Learn How You Can Work as a Dietitian or Nutritionist

Dietitians and nutritionists help people lose weight and improve their overall health.

The Basics

What you'll do: Participate in menu planning and overseeing the preparation of food. Educate groups such as senior citizens, pregnant women and diabetics about which types of food to eat and which foods to avoid. You may also study nutrition for food companies and test new food products and equipment. You’ll have opportunities to work in diet therapy, nutrition research and counseling.

Where you'll work: Hospitals, nursing care facilities, public health clinics, home health agencies, gyms, cafeterias, food manufacturers, private practice

Degree you'll need: Bachelor's degree

Median annual salary: $55,240*

Educational Requirements

how to become a dietitian

Dietitians are experts in nutrition science. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, or a closely related field, to get started in your career.

Your best bet is to earn a degree from a program accredited by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). Some of these programs are combined bachelor's/master's tracks, which provide both classroom and on-the-job training.

Your coursework will cover:

  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Bacteriology
  • Physiology
  • Home economics
  • Management theory
  • Business administration
  • Sociology
  • Data processing

Licensing and Certification

Most states require licensure or certification for practicing dietitians. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) offers national certification and testing which earns dietitians the title Registered Dietitian (RD).

In order to work a registered dietitian, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Complete a bachelor's degree at a school accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE)
  • Complete six to 12 months of work in a CADE-accredited practice program
  • Pass the CDR test
  • Maintain certification through continuing education

While nutritionists have fewer educational requirements and job responsibilities than dietitians, some states do have nutritionist certification and licensing requirements. So before you enroll in a nutrition program, find out about the requirements in your state.

Sources:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook; Dietitians and Nutritionists.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.