Should I Become a Culinary Nutritionist?
Culinary nutritionists create meal plans to help clients meet their nutritional needs or manage health issues like high blood pressure and obesity. They might also educate clients about the benefits of a healthy diet. Some culinary nutritionists start their own practices, while others are employed by hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. Working evenings and weekends might be necessary for culinary nutritionists, in order to meet the scheduling needs of clients.
|Degree Level||A bachelor's degree is required|
|Degree Field||Dietetics, nutrition science, food systems management, or related fields|
|Licensure||A nutritionist license is required by most states|
|Experience||900-1,200 hours of supervised internship experience required for licensure|
|Key Skills||Solid analytical, organizational, and interpersonal skills; the ability to explain dietary recommendations; familiarity with database software as well as analytical and medical software|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$57,910 (for dieticians and nutritionists)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State government websites, Occupational Information Network
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Steps to Becoming a Culinary Nutritionist
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring culinary nutritionists can attain a bachelor's degree in such disciplines as nutrition science, applied nutrition, food systems management, or dietetics. Students can also pursue a culinary arts major with an emphasis on nutrition. Curricula often cover topics in behavioral science, biochemistry, healthy cooking, disease prevention, and food science.
The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics accredits many of these programs but not all. This designation might be required to meet education requirements for licensure in some states, so students might want to check on a program's accreditation status before enrolling.
- Gain a good understanding of food and diet options. Culinary nutritionists will need to cater to their clients' food preferences. Students might want to look for courses that can familiarize them with facets of the industry such as vegetarian cuisine, dietary restrictions, or international nutrition, and sports nutrition.
Step 2: Complete an Internship Program
To meet state licensure requirements, culinary nutritionists must complete anywhere from 900-1,200 hours of supervised work experience. In some cases, an internship can be completed while enrolled in a bachelor's degree program. Other schools offer stand-alone post-baccalaureate internship programs that can take between 8 and 24 months to complete. Students get experience providing nutrition services in such settings as hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, and community health organizations. Some schools even offer internships as part of master's degree program curricula.
Step 3: Pass State Licensure Exams
After completing a bachelor's degree program and meeting supervised work experience requirements, aspiring culinary nutritionists will need to pass a comprehensive examination. Many states use the Commission on Dietetic Registration's (CDR) Registration Examination for Dietitians.
- Consider earning professional credentials from the CDR. Requirements for the Registered Dietitian (RD) designation are similar to those for state licensure. Some states even grant licenses to applicants who provide proof of current registration. Moreover, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employers generally prefer to hire nutritionists who hold this credential.
Step 4: Meet Continuing Education Requirements
Culinary nutritionists will need to renew their licenses. This process might need to be undertaken annually or once every 2 years, and could entail the completion of 15-20 credits of continuing education. In some states, these self-study modules, lectures, or workshops must be approved by the CDR.
If you're interested in diet and eating habits and would like a career as a culinary nutritionist, just earn a bachelor's degree, complete an internship, and pass your comprehensive exams and you'll be on your way to earning $57,910 per year.