What Are the Duties of a Nutritionist?

A balanced diet is necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and nutritionists help people discover the best diets for their needs. Read on to learn more about nutritionists and the roles they fill. Schools offering Fitness & Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Responsibilities and Duties of Nutritionists

Nutritionists, also known as dietitians, promote healthy eating habits by developing health plans and educating people about food. As a nutritionist, you'll help facilities, patients, and communities plan menus and nutritional programs. This involves evaluating clientele to determine their dietary needs and restrictions. Nutritionists also often consult with doctors and other healthcare professionals during the diet-planning process. You may also oversee meal preparation and serving to make sure dietary needs and food safety regulations are being met.

Educating the public is a large part of this career. You'll provide clients with nutritional counseling and teach them the tenets of healthy eating and diet monitoring. You may also work with clients' families, informing them of how to implement new diet plans at home. Nutritionists may serve as instructors in dietary courses and training programs. In such cases, you'll prepare curricula, gather educational materials, and lecture students and trainees.

Work Environment

Nutritionists work in a wide range of settings fulfilling various roles and their duties vary according to the field in which they work. Clinical nutritionists, for example, provide nutritional menus and services to clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare institutions. In this position, you will apply your education and skills to assess patients' needs and create a dietary program accordingly. You'll then evaluate and report on the progress of your patients' health.

As a community dietitian, you work for public health facilities and home health care businesses to assist patients in developing and sustaining nutritional eating habits. You could choose instead to work as a management dietitian, overseeing menu planning in large facilities, like prisons, corporations, and schools. Some dieticians work as consultants, advising clients on nutritional and dietary issues. Consultant dietitians are often self-employed or employed by private consulting companies.

Education and Licensure

To work as a nutritionist, you will need to hold at least a bachelor's degree. You might earn your degree in nutrition, dietetics, or another closely-related major. While a four-year degree is sufficient, you may benefit from pursuing a graduate degree. Master's degrees are especially helpful for advancing in fields like research and public health.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), most states require licensure, statutory certification, or registration to serve in the profession. Licensure is the strictest among these regulations, stipulating that only licensed nutritionists can provide their services to the public. In states that require statutory certification, uncertified nutritionists can still practice but are not granted the occupational title of a certified nutritionist. Registration is the most lenient, and even unregistered nutritionists can practice in the profession. Due to the variation in state regulations, the bureau suggests contacting your state health department directly for requirements.

Certification

Different from the state-required statutory certification, professional certification is voluntary and may increase employment and advancement opportunities. The American Dietetic Association's Commission on Dietetic Registration offers the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential to qualifying nutritionists (www.eatright.org). Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited program and have completed an approved internship. To receive the credential, you must then pass an exam administered by the association. RDs must maintain certification by earning 75 continuing education credits every five years.

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