Nutritionist: job description

Nutritionist: job description

Nutritionists help to advance an understanding of how diet affects the health and well being of people and animals.
Nutritionists need to be able to relate to people from a variety of different backgrounds.

What does a nutritionist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Nutritionists generally work in a preventative role on a one-to-one and a group basis with patients of all ages. Unlike dieticians who primarily work with people who are ill, nutritionists mostly work with people who are healthy.

Key responsibilities of the job include:

  • researching how the body's functions are affected by nutrient supply
  • investigating the relationship between genes and nutrients
  • studying how diet affects metabolism
  • examining the process of nourishment and the association between diet, disease and health
  • providing health advice and promoting healthy eating
  • advising about special diets
  • educating health professionals and the public about nutrition
  • working as part of a multidisciplinary team/supporting the work of other health care professionals

Typical employers of nutritionists

  • National and local government (health and food departments)
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • Food and animal feed manufacturers and retailers

A small number of vacancies arise for appropriately qualified and experienced nutritionists to work for emergency relief and development projects overseas – advertisements for such opportunities appear on the RedR UK website. Jobs are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers and in specialist publications. The Nutrition Society also advertises vacancies on its website.

Qualifications and training required

To become a nutritionist it is necessary to gain a degree in nutritional science, dietetics, or food science; or alternatively a life sciences degree that incorporates human physiology and biochemistry. A postgraduate qualification in nutrition can be helpful and is essential for candidates without a suitable first degree in nutrition or dietetics.

It is advantageous to register with the nutritionist professional body, the Association for Nutrition. To do this you must study an undergraduate or postgraduate course that is accredited by the association.

Employers may also require specific science A levels. Relevant work experience can be helpful and can provide a useful insight into the profession.

Key skills for nutritionists

  • Teamworking skills
  • Keen interest in the impact of diet on health
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Communication skills
  • An understanding of biochemistry or human physiology