Focus On: Nutritionist

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If you would enjoy applying dietary science to promoting health, a career as a nutritionist may be for you.

What They Do

Nutritionists (a.k.a. dietitians) prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits through education and research; assessing patients' nutritional needs; recommending dietary modifications; overseeing food service departments; or planning food and nutrition programs for individuals and institutions. They may also confer with other health care professionals in the coordination of patients' medical and nutritional needs.

Some specialize as community nutritionists, focusing on health promotion and disease prevention in public health clinics, home health agencies and health maintenance organizations. Others manage food service departments in nursing care facilities, hospitals, correctional facilities, company cafeterias and schools.

Many specialize in promoting healthier eating habits for people who wish to lose weight, reduce cholesterol and combat diseases such as diabetes. For example, a nutritionist may teach a patient with diabetes how to cook with less salt, fat and sugar when preparing meals.

Additional nutritionist job opportunities are available in equipment or pharmaceutical sales, or in food manufacturing, advertising and marketing where they analyze foods and prepare dietary-related literature and reports.

Qualifications

Nutritionists should have at least a bachelor's degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management or a related area. A master's degree can lead to careers in research, advanced clinical positions or public health.

Licensure, certification and registration requirements vary by state. The Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association awards a Registered Dietitian credential to candidates who pass an exam after completing academic coursework and a supervised internship. To maintain this credential, workers must take approved continuing education classes.

The Demand

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor (BLS/DL), nutritionist employment is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, although growth may be curbed by limitations on insurance reimbursement for dietetic services. Nutritionists specializing in renal and diabetic nutrition or gerontological nutrition will benefit from the growing number of diabetics and the aging population.

Good job opportunities are expected, especially for nutritionists with specialized training, advanced degrees or certifications beyond a state's minimum requirement. The average annual salary for nutritionists in a 2008 BLS/DL survey was $51,470.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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HealthMarketingDiabetesFood IndustryDiseases and IllnessesHealth OrganizationsContinuing Education
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