What is a nutritionist?
A nutritionist is a qualified food and nutrition expert. They help people achieve their health goals by advising on healthy lifestyle choices, including dietary changes and new ways to stay active.
Unlike dietitians, nutritionists don’t advise on medical conditions like eating disorders and other serious dietary requirements. Instead, they tend to focus on encouraging lifestyle changes, typically those that relate to food, drink and physical activity.
Read our dedicated guide to learn more about how nutritionists and dietitians differ.
Nutritionists can work in a number of different roles in varying sectors. Quite often, they work for private organisations that specialise in providing non-medical health and wellbeing advice, or offer such services on a self-employed basis.
The field of nutrition is broader than you might expect. Some qualified nutritionists choose to specialise in niche areas of the profession, while others offer a more generalised mix of services. As such, nutritionists go by lots of different job titles, from ‘health coach’ and ‘nutrition expert’, to ‘infant nutritional coach’ and ‘sports nutritionist’.
Becoming a registered nutritionist can lead to a rewarding career for those interested in food, sport, wellbeing and fitness. Working with people of all ages from all walks of life, your experience, expertise and advice can help people make positive changes, improving their physical and mental wellbeing for the better.
Here are some of the typical duties you’ll be responsible for as a qualified nutritionist:
- Develop tailored food plans based on client health goals
- Support individuals and groups as they continue to work towards their health targets
- Offer dietary advice to sports professionals to enhance their training and wellbeing
- Deliver workshops and presentations on nutrition to various organisations within the community, e.g., schools and colleges
- Develop food menus and dietary guides for teams, clubs and groups which require healthy changes
- Provide specialist advice to people from all walks of life, including drawing up detailed diet plans and nutritional intake advice
What qualifications and experience do you need to become a nutritionist?
Believe it or not, there are no specific entry requirements to become a nutritionist. Because it’s an advisory position, anyone can assume the role of a ‘health coach’ or ‘nutrition expert’, even if they’re only basing their advice on personal experience and knowledge.
With all that said, however, most nutritionists do have qualifications, and many have more than one. There are a broad range of courses to help you become a fully qualified nutritionist, and you may also need a degree in nutritional science if you hope to register with the Association for Nutrition (AfN) – the gold standard in the industry.
If you have your sights set on a top career as a nutritionist, you may want to consider a relevant undergraduate degree. To get registered with the AfN, you can take a degree in a number of areas relating to the nutrition profession, including sports nutrition, nutrition and exercise, public health nutrition and food science.
There are other routes towards becoming a nutritionist which don’t involve getting a degree, however. With lots of course options for people at all levels, many people use distance learning to work towards becoming a professional nutritionist. Whether you want to specialise in child nutrition or take a more general approach – distance learning could provide a stepping stone into the profession.
To help you determine whether a career in nutrition is for you, or to help you work towards a specialism and potentially lucrative niche in the market, qualifications can set you above the competition. There are both general and specific qualifications, which can provide the skills, knowledge and insights to match your current level and your ambitions.
Our NCFE CACHE Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Nutrition and Health provides an introduction to applying nutritional learning to practical cases. The course can help you build some of the core skills expected of a nutrition professional such as meal planning and food safety.
For slightly more progressed professionals looking to find their specialism, Child Nutrition Level 3 builds on existing knowledge and delves into the impact of food on growing bodies. If you’re keen to move your career to have more of a focus on child nutrition, this could be the perfect course.
How much do nutritionists earn?
Income varies greatly for qualified nutritionists, and depends a lot on your experience and whether you work for a business or are self-employed.
Entry-level nutritionists working for a private organisation should expect a full-time starting salary between £15,000 and £20,000. As your experience grows, you could see a healthy wage increase – with top nutritionists fetching a salary of around £55,000.
Of course, you also have the option to work for yourself, which could prove even more lucrative. Typically, nutritionists charge around £50 for an initial client consultation, followed by £30-£50 for each subsequent session. Multiply that by a growing client base, and you can earn a handsome salary as a freelance nutritionist, even in the early stages of your career.
That said, self-employed nutritionists will have a range of other costs to consider, including their own ongoing training. With different health trends and diet recommendations to contend with, continuous self-improvement is essential to stay at the top of your game and offer the very best advice to your clients.
How much does a nutritionist earn?
What type of person would suit being a nutritionist?
Given that nutritionists are expected to inspire and encourage others to make healthy lifestyle changes, the profession does require a certain type of person. You’ll need to be positive, proactive and decisive, and willing to go the extra mile for people with all kinds of dietary and lifestyle requirements.
Here are a few of the skills, attributes and characteristics required for the role.
- Positive outlook towards health, wellbeing, diets and nutrition
- Proactive, can-do attitude
- Patient, empathetic and compassionate personality
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Proactive approach to learning new skills, policies and practices
- Innate respect for diversity and equality
- Professional attitude
- Excellent organisational skills
What are the benefits of becoming a nutritionist?
If you’re interested in food, health and wellbeing, becoming a qualified nutritionist could be the perfect career for you. But what benefits can you expect from training to become a nutritionist? And what are the main benefits of the role?
What career progression can a nutritionist expect?
Qualified nutritionists will find lots of opportunities to progress their careers, either through additional training or with the experience of working with different groups and organisations.
Initially, you may begin working on a part-time self-employed basis, offering nutritionist services alongside a more permanent job. The great thing about distance learning is that it gives you the flexibility to earn qualifications alongside regular work, so you can start building your client base while you’re still learning.
From there, you may work within an organisation or else go full-time self-employed. Whichever route you choose, there are lots of ways to continue to progress your career, and we’d certainly recommend getting registered with the Association for Nutrition to really build and grow your career.
We hope this guide on becoming a nutritionist helps you realise your aspirations for the future. At Oxbridge, we offer a huge range of distance learning courses that can help you become a qualified nutritionist. For more information and to explore our full programme of courses, visit the homepage or call our experienced course advisers today on 0121 630 3000.