How To Become A Nutritionist: Duties, Salary And Skills
Updated 5 March 2023
A nutritionist is a trained professional working in the public or private sector to help individuals meet their health goals by managing their calorie intake. They require a unique set of soft and hard skills with detailed scientific knowledge to perform their job well. Learning about the necessary qualifications to become a nutritionist may help you understand if this profession suits your interest. In this article, we discuss how to become a nutritionist and explore their work environment, daily duties, skills and average salary.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
What does a nutritionist do?
A nutritionist is a medical professional who understands the relationship between nutrition and its effect on the body. They assess the health condition, health goals of a patient and provide a diet chart. Their primary objective is to aid patients to lead a healthy and fit lifestyle. They advise clients on ways to prevent diseases and maintain a balanced lifestyle.
Most nutritionists have strong analytical, mathematical and scientific knowledge. It helps them correlate nutrition with patient requirements. Some nutritionists may work independently, while some may work as part of a team.
How to become a nutritionist
If you are curious about how to become a nutritionist, here are the steps you can follow:
1. Complete your bachelor's degree
It is essential to complete your bachelor's degree in food science, food and nutrition or home science and nutrition. These courses lay the foundation for understanding modern food microbiology, food facts, food principles, malnutrition, obesity management, nutrients and vitamins. To pursue this degree, it is necessary to pick chemistry, biology and mathematics in your high school. Some colleges may accept applicants without these subjects but selecting science subjects in your high school exposes you to the basics of biology and chemical reactions.
2. Gain experience through internships
Internships help gain practical experience and provide an opportunity to grow your network. It allows young professionals to seek mentorship and choose a domain for further studies. Many undergraduate students may require completing an internship as a part of their course curriculum. It is ideal to understand the industry expectations through an internship.
3. Get a postgraduate degree
Pursuing a postgraduate or master's degree is optional. The coursework includes statistics, medical nutrition therapy, molecular biology and public policy. You may choose a specialised domain to pursue and present a dissertation at the end of your program. A postgraduate or master's degree helps you advance in the field of research and education.
4. Apply for jobs
The expertise of a nutritionist provides opportunities in the public and private sectors. As a nutritionist, you may apply for jobs that aid you to become a sports nutritionist, a clinical nutritionist, a food safety auditor or even a personal trainer. Many colleges offer placements that help you connect with hospitals and clinics. In other cases, you may also apply through various online job portals and leverage your network for a job opportunity. It is essential to prepare a resume before you begin applying for jobs.
5. Get a licence
You can advance your nutritionist career to become a registered dietician. It is essential to complete a minimum of six months of continuous internship and your bachelor's degree before applying for a registered dietician with the Indian Dietician Association (IDA). As a registered dietician, you can work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Work environment of a nutritionist
A nutritionist may work in several different work environments including, a hospital, research, education or even in the food and nutrition industry. Typically, they work for fixed hours through five days a week. Some nutritionists may work over the weekend depending on their patient or industry requirements. A nutritionist may work as a part of a team or individually. They spend most of their time assessing patient data and laboratory reports. The work environment is demanding and may sometimes require a nutritionist to work overtime.
Daily duties of a nutritionist
The daily duties of a nutritionist may vary depending on the organisation. A nutritionist may spend a significant part of their day assessing patient data and preparing diet charts. They may also perform several clerical jobs, depending on their seniority level. Some typical responsibilities fulfilled by a nutritionist are:
assessing patient health status including, body mass index, blood pressure and weight
interacting with patients to understand their health and wellness goals
preparing personalised diet plans for patients
educating patients on their nutrient requirements and providing calorie consumption recommendations
tracking and evaluating patient progress
suggesting changes in diet by providing alternate recipes or educational materials
adjusting patient goals and changing their diet
maintaining patient records for future reference
attending meetings with doctors or the management to discuss business, patient care or new technological advancements
Important skills for a nutritionist
A nutritionist works with patients, lab technicians and in some cases, even with the management. They use a range of skills to perform well at their job. Here are some essential skills for a nutritionist:
A nutritionist communicates with several stakeholders including, management, laboratory staff and patients. A nutritionist communicates effectively in writing and verbally to help educate patients or develop nutrition plans with other professionals. They also require active listening skills to understand patient requirements and recommend dietary changes.
Nutritionists assess their patients' conditions and identify solutions to improve overall wellness. Their job often requires them to understand the patient's medical history and create effective diet plans. It is also crucial for a nutritionist to systematically match dietary requirements with the patient's health requirements while taking into consideration their allergies and food restrictions.
Most nutritionists manage several patients at a time. They organise their client files and ensure all information is confidential and easy to access. Organising files also help nutritionists in time management and paying attention to details that benefit the case. Nutritionists who work managerial levels leverage this skill to delegate tasks and keep track of their subordinates.
Mathematics and science
A nutritionist reads and understands medical charts daily to calculate and determine an appropriate nutrient intake for their clients. Thorough knowledge of biological processes, nutrient requirements and calculations of caloric intake, body mass index (BMI) are essential to their job. Such scientific and mathematical knowledge helps nutritionists perform their job well and provide personalised care.
Average salary of a nutritionist
The average base salary of a nutritionist is ₹24,905 per month. The salary may vary depending on their education qualification, expertise and whether they work at a hospital, clinic, food corporation or research. The geographical location of their workplace also influences their pay.
Types of nutritionists
A nutritionist works with food and its effect on human beings and animals. Depending on where they work, a nutritionist may perform different job duties. Here are the different types of nutritionists and their typical job roles:
Clinical nutritionists work with patients in hospitals or clinics. They work with healthcare teams to design diet plans for their patients. A nutritionist evaluates the health conditions of their patients and designs meal plans that can help in post-surgery recovery or manage lifestyle-related diseases.
A gerontological nutritionist specialises in elderly nutrition care. They work in hospitals or nursing homes. They understand their client's underlying conditions and ensure they receive the correct nutrition to maintain their health.
A sports nutritionist works with athletes and sportspersons. They prepare meal plans that may help improve performance and balance their active lifestyles. A sports nutritionist works in universities, professional sporting clubs, sports leagues or individual sportspersons. They work with fitness trainers and sports coaches to align performance requirements and health goals.
Veterinary nutritionists specialise in animal care and wellbeing. They often work with pet food companies and provide consultation based on animal research. They may also work in zoos, wildlife reserves or veterinary hospitals. Some nutritionists may also work independently and provide specialised care and consultation to pets.
Large companies that run in-house cafeterias may employ nutritionists to monitor the food operations. Nutritionists prepare cost-effective meal plans and also monitor their quality and nutrition content. A nutritionist working in a large corporation takes care of sourcing ingredients, arranging the equipment, testing food for quality and maintaining budgets.
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