Nutritionist Career Overview
Nutritionists work in a range of settings, such as healthcare, government, food service, sports nutrition, or private practice, and depending on their roles, can help patients or clients develop healthy eating habits, create educational materials, or even manage the kitchen staff at hospitals. Many states require nutritionists to be licensed, which can be accomplished through a series of steps. For those seeking a career as a nutritionist, using online resources for everything from earning a degree to doing a job search may provide more convenience and flexibility.
|Required Skills||Supportive, organized, analytical, attentive, articulate|
|Job Growth*||11% for 2018-2028 (dietitians and nutritionists)|
|Median Salary (May 2018)*||$60,370 per year (dietitians and nutritionists)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Steps to Become a Nutritionist Using Online Resources
With a few exceptions, the route to become a nutritionist can be done online. Continue reading to learn more about the process.
Step 1. Obtain a Bachelor's Degree Online in Nutrition
Employers usually require nutritionists to have at least a bachelor's degree in nutrition or dietetics. Colleges that offer bachelor's degrees in nutrition online typically have a pathway for students to become registered dietitian nutritionists, or RDNs, which also is a certification that some states accept as a license. It might be worth noting that some schools offer nutrition programs that do not offer this pathway, and although graduates can work in various food-related settings, they most likely would not qualify to apply for the RDN certification. A bachelor's degree in nutrition typically requires completion of 120 credits in such courses as chemistry, biology, food service management, and medical nutrition.
Step 2. Complete an Internship
For those seeking the RDN pathway, an internship is required upon completion of a bachelor's degree. However, some schools might include it as part of the undergraduate coursework, but the internship is not done online in either case. It typically consists of a minimum of 1,200 hours of supervised training in an accredited program and must be completed before taking the national exam to become certified as an RDN. An internship is meant to provide real-world experience, and it usually takes 8 to 24 months to complete, depending on whether it is done in a part-time or full-time schedule. Acceptance into an internship program often can be highly competitive, with grade point averages from undergraduate coursework factoring into the decisions.
Step 3. Prepare for a National Examination
In order to become an RDN, applicants must pass the Registration Examination for Dietitians after completing a bachelor's degree program and an internship. However, beginning in 2024 the criteria will change, and applicants must hold a master's degree to be eligible to take the exam. It is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and takes about three hours to complete. Although the exam must be taken at an onsite testing center, the preparation can be done online. The Commission on Dietetic Registration provides a comprehensive study outline as well as an online practice exam. There are also private publishers that offer study preparation materials, books, and courses that can purchased online.
Step 4. Do an Online Job Search or Start an Online Business
Finding the right job as a nutritionist will most likely involve research on different companies, hospitals, or other organizations. Fortunately, many of these prospective employers have career sections on their websites, and applicants can usually apply directly online. For nutritionists who prefer to be self-employed, there are a number of opportunities that can be started by building a website and promoting services, such as consulting, freelance writing about health and nutrition, creating educational materials for food vendors, or even developing healthy recipes and meal programs for clients.