Job descriptions and industry overviews

Nutritionist: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Nutritionists provide information about food and nutrition to groups and individuals.

veg to represent nutrition

What does a nutritionist do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Nutritionists provide information on food and healthy eating and can work in a range of areas, including in public health, in the private sector and in education and research. Unlike dietitians who primarily work with people who are ill or whose health is affected by conditions such as food allergies, malnutrition or diabetes, nutritionists mostly work with people who are healthy. There are also a few opportunities to work in animal nutrition.

Typical duties include:

  • providing science-based advice about nutrition and promoting healthy eating, to both individuals and groups
  • developing guidance on nutrition for dissemination to a wider audience, such as via websites and social media
  • offering advice on nutrition to specific groups (such as sportspeople or new mothers) or the organisations that provide food for them (such as hospital canteens)
  • carry out research and publish reports
  • working as part of a multidisciplinary team/supporting the work of other health care professionals
  • advising on foods marketing
  • developing public policy around nutrition.

Working hours are likely to be standard ‘office’ hours (even if you’re not based in an office) which is typically nine-to-five.

Graduate salaries

According to Glassdoor, salaries start at around £22,000 in the private sector and £25,000 in the NHS and other public sector organisations. Earnings will increase with experience and will also depend on the sector you choose to work in: public sector salaries tend to rise incrementally in line with pay rates agreed by government, while private sector salaries are set by individual employers.

Typical employers of nutritionists

  • Food and animal feed manufacturers and retailers.
  • Sports and exercise organisations.
  • National and local government.
  • Healthcare organisations, including the NHS.
  • Health-focused charities.
  • Schools and other educational institutions.

A small number of vacancies arise for appropriately qualified and experienced nutritionists to work for emergency relief and development projects overseas.

With experience, you could become self-employed and choose the clients or sectors you work with.

Jobs are advertised by careers services and university departments. You’ll also find them advertised on sector-specific jobs boards (public sector). Local authorities, schools and charities may also advertise on their own websites and social media.

Qualifications and training required

Unlike dieticians, nutritionists don’t need to follow a specific route into their profession. The job title isn’t protected either – also unlike that of dieticians – so in theory, anyone can work as a nutritionist. In practice however, if you want to register with the professional association for nutritionists, the Association for Nutrition (AfN) – a requirement for many jobs – you’ll need an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that it’s approved. The AfN lists accredited degrees on its website, and also certifies short courses that provide an introduction to nutrition science for those who are not ready to take a full degree.

The undergraduate degree courses accredited by the AfN cover areas such as human nutrition, public health, nutrition and food science, nutrition and exercise and animal nutrition. You will usually need two or three A levels or equivalent, often including biology.

Once you have been registered by the AfN for three years or can demonstrate that you meet the organisation’s competency standards, you can apply to become a registered nutritionist.

If you already have a undergraduate degree in a relevant subject such as a life science, public health or sport, you could consider an accredited postgraduate qualification. These include masters qualifications in areas such as international nutrition, public health nutrition and sport and exercise nutrition.

If you’re a school leaver, look out for developments in apprenticeships in this field as there are currently plans to create one. To find out more, see targetapprenticeships .

Key skills for nutritionists

  • Teamworking skills.
  • Good interpersonal skills.
  • Communication skills, including the ability to explain complex things simply.
  • An understanding of science, including how to apply it.
  • Academic research skills.
  • The ability to motivate others.
  • Business skills for freelance work.

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