Nutritionists are experts in having knowledge about food and its effect on the human body. Their job is to plan and supervise dietary routines and give advice on the most beneficial and healthy foodstuffs. They also make diet plans and conduct research in order to promote a healthier lifestyle in people, thereby also minimizing the risk of diseases and infections. It is a growing field, as an increasing number of people are realizing the significance of eating right. According to O*Net, nutritionists had an expected annual job growth of up to 21% from the year 2012 to 2022 and had a median wage of $55,920 for the year 2013.
It is essential for nutritionists to have an adequate understanding of human biology and the fundamentals of the digestive system. They also need to have basic knowledge of chemicals and their compounds as well as the ability to diagnose patients with health problems and the ability to prescribe medication or use other preventive measures.
Nutritionists are sometimes called dietitians as well. Moreover, they have different sub-divisions that include clinical dietitian, sports nutritionist, and public health nutritionist etc. It is also common for nutritionists to have an understanding of psychology and the basic concepts of therapeutic counseling, due to the personal nature of their job in relation to their patients.
What is the importance of a nutritionist?
As stated earlier, the job market for nutritionists is expected to grow at 21% from the year 2012 to 2022, which is a higher than average market growth rate. This means that a greater number of people are joining the profession and the possibilities of jobs in this field are steadily growing. The reason behind this is that people have started to realize the importance of a healthy lifestyle and eating healthy foods so as to avoid complications later. Nutritionists have been at the center of this increasing consciousness and have a vital part to play in the health care industry.
The Centers for Disease Control reported that almost a third of all Americans are affected with obesity. Consequently, they are also susceptible to diseases of the heart and liver and are at a high risk for developing Type II diabetes. With such a large number of people affected with this problem, nutritionists have an important part to play in bettering the situation and encouraging people to stay healthy. Another way of looking at the situation is by observing the American ‘baby boomer’ generation which is now getting old. This basically means that about 25% of the population of the US is or will soon be nearing retirement age. A greater number of people will be requiring help in staying healthy, whereby leading to an increased demand for patient care in nursing homes and hospitals. This is why the use and significance of nutritionists is on the rise and an increasing number of people are starting to realize their importance in today’s world.
How to become a nutritionist?
To become a nutritionist, one must fulfill certain requirements, especially educational and licensing ones. Additionally, nutritionists are also expected to undergo supervised training stretching for several hundred hours.
An appropriate education is the first step that you need to take before entering an industry or job market. It all starts with a high school diploma or a GED certificate, which is necessary to get into a bachelor’s program. Once you have a high school diploma, it is preferable that you have at work towards earning a bachelor’s degree as well.
Your undergrad degree needs to be in a nutrition-related field. Popular options include dietetics, food and nutrition, food service systems management or clinical nutrition etc. During the course of the bachelors program, you can find yourself taking courses such as nutrition, psychology, chemistry, counseling and biology as well as general courses such as mathematics, management, report writing and public speaking etc.
After the completion of a bachelor’s degree, aspiring nutritionists have the option of directly applying for jobs or choosing to continue their education by enrolling in a master’s program. However another option exists, that of a post-baccalaureate program in nutrition. This is usually a year-long program that you may become eligible for after completing your bachelor’s degree. The program is for students who did their bachelor’s in non-science subjects, students that did not complete the prerequisites for a master’s degree or those who want to try for earning the registered dietitian credential after college. By completing the post-baccalaureate program, students can apply to a master’s program in nutrition, or sit for the exam to become a registered dietitian.
You can also go for a master’s degree in nutrition that might be a requirement for certain positions. The degree helps in enabling students to develop an advanced understanding of the science of food and also gives them a chance to specialize in a specific sub-division of nutrition. It will also open a wide range of career possibilities and give successful graduates and edge in the job market. Students can also go for doctoral degrees after completion of the bachelor’s or the master’s program.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Not all states require registration but most states do have certain regulations related to this field and some employers also require certification at times. Most people try out for the registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) certification which is offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, which is accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Master’s or doctoral graduates can also apply to become a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), which requires that graduates also have 1000 hours of work experience. They are certified by the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists.
Training and Experience
Before getting a job or certification, you may be required to get appropriate work experience in the field of nutrition or a related field. Internships are available that provide hundreds of hours of work experience that is useful for future career opportunities. Some universities and colleges also offer supervised training along with their course work.
Nutritionists need to have analytical skills to interpret data and make intelligent decisions. They also need to be up to date with all the latest research and innovations. Possessing management skills in will be a plus in virtually every aspect of their careers, as they need to manage the appointment schedules of their customers and patients, as well as the equipment and technology. They also need to have good listening and communication skills, as they have to listen