Nutritionists prime focus is the human diet, their main job is to see how people are eating and help them make necessary changes. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of being a nutritionist.
Pro: You’re helping people become healthier.
Depending upon where they’re employed, nutritionists can do a great deal of good. They might help prisons develop healthy but cost effective meal plans, or work with individual clients to provide a plan for a healthier diet and lifestyle. Nutritionists can help people turn their lives around, helping them become sounder of body, which in turn can make them more confident and energetic, and thus sounder of mind.
Con: Many programs and positions require a narrow understanding of nutrition.
For the most part, Americans nutrition is based on what the United States Department of Agriculture or Food and Drug Administration deem best. Because of these regulations, nutritionists have to practice a certain way. So, even if you don’t agree with some of the rules, by law you’ll have to perform accordingly. This may be nearly impossible for some people to comply with, and if so you probably should look at other professions.
Pro: You can work in food sciences with less requirements than a dietitian.
While this doesn’t mean that nutritionists are necessarily less qualified, it takes a good deal more years of training and education to be a dietitian—dietitians are nutritionists, but nutritionists aren’t necessarily dietitians. The necessary requirements for entry level jobs as a nutritionist are often bachelor's degrees. While some nutritionists have much more education than this, it isn’t necessary. Figure out which aspect of the field you think you would like to be in and make sure to get your schooling accordingly.
Con: A nutritionist is not a legally protected title.
Unfortunately, this also means some nutritionists can sneak into positions without any real training regarding nutrition. These situations give good nutritionists a bad reputation. Additionally, because not all states require certifications, nutritionists aren’t technically or legally “medical professionals.” While this doesn’t mean their abilities are any less valuable, it does interfere with the ability to make decisions for patients in a hospital or clinical setting. As a nutritionist, you may find that you have to work under a dietitian, depending on which aspect of the field you intend to enter into.
Pro: Nutritionists have good earning potential and job growth.
For a job that you can start with just a bachelor’s degree, nutritionists make a very decent salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median earnings for both dietitians and nutritionists is close to $60,000 a year. This can vary widely depending upon experience, education, location, and what kind of job you are doing (i.e. privatized clinic versus a hospital); the upper 10% makes closer to $80,000, while the lower 10% makes closer to $35,000. Additionally, the BLS reports a 16% expected job growth rate over the next 10 years, which is much higher than average. This is good news for new professionals entering the field—it means there will be plenty of opportunities available.
Con: You may need particular licensures and to continuously self-educate.
Nutritionists may not be legally protected, but they’re a regulated profession, to some extent. Unfortunately, the licensing requirements can often be unclear and may vary from state to state. To work in more specialized areas, you may need to spend more time in college or training, which can become time consuming and expensive.
Regardless of what aspect of the field you choose, you’re going to have to constantly be aware of new studies and information that comes about. What scientists know about foods, vitamins, and the body is constantly changing as they learn more. Be prepared to stay on top of your game for the entirety of your career if you want to be a successful nutritionist!