Career Options in Nutrition and Wellness
Holistic nutrition is an up-and-coming career field in the United States. Based on the belief that nutrition can be used to treat the whole person rather than just focusing on individual symptoms, holistic nutrition is a sought after alternative health option. Typically a holistic nutrition specialist uses a combination of food—like whole or organic foods and the avoidance of genetically engineered food or additives—and nutrients to help people develop healthy and holistic diets and lifestyles. Because this is a highly sought after alternative health option, there is an increase in careers and higher education programs incorporating the practice of holistic nutrition. Continue reading or use the links below to learn more about the possible career paths:
- What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?
- What are the most common careers in the field?
- Where do nutritionists work?
- Can I enroll in an online program?
- What educational options are there in nutrition?
What is the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?
It’s important to note that not every nutritionist is a registered dietitian. A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition expert who advises and teaches people about healthy eating habits. The key difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian is the credential. A dietitian has the credential “RD,” which stands for Registered Dietitian. In order to have the “RD” credential, one must have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, completed a supervised practice program or internship, and successfully passed the registration exam.
What are the most common careers in the field?
Some of the most common career options include nutritionists, nutritional or health educators, nutritionist counselors, nutrition therapists, nutritional product developers, chefs or caterers, wellness consultants, or herbalists. The following is a guide to some of the most popular careers in holistic nutrition and wellness.
As a nutrition educator you could work at a school, a public health and government agency, private industries, nonprofit organizations, religious organizations and other settings that focus on education and health. Typically a nutrition educator will help develop programs to educate a certain population about nutrition and general health and holistic wellness practices.
What else does a nutrition educator do? According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, health educators typically perform the following job duties:
- Assess the needs of the people they serve
- Develop programs and events to teach people about health topics
- Create and distribute health-related posters, pamphlets, and other educational materials
- Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and materials
- Help people find health services or information
- Supervise staff who implement health education programs
- Collect and analyze data to learn about their audience and improve programs
- Advocate for improved health resources and policies
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an annual mean salary for nutrition educators at $48,790 in May 2012. However, many factors determine your salary potential, including where you live, type of employer, and level of education. If you have a master’s degree, salaries may be higher.
Herbalists practice in alternative medicine by using plant and herb based remedies for both the prevention and treatment of a disease or illness. Many people prefer herbalists as an alternative to pharmaceuticals. Some herbalists are in charge of developing dietary programs that incorporate both herbs and supplements based on different person’s needs. Herbalists work in a variety of settings including as primary health care providers or in conjunction with other health practitioners. Herbal medicine is not often legally recognized, therefore educational programs can be more rare to come by.
Some herbalists work as personal trainers at a gym or health club. Personal trainers with a background in herbal medicine provide both diet and training plans to help clients achieve their goals.
Working as a nutritional counselor you would integrate the concepts of holistic nutrition into your counseling or therapeutic practice. The type of settings that you could work in vary widely, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and other care facilities where patients need assessments of their nutritional needs. Often nutritional counselors are in charge of developing dietary programs for people depending on their ailments.
The job responsibilities of a nutritional counselor vary, but according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, a nutritionist typically performs the following duties:
- Explain nutrition issues
- Assess patients’ and clients’ health needs and diet
- Develop meal plans, taking both cost and clients’ preferences into account
- Evaluate the effects of meal plans and change the plans as needed
- Promote better nutrition by giving talks to groups about diet, nutrition, and the relationship between good eating habits and preventing or managing specific diseases
- Keep up with the latest nutritional science research
According to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nutritionists earned mean annual salaries of $55,240 in May 2012.
Public Health Nutritionist
If you want to work in the public sector, you might want to consider working as a public health nutritionist. This role requires an interest in community-based work and social change. You would likely be employed by a local organization, welfare agency, school, community nutrition center, or the department of health to help communities in need with health-related issues. Public health nutritionists are registered dietitians who coordinate and implement nutrition policies and may be involved with special programs that promote physical fitness and nutrition.
Some nutritionists opt to work independently by starting their own practice or working as a consultant. This allows maximum flexibility in terms of area of specialization. You can counsel clients on a specific issue such as weight management, eating disorders, sports nutrition, and diabetes management, just to name a few. You might also look into consulting at health clubs or spas. Some independent nutritionists even find success through blogging or starting a website catered towards helping people manage their health. You could even write a cookbook or write articles for a magazine or local newspaper. Your options are endless! Many dietitians in private practice and consultants find success by specializing in a particular area.
Where do nutritionists work?
A number of different industries hire nutritionists, some of which may surprise you! Below are just a few of the many industries who need trained nutritionists:
- Education and Research
- Food and Nutrition Management
- Consultant/Private Practice
- International Food Organizations
- Public Health Nutrition
- Public Policy/Government
Keep in mind that nutritionists can find employment in so many different industries. And qualified nutritionists are needed more than ever to help people with health-related issues. People are becoming more conscious about their health, and health clubs are seeing a rise in business. However, where you work all depends on your area of interest and skill set. You’ll learn more about your options while taking classes and learning from your peers and instructors. An internship or a part-time job in the field can teach you what it takes to succeed as a nutritionist. A degree or certification can further your understanding of nutrition and dietetics, depending on your career goals.
What educational options are there in nutrition?
If you are interested in working in the field, you have a variety of educational options. You can earn an associate’s, a bachelor’s, or a master’s degree depending on your career goals and previous education. Associate’s degree programs tend to take the least amount of time to complete and prepare graduates for entry-level positions, with more advanced degrees requiring more credit hours but generally offering more opportunities for advancement in the field.
If you are interested in pursuing an online degree in nutrition, you can start your search with popular accredited schools listed below:
Northwestern Health Sciences University