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People often confuse dietitians and nutritionists. However, the dietitian and nutritionist jobs are two entirely different professions. In this article, we’ll explain the core differences between these careers, as well as their requirements, duties, etc.
A dietitian is a board-certified expert in food and nutrition. In the US, nutritionists must have a lot of training and proper credentials. Before being able to apply for any of the nutritionist job openings, candidates are required to meet specific qualifications.
About Nutritionist Jobs
What Do Nutritionists Do?
Nutritionists advise clients on diet and nutrition. They also help them manage diseases and improve overall health. Both nutritionists and dietitians work with clients to determine which foods and drinks they should or shouldn’t include in their diet.
Responsibilities included in the nutritionist career field:
- Explaining and clarifying how nutrients affect overall health
- Evaluating clients’ dietary needs by carefully assessing their fitness levels, health, food habits, sleep schedules, etc.
- Creating personalized nutrition plans
- Conducting scientific research
- Writing and publishing articles
Responsibilities included in the dietitian career field:
- Writing reports
- Educating the public and health professionals about nutrition
- Helping facilitate positive dietary changes
- Working as a vital part of a multidisciplinary team
- Supporting the work of fellow healthcare experts
- Advising clients on specific diets
- Providing clients with health advice
Many of the responsibilities or duties of nutritionists and dietitians overlap. However, the core difference between these two is that in the US, the title nutritionist can be applied to anyone who provides general nutrition advice.
Conversely, according to the dietitian job description, these experts are qualified to diagnose eating disorders and design diets for treating various medical conditions.
Types of Nutritionist Jobs
Nutritionists can choose from six different types of jobs:
- Public health nutritionist jobs
- Clinical nutritionist jobs
- Nutritional consultant jobs
- Management nutritionist jobs
- Animal nutritionist jobs
- Sports nutritionist jobs
Public health nutritionists work in government and community organizations, whereas clinical nutritionists are experts in nutritional supplements and diet, and they work in long-term care and medical facilities. 0=
Dietary consultants work in private practices and provide clients with nutritional information via educational seminars and counseling.
Management nutritionists work in institutions and medical facilities, and their job is to focus on dietary needs and meal plans.
Animal nutritionists work with the dietary needs of all kinds of animals. They work in zoos, pet food stores, and veterinary hospitals.
In contrast, sports nutritionists work with fitness-oriented clients who are trying to reach their goals through physical activity, gyms, fitness centers, and optimal diet.
Types of Dietitian jobs
Future dietitians may choose one of these three job types:
- Clinical dietitian jobs
- Community dietitian jobs
- Management dietitian jobs
Clinical dietitians are experts who provide their clients with medical nutrition therapy. They work in clinics, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and private practices. They are in charge of creating nutritional programs based on specific health needs of residents and patients.
Community dietitians are the second-most-popular type of dietitian jobs in the USA. These experts develop programs and provide the public with advice on different topics related to nutrition, health, and food. Community dietitians work with adolescents, the elderly, and other specific groups of individuals.
Management dietitians plan food programs, and they work in prisons, schools, cafeterias, and hospitals. These professionals oversee other dietitians and kitchen staff and are concerned with budget management.
Moreover, a lot of people are becoming interested in online dietitian jobs because they offer flexibility in times of social distancing.
According to BLS, in 2018, nutritionists and dietitians held around 70,900 jobs in the United States.
Some of the largest employers of nutritionists and dietitians include the following:
- Private, local, and state hospitals (30%)
- Government (14%)
- Residential care and nursing facilities (10%)
- Outpatient care centers (9%)
- Self-employed (6%)
One of the many perks of working in the field of nutrition is flexibility. Most nutritionist jobs found online offer great freedom and flexibility to experts in this field. Therefore, a lot of them started providing virtual assistance to their clients remotely.
Injuries and Illnesses
Since nutritionists and dietitians work with both healthy and sick people, they are exposed to various health risks. However, since most clients suffer from conditions such as food intolerance, diabetes, and bowel disorders, health risks at the workplace are not very common.
Of course, like every other job, being a nutritionist can be time-consuming and stressful. Still, if you enjoy changing the lives of people for the better, it’s worth it.
Typically, the majority of nutrition jobs involve working full time in a facility, private clinic, or another workplace. They may also work weekends and evenings to meet the needs of busy clients.
However, keep in mind that remote dietitian jobs and jobs in private practices have different work schedules.
How to Become a Nutritionist?
If you are interested in becoming a dietitian or a nutritionist, you must be aware of the requirements. Read on to find out what they are.
Besides qualifications and training, those seeking to embark on the nutritionist career path must possess the following qualities:
- Ability to work in a team
- Great interpersonal skills
- Passion for a healthy lifestyle
- Excellent communication skills
- Ability to explaining complicated concepts
- Ability to motivate people
- Business skills
- A firm grasp of science
To be eligible for either nutritionist or dietitian jobs, candidates generally require a bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition, public health nutrition, dietetics, clinical nutrition, or a similar area. Those interested in becoming dietitians may also choose to study food service system management.
Some of the programs include courses in chemistry, psychology, biology, and nutrition. Keep in mind that many nutritionists and dietitians have advanced degrees. Nevertheless, one does not always require a nutritionist degree to work in this field.
Nutritionists and dietitians must complete several hundred hours of supervised training after graduating from university. Some schools offer programs in dietetics that allow candidates to finish supervised training as a part of their graduate or undergraduate coursework.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Most states require nutritionists and dietitians to attain a license. However, some of them only require certification or state registration, whereas others have zero regulations for these professions.
Keep in mind that the licensure and certification requirements vary by state. Still, most require attaining a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food or a similar area, passing an exam, and completing supervised practice.
If you are looking to become a registered dietitian, jobs in this field require you to have an RDN (registered dietitian nutritionist credential). Even though this credential is not always needed, the qualifications are the same as for becoming a licensed dietitian. It’s also good to know that the Commission on Dietetic Registration administers the RDN credential.
To obtain it, nutritionists or dietitians must have at least 1,200 hours of experience and a bachelor’s degree. According to facts on the dietitian career path, candidates can do both at once via a coordinated program, or they can complete their coursework right before applying for the internship.
It’s also important to note that the Accreditation Council for Education accredits the programs in nutrition and dietetics. To perform nutrition jobs, nutritionists and dietitians who have successfully earned their RDN credential are required to obtain 75 professional education credits every five years.
Nutritionists and dietitians may advance to different management positions, such as director of the dietetic department or assistant director.
Also, they may choose to be self-employed. Other experts decide to specialize in pediatric, renal, cardiovascular, or diabetic dietetic.
The median dietitian salary amounts to $52,150. It’s also important to know that the lowest 10% earn less than $33,230, while the highest 10% earn over $74,690.
Furthermore, the middle 50% earn anywhere between $42,400 and $64,430. If you are curious, the median annual wages for nutritionists and dietitians are as follows:
- Outpatient care centers—$52,120
- General surgical and medical hospitals—$51,390
- Nursing care facilities—$47,390
- Local government—$47,390
- Special food services—$45,410
It’s a common misbelief that dietitian jobs do not pay well. However, the following positions are some of the most well-paid in the profession:
- Technology dietitian—$80,820–$110,000
- Consultant dietitian—$58,920–$71,840
- Supervisory dietitian—$102,040–$132,649
- Virtual dietitian—$100,000
- Director of nutrition—$125,879–$156,829
You can find many dietitian job openings online, as they are getting increasingly popular. These jobs have grown dramatically in the past five years with the inclusion of webinars, individual and group counseling, and courses.
When it comes to the nutritionist job outlook, the rate of employment will grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028. This is a lot faster than the average rate for all occupations.
In recent years, there has been a great interest in nutrition, wellness, and health. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, over one-third of adults in the United States struggle with obesity and diseases such as heart illness and diabetes.
Furthermore, as the generation of baby-boomers is growing older, the demand for nutrition and dietetic services will increase. There will also be a great demand for nutritionists and dietitians who help buyers make healthy purchasing decisions.
Dietitian Job Prospects
According to the BLS, the nutritionists and dietitians who attain a more advanced certification have a better chance of landing a good job. Therefore, job prospects for highly educated nutritionists and dietitians are excellent.
Pros and Cons
Just like any other job, being a nutritionist or a dietitian comes with some benefits and drawbacks.
- Helping people lead healthier lives
- Working in a variety of places
- Working remotely
- The high job-growth rate
- Potential to earn a lot of money
- Working in food sciences
- Physically demanding
- Extensive training and educational requirements
- The title of a nutritionist is not legally protected
- Many positions and programs require a very narrow understanding of nutrition
Frequently Asked Questions
How to become a registered dietitian?
To become a registered dietitian, one must complete the following five steps:
- Attain a bachelor’s degree and a verification statement from a program accredited by ASCEND.
- Complete a supervised practice accredited by ACEND.
- Pass the dietetic registration exam.
- Gain licensure in the state of practice.
- Maintain continuing education.
How do I become a nutritionist without a degree?
Fortunately, there are several fantastic career options for people without a degree in nutrition. These include:
- Community health worker
- Food service manager
- Teacher assistant
- Licensed practical and licensed vocational nurse
- Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor
People who want to work as teaching assistants in an elementary school can teach classes about the basics of nutrition. These assistants require college coursework, but a degree is optional.
Also, food service managers are responsible for the staff of restaurant workers who need to be taught about allergens and the nutritional value of the dishes that they serve. These managers must have a high school diploma and some experience in the field.
How much money does a registered dietitian make?
Dietitians in California earn an average of $27.99 per hour or $58,228 annually. Furthermore, experts in Virginia earn $27.87 per hour or $57,969 annually.
How long does it take to become a registered dietitian?
To become a competent dietitian, one must attain a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in nutrition and food, dietetics, or clinical nutrition. This adds up to five years.
Moreover, to become registered, one needs to pass the RD examination conducted by IDA after attaining a master’s degree. All in all, to become a registered dietitian, one will need at least six years.
We believe that dietitian and nutritionist jobs are all the rage right now because people are trying to lead healthier lives. Thus the demand for these professions is increasing.
Of course, the job of a nutritionist or a dietitian is not easy—it takes hard work and dedication. However, trust us, it’s worth it.