Recognizing eating disorders

  • Understanding obesity

  • Treating patients with eating disorders

  • Problems associated with disordered eating in adults and children

  • Theories and biases regarding obesity

  • Biological, medical, nutritional, psychosocial, and cultural factors

  • Analyzing public health problems

  • Conducting population research

  • Applying statistical methods to healthcare issues

  • Use of statistics in understanding public health problems

  • Use of Biostatistics in the field of public health

  • Concept of statistical inference

Advanced Nutrition and Wellness
  • Food preparation, safety & handling

  • Protein, fat, and carbohydrates

  • Trends & issues in nutrition

  • Provides an extensive study of nutrition

  • Food safety and sanitation

  • Personal hygiene


A nutrition certification course provides students with tools to design an effective nutrition and supplement programs for patients and advise them on diet and exercises legally. Nutrition certificate program covers the fundamentals of the fitness and nutrition field, from creating targeted fitness routines and mastering flexibility training to planning healthy menus and developing effective weight-loss strategies

Nutrition and Healthy Living
  • Nutrition and the digestive system

  • Carbohydrates

  • The science of exercise and weight loss

  • Scientific information on nutrition and disease prevention

  • Awareness of ways to preserve optimal lifetime health

  • Identify valid and reliable nutrition information

Nutrition Counseling
  • Understanding the person

  • Understanding the problem

  • Eliciting new behaviors

  • Techniques for refining counseling skills

  • Reducing the risk of chronic diseases

  • Connection between health and nutrition

Plant-Based Nutrition
  • Nutrition and Society

  • Diseases of affluence

  • Plant-based in practice

  • Following a plant-based diet and lifestyle

  • Prevention and reversal of diseases

  • Heart disease and diabetes

Salary of a Nutritionist

On average, a Registered Nutrition earns around $60,500 annually. The average starting salary for a fresh graduate is around $34,500 per year while the top ten percent may earn an annual average salary up to $77,500

Job Growth Of a Nutrition 

The job growth of Nutrition is projected to grow at 11%. There are many rewarding career prospects in the healthcare industry and the role of a nutritionist is on the boom given the aging population and increasing obesity problem in America. Jobs for nutritionists exist everywhere these days - in schools, hospitals, restaurants, wellness programs, public outreach programs, research labs among others. 

Job Concentrations for Nutritionist

Following are the job concentrations for a Nutritionist: 

Clinical Nutritionist:

As the term suggests, clinical nutritionists work in hospitals or clinical settings. Their KRAs include one on one situations not only with both inpatients and outpatients but also with their families in the process of assessing, designing, and implementing dietary strategies and nutritional therapies. Clinical nutritionists charts out diets for patients with medical issues like hypertension, diabetes and obesity. Sometimes clinical nutritionists are consulted for special cases where medical treatments like chemotherapy create food sensitivities.

Community Nutritionist:

Community nutritionists are employed by schools, community health clinics, recreational centers, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and local, state, and federal government agency programs. Programs are designed for specific subgroups like children, at-risk families, and the elderly to address their nutritional issues.

Management Nutritionists:

Management Nutritionists work with institutions that depend on large scale food service operations to feed employees and the public. Nutritionists help in optimizing the performance of these facilities. Their responsibilities include recipe testing, menu planning, food sourcing and long term budgeting keeping intact the latest standards and recommendations for health and nutrition. 

Stand out skills for a Nutritionist

In order to excel as a nutritionist, the following skills are a prerequisite:

Organizational Skills: A nutritionist's job is hectic and usually doesn’t fall under the 9 to 5 job. Sometimes caseloads can be heavy including client meetings, evening workshops, consultations with colleagues, papers to write, classroom lectures among another day to day work. It is important to be organized in order to be successful as a nutritionist.

Verbal Communication: One of the most important parts of a nutritionist's job involves listening carefully and conveying information to clients and their caregivers. A successful nutritionist will have good listening and verbal skills so as to avoid any sort of miscommunication.

Interpersonal Skills: Nutritionists meet people on a daily basis including consulting with other colleagues and meeting new clients. They must have a pleasant personality and share amicable relationships with everyone in their workplace.

Research Translation: Nutritionists often need to put complicated research findings and technical nutrition information in layman’s words so that the research findings are easier to understand by everyone. It is a prerequisite especially for nutritionists working in community-based positions.