Nutritionists enjoy a variety of work benefits including, as of 2008, a median salary of $50,590 a year; the ability to advance to a department director, research or self-employment position; and a 40-hour workweek that excludes weekends. However, there are also several disadvantages to working in this field. Keep in mind both the advantages and disadvantages of this career when making a decision about whether you would like to pursue it.
Nutritionists often work in a hot and uncomfortable kitchen environment. They may become exposed to food-related bacteria or be subject to unsanitary conditions. Part of nutritionists' job responsibility is to correct these conditions if they are present. This career usually involves spending long periods on your feet. Nutritionists might also work in environments where the proper equipment and tools to perform their duties are not readily available.
Job Growth and Outsourcing
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nutritionist jobs will grow as fast as the average for all other occupations through 2018. However, employment growth will decline as employers -- largely hospitals -- choose to outsource to other nutrition providers. Nutritionist positions in medical settings might also decline due to a lack of coverage of nutritionist services by health-care providers and insurance companies. This makes it difficult for nutritionists to be reimbursed for their services.
Nutritionist employment opportunities are highly competitive in most areas, especially for applicants who have not obtained a bachelor's degree in a nutrition related major. Nutritionists might face further competition and position downsizing because of other professionals -- including doctors, nurses, home aides and chefs -- taking on a growing role in patient nutrition. Job outlook will be best for applicants who have gone beyond their state's minimum requirements for nutritionist education and training.
A bachelor's degree in dietetics, food and nutrition or food service systems management is usually required to become a nutritionist. The education to become a nutritionist is rigorous and includes courses in subjects such as microbiology, statistics, psychology and biology. Many states also require that nutritionists become licensed or certified to practice. To remain competitive, nutritionists should earn a graduate degree or complete additional training in their field.