Providing nutrition therapy is a service that is utilized by many different people across the United States. Being able to work as a nutritional therapist gives professionals the opportunity to experience a diverse clientele while also providing a valuable service to the entire community. Getting started on a career as a nutritional therapist can lead to a future filled with competitive compensation, job stability, and lifelong fulfillment.
Nutritional Therapist Education
The educational path to becoming a nutritional therapist is one that equips individuals with a vast amount of knowledge in the field of nutrition. In order to attain that level of knowledge, a formal education is required. There are online options and nutrition programs that may take less than a year to complete, although that is typically not enough time to retain all the information that will be needed to function as an effective nutritional therapist.
The education of a nutritional therapist features a four-year span in route to a bachelor’s degree. An undergraduate program specializing in nutrition, dietetics or another food related field will be sufficient to pursue a career as a nutritional therapist. These majors offer courses that are specific to the work conducted by a nutritional therapist. Nutrition courses encompass a concentrated range of topics that will give a nutritional therapist the skills and knowledge to assist patients in making progress with their specific issue. Some of the courses in these programs are as follows:
- Nutrition and Fitness
- Nutrition and Health
- Nutrition in the Life Cycle
- Nutritional Biochemistry
- Nutrition and Disease
Students should also expect to take classes in biology, chemistry and physiology. This provides a well-rounded background for what will be asked of them as a nutritional therapist. Some programs are labeled Nutrition, while others are called Nutritional Science. Many programs go by the name Dietetics and that distinction is probably the most commonly used one in colleges and universities. However, the general concepts in these majors are pretty much the same. Some are weighted towards different specialties, which makes it important to investigate a program thoroughly before enrolling.
There are programs that have been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). That approval denotes that each program has met the standards that adequately train and prepare nutritionists and dietitians for what they will face as registered dietitians.
Nutritional therapists looking to expand their educational background have the option of pursuing a Master’s Degree of Science in Nutrition. There is also the option of continuing one’s education beyond the graduate level and earning a Doctorate in Nutrition. A Master’s or Doctorate is not needed to start working as a nutritional therapist, although they could lead to advanced positions with higher pay rates.
The following bachelors and Master’s programs offer career-focused instruction delivered by trained nutritionists with experience in the field. Find out more what each individual course of study offers through the locations below.
American University offers two different programs focused on Nutrition and Health. Their Online Master of Science in Nutrition Education will prepare you to become an influential leader in nutrition education and advocacy while promoting nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices in your community and beyond. Or Earn your Master of Science in Health Promotion Management from AU’s award-winning program in just 20 months with $10K available in scholarships upon enrollment (qualifier is a 3.0 GPA).
UNC's MPH Nutrition concentration prepares students to provide, evaluate and communicate nutritional and dietary guidance that improves individual and population-wide health outcomes. In addition to developing their knowledge of nutrition science, students will explore behavior change, communication, counseling and the effects of dietary culture on individuals and communities.
Arizona State University - Online offers an Online Master of Science in Nutritional Science - Dietetics. Along with an Online Masters in Medical Nutrition
Bay Path University's health and wellness certificates build the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to upskill your abilities in your profession or to provide a robust concentration to your degree program for a specific role. Learn more about the Certificate in Food Science and Safety certificate.
If you want to work in fitness and nutrition, take the first step toward a new career with one of Penn Foster's accredited, online fitness and training programs. These affordable programs are all offered online, and can be taken at your own pace.
Grand Canyon University offers an M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Winthrop University offers an Online Master of Science in Human Nutrition and an Online Master of Science in Sport and Fitness Administration
License and Certification
A nutritionist license is distributed by individual states. There is a process for obtaining a license, which typically requires the completion of a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition or a related field. There is also the requirement of achieving the status of a Registered Dietitian. However, not every state requires nutritional therapists to have a license.
Half of the states in the U.S. require nutritionists to obtain a license. In most of those instances, a certification from the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) is required. The exam given by the CNBC tests a nutritional therapist’s knowledge level to determine whether he/she is qualified to practice in that state. In states that do not require licensing, employers are free to hire a nutritional therapist based on their own hiring criteria. However, much of the hiring criteria is similar to the requirements for State licensing. Employers typically ask that applicants hold a bachelor’s degree, in addition to achieving the status of Registered Dietitian.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the most prominent association in this industry. It features the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), which is responsible for issuing certifications. Those certifications include the following:
- Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
- Registered Dietitian
- Dietetic Technician, Registered
- Nutrition and Dietetics Technician
The American Nutrition Association is another reputable association that issues certifications in the field of nutrition. To obtain one of these certifications, specific education criteria must be met. Those who have completed an associate’s degree are eligible to become a certified nutritionist. There is also a registered dietitian certification and to be eligible for this distinction, nutritionists must have earned a bachelor’s degree.
Nutritional therapists who are able to acquire a bachelor’s degree, Registered Dietitian status State licensing and industry certifications will put themselves in a primary position to obtain a quality position. Regardless of the hiring standards, nutritional therapists who have all these credentials stand a very good chance of having a promising career.
Job Description and Skills
Nutritional therapists work with patients to modify their behavior when it comes to food choices. It is important for patients to understand the dieting process while also remaining engaged in their dietary choices. A nutritional therapist assists in that process through the use of numerous techniques while also providing a plethora of scientific information. Most nutritional therapists also have a background in working with patients who have experienced common medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Nutritional therapists work with individuals for all types of reasons. Some of those reasons could be medical while others could be personal. The main point is to help patients understand the process of healthy nutrition so that they may modify their daily choices. Here is a look at some of the reasons to seek out the assistance of a nutritional therapist.
- Eating disorders
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Lipid Management
- Weight management
- Women’s Health
In a medical setting and social setting, many people need help with their nutritional plans. That essentially means they need assistance with identifying what to eat and, more importantly, what not to eat. Nutritional therapists play a primary role in helping people through all kinds of situations. This is accomplished through the reliance on extensive training in the field of nutrition. The daily tasks of a nutritional therapist may include the following:
- Nutritional assessments
- Nutrition counseling
- Development of meal plans
- Healthy eating education
Nutritional therapists spend a lot of time working one-on-one with patients. This has enabled quite a few nutritional therapists to go into private practice for themselves. However, there are other work settings in this line of work. In any environment, a nutritional therapist is going to require strong communication skills combined with a solid foundation of nutrition knowledge. There is also a need to understand diseases, nutrient deficiencies, and food allergies. That equates to a comprehensive skillset that is used to improve the health of others.
Nutritional Therapist Salary and Wages
A nutritionist’s median salary in the United States is $60,370 annually, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These salaries reflect nutritionists working in all different sectors. However, there is no individual salary applied to those with the title of nutritional therapist. That means a lot of the potential income stems from location and place of employment. Nutritional therapists working in affluent areas and cater to private clients could expect annual salary amounts much higher than the national average. Here is a breakdown of the highest-paying non- metropolitan areas in the United States for those classified as nutritionists, dieticians and nutritional therapists.
- Texas Big Thicket Region – $83,130
- Southeast Alabama – $78,050
- California Northern Mountains – $75,750
- California North Coast – $72,510
- Hawaii/Kauai – $68,890
The nutritionist population continues to grow on an annual basis. That is reflected in the anticipated increase by 15% from 2016 to 2026. That trajectory is taken from statistics provided by the BLS. Health and Wellness has also seen a dramatic boom in the United States in recent years. More individuals are seeking out alternative medicine and health approaches, which has boded well for nutritional therapists. The fact that these services are covered by some insurance carriers also make it a good time to get involved in a career as a nutritional therapist.
There are also a lot of jobs that have different titles, but still provide nutritional therapy. Nutritionists and dietitians practice tend to very similar practices, which means a nutritional therapist may apply for a variety of positions that all essentially require the same duties. The expanding field of nutrition and booming health and wellness industry has provided a favorable outlook for nutritional therapists all over the country.