The nutrition profession covers many levels of expertise and a wide variety of career possibilities.
The nutrition profession covers many levels of expertise and a wide variety of career possibilities. This article discusses job opportunities in nutrition, looking at nutrition degree-focused jobs alongside alternative roles within the industry without a degree. Careers in nutrition can vary in how these health professionals decide to operate.
Those who decide to go into nutrition as an undergraduate degree are often looking at the end goal of wanting to become a Nutritionist, Dietitian or Nutrition therapist. Below we discuss these career paths in more detail.
Nutritionist and Dietitian are two professional titles that you are probably familiar with. They have very similar roles, and there is considerable overlap in what they do. However, dietitians tend to be more clinical and involved in working with people with diet-related medical conditions. Nutritionists are more likely to work in research, the food industry, community project and preventative health. Both can also work with clients in private practice.
Unlike ‘dietitians’, the term ‘nutritionist’ is not a protected title which means that currently, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, irrespective of their qualifications. For this reason, most employers seeking a nutritionist will specify that they need to be registered with the Association for Nutrition.
To become a registered nutritionist and dietitian, you must complete a bachelor’s degree program, usually lasting 3-4 years.
As a Nutrition Therapist, you would be practising nutritional therapy, which involves using foods, diets, fasting, supplements, functional foods and dietary counselling as a form of treatment to optimise health and resolve certain conditions.
Usually, this job in nutrition would work in private practice on a one-to-one basis with clients and will typically hold a diploma or degree in nutritional therapy.
Although nutritional therapy is not currently regulated by law, it is recommended that practitioners register with an organisation such as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), which is a voluntary regulator for complementary healthcare practitioners.
There are various routes that can be taken when studying for an additional nutrition qualification. These qualifications may take anywhere between a few hours up to a year complete and usually are levels 2 to 5. The higher the level, the more complex the content of the qualification is. The scope of practice of these professionals can be more limited than degree-qualified professionals. Still, for most people who need healthy eating advice and weight loss support, these are a good option, especially as they often have skills in supporting behaviour change.
A nutrition advisor or coach will often study due to a personal interest in the subject or those looking to help others achieve a balanced lifestyle. As a nutrition coach, you will be able to work with generally healthy clients who want to improve their diet to optimise their health, reduce weight, or achieve a specific exercise-related goal. Most clients would fall into this criteria. Clients who have medical conditions that require specialised dietary advice out of the scope of a nutrition coach should be referred to a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
Another option which you can take as a nutrition qualification job is starting your own coaching business; you will have more control over your career direction. Still, you need to be prepared to take the time to build up your client base and learn the best way to promote yourself.
Becoming a Personal Trainer is an alternative career path involving nutrition; qualifications such as a Level 4 Elite Personal Trainer with RSPH course will qualify you to become a personal trainer alongside providing expert nutrition advice to help clients achieve their goals. Having the knowledge and skills to understand nutrition can be highly beneficial to making a difference to clients; maintaining a healthy diet is critical in meeting set health and fitness goals.
A good starting point is to search online for jobs featuring ‘nutrition’ as a keyword. If you seek employment, you may be lucky and land your dream role straight away, but chances are, you will need to build on your experience in positions that are not perfect but make ends meet.
The good idea is to do a skills audit. Search online for the nutrition jobs that you would ultimately like to do. Most of these will feature a person specification where the employer lists the skills and experience they would like the applicate to have. Once you have identified gaps in your experience or skills, create an action plan for addressing them. Sometimes a lack of experience can feel like a vicious circle – you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without getting a job.
It is essential to be flexible and think imaginatively about how you can build your experience. Working with family and friends as clients or volunteering your services are good options. Could you volunteer for a couple of hours each week at a care home? Is there a sports club in your area that would welcome a free talk on how nutrition principles apply to that specific sport? Also, remember that you probably have a lot of transferable skills from other jobs – your experience doesn’t have to be from a nutrition setting.