The Definitive Guide: How To Become A Nutritionist

Published: 16 Nov 2017

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Have you always had a passion for food – and more importantly, a keen interest in consuming a good, healthy diet? Do you often think about the kind of foods you put into your body and how they impact your physical health and wellbeing? If so, then a role as a nutritionist could well be the role for you!

A fulfilling job in the leisure industry, nutritionist positions are often hard to come by and receive lots of applications – but don’t be put off by that; it’s all about putting the groundwork in now so you can bag that dream job later.

So, what does a nutritionist do? We’ve put together this thorough guide, which tells you everything you need to know about joining this exciting and lucrative profession.

What is a Nutritionist?

  • Job Description

    In short, a nutritionist will carry out research and use scientific knowledge to provide handy hints and advice about how the food and drink we feed our body with affects our overall health.

    Nutritionists go by a few job titles, including a public health nutritionist, or even health advisors. What that means for you is if you’re looking for a role in the industry, you now have a couple more keywords to use in your job search.

    Should you take up a position as a nutritionist, you’ll find yourself working closely with dieticians and other health professionals on an almost daily basis. These could include pharmacists, GPs or even diet and nutrition teams within hospitals.

  • Hours of Work

    If you’ve ever wondered what kind of daily or weekly hours nutritionists keep, wonder no more.

    Got your sights on working with the NHS? You’ll generally work a 37.5-hour week, Monday to Friday, with part-time or flexible work in the offing sometimes too.

    You may also be required to work in various locations – local health clinics, GP surgeries or hospitals to name just a few. Some of your day, therefore, may be taken up with driving around – a less glamorous side to the job.

    You could find yourself working at various locations, such as hospitals, local health clinics and GP surgeries. As we just mentioned, you may spend time travelling in your local area to visit different centres, which means it may be a requirement to have your own vehicle.

  • Main Responsibilities

    What kind of duties will make up your average day as a nutritionist? To give you a little insight into the role, here are just a few of them:

    • Researching and undertaking nutrition projects
    • Finding the right volunteers to take part in trials
    • Processing and analysing biological samples
    • Educating colleagues in the health field about the benefits of healthy eating and the latest research
    • Raising awareness of a healthy diet
    • Tailoring healthy eating campaigns to specific groups, like low-income families or young mums, for example
    • Delivering presentations featuring the results of project trials
    • Ensuring that healthy food like fruit and vegetables is more readily available
    • Judging the success of projects by way of analysing statistics

Key Nutritionist Qualifications

So, what qualifications do you need to be a Nutritionist?

Want to become a registered nutritionist? In the first instance, you’ll need to obtain at least a BSc (Hons) in nutritional science. Entering the profession certainly isn’t easy but it is within reach for anyone with a keen interest in health and wellbeing.

Take a look online and you’ll find there’s a huge list of undergraduate and post-graduate programmes available, each of them accredited by the Association for Nutrition. If you want to get your foot in the door in the industry, these are the programmes (each of them accredited) that you’ll want to look out for.

If you’ve graduated in one of these accredited courses you can then apply for direct entry onto the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists at an associate level.

There are all sorts of benefits to signing up for the Voluntary Register of Nutritionists, so make sure you look into it if it’s a profession you’re interested in entering. Now, moving onto the key skills you’ll need to become a nutritionist.

nutritionist education

Vital Nutritionist Skills

To do the job well, you’ll need:

  • A keen interest in science and food
  • A positive attitude
  • The ability to motivate and help others
  • An understanding and empathy towards the lifestyle of others
  • The ability to explain complex things in a simple way
  • Good organisational skills
  • Great communication skills
  • Good business acumen (for private/freelance nutritionist work)
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What is a Nutritionists's Salary?

Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty…

Nutritionists can earn relatively well, even those who are just entering the profession. With starting salaries from £21,000, wages can rise to up to £29,000 for public and private sector roles.

Those with experience could earn up to £45,000, with the more senior nutritionists (principal lecturers or chair of public health) having the opportunity to earn up to £60,000 per year.

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How To Become a Nutritionist

With those salaries in mind, you might now be wondering how you can make it into the profession – and what you need to do to get a foot in the door.

Unlike most professions, there is no set route to becoming a nutritionist. While some people have qualifications in nutrition (a degree perhaps, or even a Masters qualification) others find their way in without a formal qualification.

The Association for Nutrition (Afn) holds the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) and distinguishes nutrition practitioners who excel when it comes to training, competence in the role and professional practice criteria.

There are three categories of UKVRN registrant, which are:

The nutritionists listed above will each have a degree in nutrition sciences or peer-recognised professional nutrition experience. They will also need to adhere to AfN Standards of Ethics, Conduct and Performance.

Interested in getting your foot in the door? You’ll find a list of accredited courses on the AfN website; look out for courses with any of the following titles, too: human nutrition, public health nutrition, food and nutrition, and nutrition and public health.

In order to qualify for one of these courses, you will need two or three A-levels as a minimum. These will include biology or chemistry, and you’ll also need five GCSEs of grades A-C (English language, maths and science are all a must).

Aside from this, you might also have a BTEC, HND, or HNC (which includes biology or chemistry), a relevant NVQ, a science-based access course, or the equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications.

Do check carefully before you apply for a course, as each college or university will have its own requirements. For example, for a Masters degree you may need a relevant degree or professional qualification too.

How To Develop Your Nutrition Career

So, you’ve been a nutritionist for some time – now, what next?

If you’re keen to take the next steps on the nutrition journey, read on. We’re bringing you all the information you need to get ahead in the profession and continue to enjoy what you do. It’s an industry which will serve you well if you put the necessary work in first, so make sure you always strive for more and push yourself to the next level.

Have you heard of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), for example? It’s an ongoing, structured combination of learning activities through which registered nutritionists can maintain and extend their knowledge and skills. They do this primarily to gain lifelong professional competence to ensure they can go on to an even more fruitful career.

CPD can take many forms; from short courses to conferences, seminars and lectures to the reading of scientific journals, you could be doing any number of things in your quest to become more qualified.

The course can be delivered electronically, via a website, video or an App, and it may even involve a site visit or a period of open learning.

If you’re interested in furthering your career in the industry, it’s very much recommended that you consider doing CPD. Within just a few short years you could receive Associate status, which will stand you in good stead when it comes to earning more and progressing in general – why not consider it today and see if it’s something you’re interested in?

Not yet a Registered Nutritionist or Registered Associate Nutritionist? Perhaps instead you’re thinking of becoming one? If that’s the case, think about CPD! The sooner you get into the habit of recording CPD activities and planning your personal development the better, when it comes to getting ahead.

Improving your personal development and letting future employers know that you’re keen to make your mark by progressing in the field, CPD provides a great opportunity for you to spread your wings that bit wider. It’s all about putting the work in now so you can reap the rewards later. You may even decide to go self-employed later down the line, which will give you the flexibility to choose your own hours and make your own schedule.

Like this guide? Don’t forget to check out our other leisure job-focused guides, which will give you a great insight into a variety of roles in a host of industries.

So there you have it; everything you need to set out on the road to a new Nutrition career!

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