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A Career Guide to Becoming a Nutritionist

Published: Sunday 29th December 2019

At a time when people are paying more attention to what they eat than ever before, there is an increasing demand for nutritionists. So, if you’re looking for a career with plenty of opportunities in a wide variety of sectors, then here’s what you need to know 

Male nutritionist working in his office

Nutritionists vs Dieticians

As a nutritionist, your job will be to help others make good dietary decisions and advise on nutrients that they may be missing out on. While nutritionists and dieticians do very similar jobs, dieticians tend to be employed by the NHS or private clinics to improve the health of patients through dietary intervention. Most are members of the British Dietetic Association (BDA) and must be state registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). On the other hand, nutritionists tend to work privately. GP’s will refer patients to both. One important difference is that dieticians don’t use supplements, while nutritionists do. 

Smiling nutritionist showing a healthy diet plan to female patient with diabetes

Most nutritionists come into the profession through a personal passion, perhaps via a sports or fitness route, bringing with them other specialist skills such as homeopathy or shiatsu. Dieticians tend to be more generalist in their skill set. That said, these days there is an increasing crossover with many dieticians going into private practice and nutritionists becoming more regulated.  

According to the NHS, dieticians are qualified to give advice on all aspects of eating and diet, whereas nutritionists are only qualified to give advice on food and healthy eating.  

The road to becoming a nutritionist  

The path to becoming either a dietician or a nutritionist is varied, but it starts by focusing on science subjects such as human biology. Certainly you should be aiming for three A-level passes with at least one of these in biology or chemistry (preferably both). 

Asian nutritionist doctor holding red heart studying food supplements. Nutritionist doctor or food specialist consider vitamins for patient 's diet. Cardiologist & Healthy eating concept.

BTEC, HNC or HND are other routes into the discipline with BTEC being the equivalent of GCSE’s, HNC similar to the first year of a degree course and HND qualification the equivalent of a second year of study at university. Incidentally, a HNC could also help you secure a place on a related degree course at university. All dieticians must have completed an honours degree course in dietetics, although those with a relevant degree can also complete a postgraduate course.  

Nutritionist NHS or private practice? 

Once qualified, you can choose to register with the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) maintained by the Association for Nutrition (AfN)There are three categories here: as a registered nutritionist (RNutr) with a specialism, associate nutritionist (ANutr), or fellow of AfN (FAfn). To do so, you’ll need a degree in nutrition or have substantial peer-recognised experience. 

Nutritional Sciences

Nutritionists can end up working in a variety of sectors including public health, community clinics, industry, charities and research projects. Many work in special projects overseas. The typical nutritionist salary could be anywhere between £19and £35k with the higher end of that spectrum reserved for private sector roles. More senior roles can range from £45k to as high as £80k. Rates for self-employed nutritionist can vary hugely, depending on location and experience. 

For a wide range of nutritionist jobs in every sector, start with a search on Zoek. 

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