Careers in Nutrition

Many people would like to combine their love of a healthy lifestyle and nutrition with a profession that would allow them to obtain financial security and explore a career that they actually have passion about. This article will examine careers in nutrition and whether or not this field is for you…

Registered Dietician

Certification as a Registered Dietician is the “gold standard” by which all other dietetic and nutritional careers are evaluated. As with any other prestigious credentials, certification as a Registered Dietician is not an easy task. The national certifying body, the American Dietetic Association, requires the following before it will  certify anyone to be a Registered Dietician:


  • Completion of a bachelor’s degree program leading to a Dietetics or Nutrition Science degree specialization;
  • Completion of a six to 12 months of supervised clinical training in conjunction with the four-year degree program, and
  • A passing grade on a national certifying examination

The academic requirements and  the potential financial burden imposed in obtaining credentials as a Registered Dietician can be intimidating. In response, many have sought training in areas that will allow them to continue to develop their love of natural foods and dietary therapy by training in other professions. Two popular alternatives are training as a Holistic Dietician or as a Practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Holistic Dietician

One attractive option to Registered Dietician credentials is to obtain training as a nutritional consultant, a profession that is sometimes called Holistic Dietician. These programs, which can last from a few semesters to several years in length, concentrate on providing the student with both the theory behind holistic approaches to dietetics as well as instruction in the business side of dietetics such as retail operations, marketing, and available financing options for those establishing a career in this field.

Advantages to Holistic Dietician training include the fact that many schools now offer courses in this and related subjects such as biology, chemistry, and consumer psychology. As with traditional dietician training, many of these preliminary-level courses can be obtained through a local community college or four-year university. Furthermore, since the required classes can be obtained online, there is less pressure on the individual to maintain a set class schedule.

The principle disadvantage to this option is that there are no set educational requirements to be completed prior to entry into the profession. In practical terms, this simply means that the quality of educational programs of this type will vary from one institution to another. Furthermore, there is no provision that students complete a set number of hours of supervised clinical (“on the job”) training during which they must demonstrate the ability to apply what was learned in the classroom to real-life situations. While many students in these programs may already have such knowledge, lack of suitable criteria to document this knowledge can later become a drawback to establishing a career in this field.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

An option that is often overlooked by those seeking a career in nutrition is professional training in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  This field, which includes training in other complimentary and alternative approaches to health maintenance such as acupuncture and therapeutic massage, has traditionally stressed the importance of a proper diet and nutritional therapies in disease management and prevention. Since all nationally-accredited TCM programs include both classroom and clinical training in nutrition and natural herbology, as well as in other holistic modalities, a degree in TCM offers an attractive alternative to programs that limit their training to dietetic therapies alone.

To recap, in addition to programs that lead to national certification as a Registered Dietician, there are also a number of options available for careers in nutrition. Two of these programs, Holistic Dietician and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner, are discussed as especially attractive alternatives. If you have found that you want to live your day-to-day healthy living practices through a career, it is possible. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that there are more than 60,000 individuals employed in this profession, and the number is expected to increase 20 percent through 2020 – which is much faster than average.

About Allison Freeland

Allie Freeland is the Editor-in-Chief of She has been a professional writer for a decade and received her bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. She brings a wealth of information about higher education, online degrees, college life, and career advice. Follow her on G+.