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Living a healthy and vibrant life has much to do with what we put on our plates. If you have a penchant for designing meal plans and a desire to help others live healthier lives, a career in nutrition might be your calling.
In a nutrition career, you can guide individuals and communities toward more balanced nutrition and healthier lifestyles. And the field offers a variety of rewarding career paths, such as registered dietitian, nutritionist and health coach.
Read on to learn more about what it takes to launch a successful career in nutrition, including potential roles, education paths and earning potential.
What Is Nutrition?
Nutrition focuses on promoting good health through food, and it’s one of the fastest-growing healthcare fields. This interdisciplinary field combines elements of biology, chemistry, psychology, physiology and food science to understand how food impacts the body. Careers in nutrition typically require a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field.
Nutrition professionals educate individuals and communities about the role of healthy eating in overall wellness and disease prevention. They may develop personalized meal plans, establish evidence-based dietary guidelines, conduct research and implement public health initiatives. They work in diverse settings, from hospitals and research institutions to schools and corporate wellness centers.
This guide explores nutrition career options, including education requirements and earning potential for each.
9 Popular Careers in Nutrition
In the field of nutrition, there are many career options available. Here’s a look at our top picks.
Registered Dietitian (RD)
Median Annual Salary: $66,450
Minimum Required Education: Master’s degree in nutrition or a related field
Job Overview: Registered dietitians specialize in assessing, diagnosing and treating nutritional issues. They conduct in-depth assessments to evaluate an individual’s nutrition needs based on their health status, age, gender, medical conditions and goals. An RD’s expertise qualifies them to help patients manage chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition, RDs can work in various settings, from hospitals and schools to private organizations. To become an RD, you must complete an internship and obtain state licensure or certification.
Median Annual Salary: Approximately $73,000
Minimum Required Education: Associate degree
Job Overview: These professionals advise individuals and groups on nutrition and healthy eating for optimal health. Duties typically include developing meal plans and setting nutrition goals for clients.
Nutrition consultants may specialize in various areas of nutrition, including weight management, nutrition for athletes or nutrition geared toward managing specific health conditions. Licensing and certification requirements for this career vary by state.
Average Annual Salary: Approximately $53,800
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree (for certification, with some exceptions)
Job Overview: Health coaches guide people seeking a healthier lifestyle, working either one on one or in group settings. They help clients set nutrition goals and implement sustainable behavior changes, providing personalized support and motivation.
These professionals can work in many settings. For example, some may provide online coaching services, while others may work in community settings. Often, they collaborate with other healthcare professionals. Because the health coach title is unregulated, these professionals should earn certification to demonstrate credibility.
Median Annual Salary: $59,990
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in public health, education or a similar discipline
Job Overview: Health educators are advocates for public health. They work to help individuals and communities adopt healthy behaviors to improve their well-being. These professionals may develop educational materials, conduct public health screenings, organize community outreach initiatives and raise awareness about common health issues.
Health educators work in government agencies, corporate settings, healthcare facilities, nonprofits and community organizations. To learn more, check out our public health education career guide.
Median Annual Salary: $78,520
Minimum Required Education: Master’s degree in public health or a related discipline
Job Overview: Epidemiologists investigate the cause and spread of diseases to safeguard public health. They research potential causes of specific health concerns and identify and recommend possible solutions.
Epidemiologists often work in hospitals, educational institutions and government health departments. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, including doctors and public health officials, to develop disease and infection control strategies.
Want to know more? Check out our guide on how to become an epidemiologist.
Median Annual Salary: $85,730
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in food science or a related field
Job Overview: Food scientists work on various aspects of food production, such as product development, improvement and flavor enhancement. Using their background in biology and chemistry, they ensure food production meets quality and safety standards. They may also work to improve a food’s nutrient content and availability.
Food scientists typically work for universities, research institutions, government agencies, food and beverage corporations, or nonprofit organizations.
Median Annual Salary: Approximately $58,000
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a similar discipline
Job Overview: Nutrition coordinators create and implement programs to promote healthy eating. Though their specific responsibilities vary, these professionals typically develop educational materials, assess dietary needs and provide customized nutrition advice.
Nutrition coordinators work in various settings, such as community or government organizations, healthcare facilities and schools.
Registered Nutrition and Dietetics Technician
Median Annual Salary: $33,960
Minimum Required Education: Associate degree
Job Overview: Registered nutrition and dietetics technicians support healthcare and food service management teams. They give guidance on dietary needs, conduct assessments, design meal plans and educate about healthy food choices.
These professionals may work in a variety of healthcare settings, including assisted living facilities, hospitals and clinics . They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as registered dietitians, doctors and nurses, to optimize patient care.
Food and Nutrition Services Director
Average Annual Salary: Approximately $67,600
Minimum Required Education: Bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field
Job Overview: Food and nutrition services directors oversee the operations of an organization’s food service department. They ensure patients’ nutritional needs are met and food quality and safety regulations are maintained. Responsibilities typically include menu planning, overseeing food preparation, and hiring and training staff.
These professionals may work in schools, hospitals, assisted living facilities and other institutions.
Nutrition vs. Dietetics: What’s the Difference?
The fields of dietetics and nutrition are closely related; both focus on how food and nutrients impact human health. Nutrition and dietetics professionals share foundational knowledge of the relationship between nutrients and disease. They may work in similar settings, as well, such as hospitals, schools, assisted living facilities, government organizations, nonprofits and private institutions.
Nutrition professionals typically provide counseling in meal planning and healthy eating, whereas dietetics professionals have more specialized qualifications, allowing them to provide nutrition advice to treat specific diseases and health conditions.
If you are interested in a role with a broader focus on general health promotion and education, you may want to pursue a nutrition role. On the other hand, if you are interested in working in clinical settings and managing complex medical conditions, a career in dietetics may be a good fit for you.
Organizations for Nutrition Professionals
The following professional organizations may be helpful to individuals in the field of nutrition.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND): AND is the world’s largest organization of nutrition professionals. Members have access to up-to-date resources, continuing education opportunities and professional development programs. AND accredits educational programs through its Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.
- American Society for Nutrition (ASN): ASN focuses on advancing the field of nutrition science. It publishes research and hosts webinars, networking opportunities and conferences. ASN also advocates for public health initiatives and offers resources to support professional development.
- Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior (SNEB): SNEB serves nutrition educators with a focus on promoting healthy eating habits and nutrition education. It provides nutrition professionals with research, resources and professional development opportunities to promote healthy behaviors in individuals and communities.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Nutrition Careers
What is the highest-paying job in food nutrition?
Registered dietitian is one of the highest-paying jobs in the field of nutrition. Dietitians who make diagnoses and administer treatments report some of the highest incomes in the field, earning a mean annual wage of $93,710, according to the BLS.
Can a nutritionist make six figures?
While salaries vary based on experience, education and location, making six figures as a nutritionist is possible. One strategy to boost your overall income is to provide online coaching services.
Can you make good money being a nutritionist?
Yes. If you want to maximize your earning potential, consider obtaining a master’s degree in nutrition.