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How to Become a Nutritionist: Steps to Take from High School

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What’s Covered:


What we eat has a huge impact on our health. That’s why the world needs nutritionists. Along with other members of the healthcare field, these professionals are critical to helping people maintain or improve their health and wellness.


Are you interested in becoming a nutritionist? Find out how to get started on your career.


What Does a Nutritionist Do?


Nutritionists study nutrition and advise people on how the food they eat and diets they maintain affect their health. People consult nutritionists to manage conditions, improve wellness, and achieve goals related to their health. 


These professionals may work independently or at healthcare facilities, schools, and private or public organizations, evaluating patients and monitoring their dietary needs and plans. Depending on their level of expertise and credentials, they may also conduct research and/or teach, as well as conduct food and allergy-related tests.


A registered dietitian is similar to a nutritionist, except they are nationally recognized and certified by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), while nutritionists must only meet individual state requirements. Additionally, registered dieticians are able to perform responsibilities like helping patients with eating disorders and other conditions.


How Much Do Nutritionists Make?


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nutritionists and dietitians earn $61,270 per year on average. Salary can vary considerably depending on experience, credentials (for example, dietitians typically earn more than nutritionists), location, and other factors.


The BLS predicts that demand for the profession will grow 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than average.

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How to Become a Nutritionist: Steps to Take from High School


High School


Undergraduate programs in nutrition and related fields don’t require any special preparation at the high school level. However, if you’re interested in the field, you should take plenty of advanced courses in science and math, such as AP Chemistry, Biology, and Statistics. Health- and food-related extracurricular activities, such as culinary programs and volunteering at hospitals, will also allow you to demonstrate your enthusiasm for nutrition.


Additionally, work on honing skills that will help you thrive in the professional setting, such as communication, analytical, critical thinking, technical, and problem-solving skills.




There are a number of top colleges with undergraduate programs in nutrition, but you don’t have to major in nutrition to become a nutritionist. You can also choose related disciplines, such as health or food science. Either way, ensure you earn your bachelor’s degree at a school with a strong science curriculum that offers opportunities for research.


You should complete coursework in areas like:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Dietetics
  • Food science
  • Human anatomy
  • Immunology 
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition science
  • Physiology
  • Psychology


Of course, requirements vary depending on the school and program. You may also have the opportunity to pursue a concentration within nutrition. During or following college, students should also complete an internship. 


Remember that if you plan on becoming a registered dietitian, you must choose an AND-approved undergraduate program.


In addition to finding a school that has a stellar science and nutrition curriculum, ensure you’re choosing one that’s a good fit for you in other ways — student body, location, size, and so on. Use CollegeVine’s school search tool to find the best matches, and check out our chancing engine to estimate your odds of getting into your dream school.



Graduate School/Certification


Certification and licensure requirements vary from state to state. Some states don’t have any requirements. However, you’ll probably find that it’s more difficult to find a job as a nutritionist without certification. There are a few different types of certifications you can obtain, such as Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS).


If you wish to specialize and/or expand your employment options, you may choose to pursue a master’s degree in nutrition. This is usually a two-year program that will allow you to focus on a particular niche, such as sport nutrition. It’s also often a requirement for certification in the field. It’s also necessary if you’d like to perform research in nutrition.


A graduate program in nutrition involves coursework in areas like nutrition therapy, molecular biology, and public health, as well as a certain number of hours of clinical experience. Some nutritionists elect to complete doctoral programs, which will enable them to pursue academic careers in the field.


No matter what path you choose, nutrition is often a highly rewarding career, ideal for people who are interested in health and want to help others. 

Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.