How to Become a Nutritionist (With Skills and Tips)

Updated 20 June 2023

Nutritionists help to advise people on their diet to improve their health. Their therapies may include weight management, symptom relief and improvement of illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and Crohn's disease. Learning how to become a nutritionist can help you decide if it's the right career path for you. In this article, we explain how to become a nutritionist, discuss what they do, highlight their essential skills and provide information on their work environment.

Related: What Does a Dietitian Do? (With Skills and Average Salary)

What does a nutritionist do?

A nutritionist is a health care expert who counsels patients on diet and lifestyle choices. Some common responsibilities include the following:

  • obtaining information on a patient's health status, such as their weight, blood pressure and body mass index

  • establishing health and wellness goals with each patient

  • developing personalised diet regimens to address specific dietary requirements

  • educating patients about the recommended vitamin and calorie intake quantities

  • developing customised meal plans and instructional resources, including recipes and nutrition information

  • monitoring and recording the progress of a patient

  • whenever necessary, adjusting or revising patient goals and diet plans

Related: What Does a Food Scientist Do? Responsibilities and Skills

How to become a nutritionist

While the exact steps on how to become a nutritionist may vary according to the specialisation, the following steps are the most common:

1. Obtain an accredited diploma in nutrition

Many businesses prefer nutritionists with professional credentials. Consider earning an authorised nutrition diploma. Additionally, you may wish to pursue a certification in nutrition and wellness.

2. Pursue an undergraduate degree

While there are no set requirements for becoming a nutritionist, you can earn a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related field to help improve your chances of securing interviews and job offers. Among the subjects covered in the undergraduate course are chemistry, biology, food science and anatomy. These skills may aid you in comprehending a variety of medical problems, enabling you to provide knowledgeable therapy recommendations to your patients. You can complete a degree in health science in three years if you study full time.

Related: What Does a Nutritionist Do? (Skills and Education)

3. Complete your post-graduate education

While additional degrees are not essential for employment as a nutritionist, they may lead to opportunities as a professor or researcher in the area. A master's degree may be necessary for certification as a nutritionist. You can complete a master's degree programme in two years if you study full time. Statistics, medical nutrition treatment, molecular biology, public politics and health concerns are usually part of classwork.

If you're interested in pursuing a doctorate in nutrition, you may enrol in graduate-level courses in nutrition, chemistry, and biology and also advanced nutrition and research applications. Additionally, it's vital for to conduct fieldwork and write a dissertation.

​Related: ​​​​​​​Nutritionist vs Dietitian: Definitions and Differences

4. Get an internship

Internships are available in the majority of undergraduate programmes. You can complete internships in any employment setting, based on your professional aspirations and curriculum. Typically, internships last between three and four months. Throughout your internship, make an effort to communicate with and learn from expert nutritionists. Familiarise yourself with the working environment to determine whether this is the professional path for you. If you perform well during your internship, the company may offer you full-time employment following your studies, saving you the time and effort of job seeking.

5. Prepare your resume

After completing your education, you may begin developing your resume to prepare for a job search. Include any credentials, education, experience or abilities related to a job as a nutritionist. Consider perusing several job advertisements to see what qualifications and skills companies want from candidates. You can utilise keywords from the job description that match your abilities and expertise to the expectations of your prospective employer.

6. Continue learning

To succeed as a nutritionist, you can design a strategy to continue studying. Consider enrolling in a course that teaches nutrition-related skills. Maintain current knowledge of nutrition research, since it may assist you in treating a variety of problems in your patients. Educating yourself and remaining receptive to research allows you to remain relevant in your career.

Essential nutritionist skills

When working with patients, nutritionists frequently require the following skills:

Analytical skills

Nutritionists are responsible for assessing a patient's health and recommending appropriate treatment. This requires analytical abilities to evaluate the patient's symptoms, behaviour and attitude. Also, they may analyse medical data and scientific research to develop successful strategies that meet their patient's specific requirements. These health care experts are responsible for evaluating patients' ailments and recommending treatment options that relieve symptoms and promote overall wellness.

Team working skills

Often, nutritionists collaborate with other professionals to fulfil their patients' requirements. For instance, a patient may be experiencing negative symptoms because of stress. This may lead the nutritionist to consult with doctors or other health care professionals to treat the underlying cause of the problem.

Communication

Nutritionists can teach patients about good eating habits and nutrition through written and verbal communication. They can listen to their patients to understand their situation and customise a remedy to their specific demands. They may prepare dietary suggestions and meal plans for their patients and occasionally call to check on their progress. They may also explain medical information to patients in a way that's simple for patients to understand.

Interpersonal skills

These experts engage with individuals from a variety of personal and medical backgrounds. It's important for them to be sensitive and capable of empathising with the needs and limits of their patients. To accomplish this, they can engage in active listening and adapt their communication style to ensure that patients have the most positive experience possible while receiving care. Nutritionists can use their interpersonal skills to enable patients to express their emotions and exchange information about their condition openly and honestly.

Related: Soft Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips

Research

As a nutritionist, you may conduct a study on various dietary therapies to determine their efficacy in treating patients. You may choose to investigate less understood illnesses to determine whether current evidence or research can aid in treating or alleviating symptoms. It's critical for nutritionists to be receptive to new research and breakthroughs in the field of nutrition. Nutritionists may perform and publish original research and also utilise the findings of other medical experts when treating patients. They frequently rely on their ability to experiment with remedies and research less common or less understood illnesses to treat their patients effectively.

Goal-setting

These health care experts work with patients from the beginning to the end of their therapy. They typically collaborate with other health care experts and patients to develop customised short- and long-term wellness regimens. Nutritionists' goal-setting abilities enable them to establish realistic health objectives for their patients. For instance, they can establish a goal of decreasing weight at a healthy rate, such as one kilogram per month. It's important for them to conduct an accurate assessment of a patient and establish realistic health goals and the time frames within which patients may achieve them.

What is the work environment of a nutritionist?

Many nutritionists work in full-time jobs, with some working on the weekends. This depends on their employer's or their patients' demands. Nutritionists work in a variety of environments, including the following:

Health care institutions

Nutritionists can work in a variety of health care settings, including clinics and hospitals. They can collaborate with other medical professionals such as nurses, specialists and primary caregivers in this setting. They can work with individuals or groups of patients.

Private practice

Often, nutritionists who run private practices have their own premises. They may collaborate with other nutritionists, nurses or dieticians. Private practices frequently focus on certain illnesses or age groups.

Education and research

As a nutritionist, you can pursue a career as a university professor of nutrition. Additionally, you may work as a research scientist at hospitals, research institutions or laboratories. These specialists may conduct nutrition research and publish their results to aid other nutritionists in treating and counselling patients.

Food and beverage corporations

Nutritionists may also find employment in food and beverage companies. They seek to guarantee that the meals produced are safe for human consumption and of high quality. They may also work in managerial roles in this industry.

Community

Nutritionists in the community teach people about health and nutrition. They frequently work with individuals who have special needs, such as pregnant mothers. Government agencies, public health clinics and charitable organisations can employ them.

Explore more articles

  • Cabin Crew Duties and Responsibilities: Salary and Skills
  • How to Make a Career Change at 50 in 7 Simple Steps
  • What Is a Deputy General Manager? (With Duties and Skills)
  • How to Become a Bartender: The Role, Skills and Salary
  • 10 Essential Tips for Applying for Jobs Successfully
  • What Does an Application Developer Do? (Duties and Skills)
  • What Does a Business Development Executive Do? (With Skills)
  • FAQ: What Qualifications Do You Need To Become a Health Care Assistant?
  • What Is a Career Transition? (With Indicators and Guide)
  • What Does a VFX Artist Do? Role and Essential Skills
  • Who Is an Archivist? With Duties, Education and Skills
  • 20 Examples of Essential Mortgage Advisor Skills