JAANUU » Understanding the Complex Work of Nutritionists and Their Different Roles

Understanding the Complex Work of Nutritionists and Their Different Roles

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you often have food on your mind, why not turn this passion into a career as a nutritionist? 

You won’t be able to talk about your love for that exceptional sushi joint or your favorite ice cream truck all day, but it can’t hurt to mention these things while giving solid, practical advice to your patient as a nutritionist. 

In this article, we’ll look at the complex career of being a nutritionist. There are so many exciting ways to specialize in nutrition that there is no one clear-cut nutritionist’s definition. These healthcare professionals help everyone from college students to kids and cancer patients by using their unique knowledge of specific conditions, wellness goals and food. 

Continue reading to learn about the different types of nutritionists, what this role entails and how to get into it. We’ll also explain the difference between dietitians and nutritionists to decide which “foodie” career path is right for you.

What does a nutritionist do?

Nutritionists help their patients create sustainable diets to upkeep their general health or treat specific illnesses and conditions. Their area of knowledge is dietology. 

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What exactly is dietology? This field of study encompasses many health concerns related to food. It addresses the kinds of foods we eat, why and how we eat them, their effects on our bodies and restrictions we place on ourselves for health reasons or to change the way we look. 

So, where can you find nutritionists? Nutritionists work in hospitals or schools where they can implement treatment plans. While not always licensed professionals, nutritionists are qualified to do their work via specific state certifications, years of experience in the field and the support of a healthcare team.

How to become a nutritionist 

There are a couple of different routes to becoming a nutritionist. First, there are licensed and unlicensed nutritionists, and the formal requirements may depend on your state. That said, generally, you’ll need to:

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree. 
  2. Consider a master’s or doctoral program in nutrition.
  3. Complete an internship.

What types of nutritionists are there?

Want to get in a line of work where you can specialize? There is no shortage of ways in the nutritionist career. Take a look at the list below and see what most grabs your attention when it comes to jobs in nutrition.

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  • Sports nutritionist: This type of professional works with athletes to help them reach peak performance through sports nutrition science. 
  • Eating disorder nutritionist: This nutrition consultant helps people with anorexia and bulimia, helping them forge a healthier relationship with food.  
  • Holistic nutritionist: This kind of nutritionist turns to natural options instead of medicine, following the belief of “let food be thy medicine” to heal the body and mind. 
  • Health coach: Think of this consultant as a lifestyle coach that guides patients toward their goals with a treatment plan, nutrition program and counseling.  
  • Oncology nutritionist: This professional undergoes a rigorous, specialized education to work with cancer patients to improve their quality of life by maintaining their strength and weight, combating infection and watching out for nutrient deficiencies.
  • Public health nutritionist: While most nutritionists provide one-on-one consulting, this professional works with community health. They look at widespread nutritional issues that affect public health and devise plans to improve them. Healthy communities are happier and more productive, and public health nutritionists ensure everyone has what they need to be well.
  • Personal nutritionist: These nutrition professionals provide personalized counseling via their own private practice. They help people lose or gain weight, improve their overall nutritional intake and tackle health concerns.
  • Pediatric nutritionist: In this role, nutritionists work with children on several different issues ranging from picky eating to appetite issues and illnesses. In essence, they help foster healthy eating habits in kids. 
  • Corporate wellness consultant: These advisers assist companies in helping their employees lead more fulfilling lives through better nutrition and health. They create wellness plans and guide companies through the implementation process. 
  • College nutritionist: These professionals work in a very nuanced environment: college campuses. University students aren’t always the best at ensuring their nutritional needs met, with all that late-night junk food and those on-the-go meals. So, college nutritionists help students tackle sudden weight gain, vitamin deficiencies and disordered eating. 
  • Nutrition therapist: Nutrition therapists work with private clients to improve their diet and create meal plans. They act as guides and teachers on healthy eating. 
  • Nutrition educator: Nutrition educators work in a variety of educational environments. They may even be policy-makers and researchers. They are, above all, educators who impart their knowledge on nutrition and train others.

Dietitians vs. nutritionists?

Now that you’re clear on what a nutritionist is, let’s find out how this role differs from a dietitian. Technically, dietitians are nutritionists who are specifically licensed as registered dietary nutritionists (RDNs).

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With this license, registered dietitians can operate their own practices, but like nutritionists, they also work in hospitals, nursing homes, cafeterias, clinics and beyond.

You can read our complete comparison of both roles here and go deeper into what either career entails regarding education, credentials and work. 

Nutritionists help people look and feel good, and we do the same. So, come to us for your questions on this role as well as for  great scrubs. We’re here to support you in your healthcare career, no matter where it takes you (or what you eat along the way).

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