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Medicine LibreTexts

15.7: Careers in Nutrition

Skills to Develop

  • List some of the jobs available to students who are interested in a career in food and nutrition.

If you are considering a career in nutrition, it is important to understand the opportunities that may be available to you. Both dietitians and nutritionists provide nutrion-related services to people in the private and public sectors. A dietitian is a healthcare professional who has registered credentials and can provide nutritional care in the areas of health and wellness for both individuals and groups. A nutritionist is an unregistered professional who may have the credentials of a dietitian, or may have acquired the knowledge via other avenues. People in both professions work to apply nutritional science, using evidence-based best practices, to help people nourish their bodies and improve their lives.

Becoming a registered dietitian requires a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in dietetics, including courses in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, and food-service management. Other suggested courses include economics, business, statistics, computer science, psychology, and sociology. In addition, people who pursue this path must complete a dietetic internship and pass a national exam. Also, some states have licensure that requires additional forms and documentation. To become a registered dietetic technician you must complete a dietetic technician program that involves supervised practice. Forty-seven states have licensure requirements for registered dietitians and nutritionists. A few remaining states do not have laws that regulate this profession.Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Dietitians and Nutritionists.” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Last modified April 7, 2010. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos077.htm. Go to http://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/licensure/index.cfm to learn more.

Working in Nutrition

Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, promote healthy eating habits, and recommend dietary modifications. For example, a dietitian might teach a patient with hypertension how to follow the DASH diet and reduce their sodium intake. Nutrition-related careers can be extremely varied. Some individuals work in the government, while others are solely in the private sector. Some jobs in nutrition focus on working with athletes, while others provide guidance to patients with long-term, life-threatening diseases. But no matter the circumstance or the clientele, working in the field of diet and nutrition focuses on helping people improve their dietary habits by translating nutritional science into food choices.

In the public sector, careers in nutrition span from government work to community outreach. Nutritionists and dietitians who work for the government may become involved with federal food programs, federal agencies, communication campaigns, or creating and analyzing public policy. On the local level, clinical careers include working in hospitals and nursing-care facilities. This requires creating meal plans and providing nutritional guidance to help patients restore their health or manage chronic conditions. Clinical dietitians also confer with doctors and other health-care professionals to coordinate dietary recommendations with medical needs. Nutrition jobs in the community often involve working in public health clinics, cooperative extension offices, and HMOs to prevent disease and promote the health of the local community. Nutrition jobs in the nonprofit world involve antihunger organizations, public health organizations, and activist groups.

Nutritionists and dietitians can also find work in the private sector. Increased public awareness of food, diet, and nutrition has led to employment opportunities in advertising, marketing, and food manufacturing. Dietitians working in these areas analyze foods, prepare marketing materials, or report on issues such as the impact of vitamins and herbal supplements. Consultant careers can include working in wellness programs, supermarkets, physicians’ offices, gyms, and weight-loss clinics. Consultants in private practice perform nutrition screenings for clients and use their findings to provide guidance on diet-related issues, such as weight reduction. Nutrition careers in the corporate world include designing wellness strategies and nutrition components for companies, working as representatives for food or supplement companies, designing marketing and educational campaigns, and becoming lobbyists. Others in the private sector work in food-service management at health-care facilities or at company and school cafeterias. Sustainable agricultural practices are also providing interesting private sector careers on farms and in food systems. There are employment opportunities in farm management, marketing and sales, compliance, finance, and land surveying and appraisal.

Working toward Tomorrow

Whether you pursue nutrition as a career or simply work to improve your own dietary choices, what you have learned in this course can provide a solid foundation for the future. Remember, your ability to wake up, to think clearly, communicate, hope, dream, go to school, gain knowledge, and earn a living are totally dependent upon one factor—your health. Good health allows you to function normally and work hard to pursue your goals. Yet, achieving optimal health cannot be underestimated. It is a complex process, involving multiple dimensions of wellness, along with your physical or medical reality. The knowledge you have now acquired is also key. However, it is not enough to pass this nutrition class with good grades. Nutrition knowledge must be applied to make a difference in your life, throughout your life.

Throughout this textbook, we have focused on the different aspects of nutritional science, which helps to optimize health and prevent disease. Scientific evidence provides the basis for dietary guidelines and recommendations. In addition, researchers in the field of nutrition work to advance our knowledge of food production and distribution. Nutritional science also examines the ill effects of malnutrition and food insecurity. The findings that are uncovered today will influence not only what we eat, but how we grow it, distribute it, prepare it, and even enjoy it tomorrow.

Video \(\PageIndex{1}\) Farms of the Future. This video examines the philosophy and science behind vertical farming. Could it provide our nutrients in the future (click to see video)?

Summary and Key Takeaway

There are many paths that one can take to become a professional in the field of nutrition, including working as a nutritionist or becoming a registered dietitian. Some confuse the terms "dietitian" and "nutritionist," and this tends to be erroneous. A nutritionist is a person who advises on matters of food and nutrition impacts on health. In contrast, A dietitian is an expert in the relationship between human nutrition and the regulation of diet; a dietitian alters their patient's nutrition based upon their medical condition and individual needs.

Discussion Starter

  1. Compare and contrast nutrition-related careers in the public and private sectors. Discuss which area would most interest you and the reasons why.