How to Become a Nutritionist
The Definitive Career Guide

Avg. Salary

Education Duration
3-4 Years

Job Outlook

Are you the type of person who enjoys helping people on their wellness journey?

Then consider becoming a Nutritionist, a specialist who is certified in nourishing our bodies with the best foods possible.

As a Nutritionist, you’ll be tasked with creating meal plans, counseling, and understanding dietary restrictions for all types of clients.

Whether a client wants to manage obesity or specific health conditions, you’ll be prepared with the right way to eat daily.

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Job Description

A Nutritionist is an important part of the healthcare field, especially when working in hospitals, home care facilities, and even nursing homes.

Many types of people require specific diets, and a Nutritionist is knowledgeable in the best foods to eat for every type of modification.


Some of the daily tasks of a Nutritionist will include:

  • Work with clients to understand diet
  • Provide insight on sleep habits, exercise, and stress levels
  • Access health records of clients
  • Educate others on diet
  • Develop meal plans
  • Evaluate and change meal plans
  • Stay up to date on nutritional research
  • Promote health and wellness


With the career of a Nutritionist, you can expect to have a yearly salary close to $36,608 on average.

Those who are in this salary range will make about $17.60 per hour.

When you just begin your career, you should expect a smaller salary as a Nutritionist, which may be around $13 an hour, or $27,040 per year.

Experience and time in the field will give you the most when it comes to your wages as a Nutritionist.

A Nutritionist with the most experience can average about $23 an hour, which comes out to $47,840 a year.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $65,620


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$80,600
New Hampshire$66,420
New Jersey$74,850
New Mexico$63,790
New York$72,800
North Carolina$58,930
North Dakota$63,490
Rhode Island$74,080
South Carolina$54,820
South Dakota$61,860
West Virginia$66,390
Puerto Rico$42,760

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $82,380.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $82,380
District of Columbia - $80,600
Hawaii - $75,020
New Jersey - $74,850
Rhode Island - $74,080
* Salary information based on May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Dietitians and Nutritionists, OCC Code 29-1031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become: Step-by-Step

Step 1 Earn a Degree

The only way to begin your career as a Nutritionist is to earn a degree in the subject.

When considering a role as a Nutritionist, you’ll want to complete a relevant program such as Nutrition, Dietetics, Food and Nutritional Sciences, or Nutrition and Dietetics together.

The process of earning a bachelor’s degree will take about four years.

You can choose to enroll in an online school or complete your classes in person.

During your time at college, expect to take courses that include:

  • Anatomy
  • Human Nutrition
  • Chemistry
  • Food Science

While some states do allow you to earn an associate degree to work as a Nutritionist, you will need to possess a bachelor’s degree to complete licensure.

There are also some areas or employers that require a master’s degree to complete licensure to become a Registered Nutritionist.

Check with your state licensing board for any requirements needed so you are up to date.

Step 2 Gain Experience

Either during schooling or right after, you will be required to complete at least 1,000 hours of supervised Nutritionist work to gain licensure.

While working in this environment, you could shadow a senior Nutritionist or complete an internship to gain hands-on experience.

Some other ways to gain experience could include working at a food bank, volunteering at food service companies, or even completing internships in hospitals.

The work that you do should set you up for a career as a Nutritionist by teaching about healthy food choices, how different foods work for people’s bodies, and when and how to diet.

Step 3 Become Licensed

Once you have completed the required hours for licensure, it’s time to take the exam.

To become a Registered Nutritionist, you’ll need to sit for the national test.

The test is split into four sections, which include principles of dietetics, nutrition care, management of food and nutrition, as well as food service systems.

You’ll have about 145 multiple-choice questions to get through on this computer-based exam.

To pass, you will need to answer at least 125 correctly, then you will be considered a licensed Nutritionist.

After completing this exam, you will receive your licensure in the mail within four to six weeks.

Check with your state licensing board to ensure that this is the only exam and licensure that you need to work as a Registered Nutritionist.

Step 4 Continue Education

In states that only require a bachelor’s degree to become a Registered Nutritionist, you may want to consider completing a master’s degree after several years of working in this field.

A master’s degree is a great way to become proficient and also stay relevant in the world of nutrition.

It should take about two years to complete this type of degree, and many can be found online.

As a Nutritionist, you’ll need continued education throughout your working life due to changes in science, nutrition, and diet.

No matter how long you work as a Nutritionist, you will need to keep up with your education as well as licensure.

Every five years, you will be required to become recertified as a Registered Nutritionist.

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Since working as a Nutritionist is an artful science, it is important to have a degree to show your knowledge.

Some states require an associate’s degree to begin entry-level careers in this field.

However, most Nutritionists will have a four-year bachelor’s degree that allows them to complete licensure in their state.

To get the most out of your degree, it is necessary to consider relevant programs, such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Dietetics
  • Food and Nutritional Sciences
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • There are options throughout the United States to complete your degree online or in person.
  • You’ll want to complete classes that are interesting and appropriate for the career that you want as well, which should include:
  • Food Science
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Human Nutrition

Complete all of your classes and make sure that your program is accredited to go on to the next step in the process of becoming a Nutritionist.

During the time that you are earning your bachelor’s degree or shortly after, you will want to have some experience as a Nutritionist.

This can be done by volunteering, interning, or working in a variety of areas.

Supervised work experience is a requirement to become licensed, and you will need to have at least 1,000 in most states.

This can be done through working in soup kitchens, hospitals, schools, and much more.

After completing the supervised work experience, get in contact with your licensing board to see if you will need a master’s degree to become licensed.

If that is the case, it will take another two years to complete your degree and become licensed.

A master’s degree is another type of program that can be done online or in person.

This degree is a way to show proficiency in your field and can help you gain access to more critical careers as a Nutritionist.

Some employers require a master’s degree before allowing you to counsel others.

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Licensing & Certification

The law in most states is that you will need to have a license to work as a Nutritionist.

This is to ensure that you have all the education needed to help others on their health journey.

Before you begin, you’ll need to have either a bachelor’s degree or a Masters degree in some areas.

Check with your state licensing board to ensure that you have the right education to become licensed.

There are plenty of great Nutritionist boards to consider when completing licensure.

These include the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board, and the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.

The national test is what is required to become a Registered Nutritionist, and consists of 145 multiple-choice questions.

You can take this through your local college or one of the above-mentioned associations to get you on your way to becoming licensed.

It is also possible to find practice tests on the association’s websites to become familiar with the type of content on the exam.

However, the exam is split into four parts, which will be:

  • Principles of Dietetics
  • Nutrition Care
  • Management of Food and Nutrition
  • Food Service Systems

The associations require that you have at least 1,000 hours of supervised work experience before you can sit for this exam.

To pass the exam, you will need to answer at least 125 questions correctly.

You will need to complete re-registration every 5 years to be accredited as a Registered Nutritionist.

Along with this licensure, there are certifications that you can complete that may help you narrow down your niche as a Nutritionist.

You can become a Board Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Nutrition Professional, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, and even a Certified Health Education Specialist with the help of the associations mentioned above.

To complete these credentials, you’ll need to take some classes and pass an exam.

It will take anywhere from six to eight weeks to receive your certificate or licensure.

Average Training Program Duration: 3-4 Years

Job Outlook

The career of a Nutritionist is expected to grow by over seven percent in the next decade.

This is faster than many occupations, and the reason for that is more people are becoming attuned to their nutritional needs.

Many older Nutritionists are expected to retire from the business, which will allow for new Nutritionists to join the ranks.

There will be over 5,000 new job openings for Nutritionists across the United States in the next ten years.

When considering this career, it may be wise to find employment in places that have a higher population of people, especially in areas that need the services of a Nutritionist.

Employment Growth Projection: 7%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 5,200

Should You Become a Nutritionist?

Overall Satisfaction: High

Overall Satisfaction

The career of a Nutritionist can be satisfying when helping others meet their nutritional goals.

Some Nutritionists feel as if they are not fairly compensated for their time, depending on how much they make yearly.

However, the ability to provide a necessary service to people gives this job a boost.

It does take a certain mindset to have success as a Nutritionist.

The work environment and balance between personal life and work is an incredibly satisfying part of this career as well.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

The salary of a Nutritionist can vary depending on how long you have held your job and also where you work.

Those who are just beginning their career as a Nutritionist can expect to have a smaller salary of about $27,000 each year.

When you have experience and time in the field, the average Nutritionist should expect a salary closer to $36,608 in some areas.

At the height of your career as a basic Nutritionist, you’ll see a yearly salary closer to $48,000.

Job Growth Outlook: Medium

Job Growth Outlook

Nutritionists are needed more so than ever, and that will continue to be the case over the next ten years.

If you are considering this career, expect to see a growth of about seven percent.

This is due to retiring Nutritionists, meaning that there will be more job openings near you.

The rate of growth for a Nutritionist is higher than many other careers in the same field.

More people are becoming aware of their diets and how to eat to change their lives.

Education Duration: 3-4 Years

Education Duration

Employers typically look for Nutritionists who have at least a bachelor’s degree to work.

A bachelor’s degree requires a four-year commitment at most universities.

You can find programs that are appropriate for a Nutritionist online as well as in person.

Some of the programs that you may want to look into for this career are Nutrition, Dietetics, Food and Nutritional Sciences, and Nutrition and Dietetics.

Along with a bachelor’s degree, you will likely need certification in most careers.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

A Nutritionist is someone who speaks with clients and helps them meet dietary goals.

In this career, you will need to have compassion and good listening skills to help others.

Some other great personal skills that are required for success as a Nutritionist include:

  • Problem-solving
  • Organization
  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Patience
  • Decision making
  • Non-judgemental
  • Math knowledge
  • Persuasion
  • Time management

Working with different types of clients means that you will have to change how you interact with each one, so the ability to form relationships and find common ground is important in this career.

Frequently Asked Questions


How long do you have to go to school to become a Nutritionist?

In most areas, you’ll need to have at least a bachelor’s degree to work as a Nutritionist.

This is to ensure that you have the most knowledge available to you and a degree to show your credentials.

A bachelor’s degree is important and will take about four years to complete.

You can find bachelor’s degrees online or in person, depending on your preference.

Some employers will require certification, which can take another six months to a year to complete.


How much money does a Nutritionist make a year?

Most Nutritionists will make $36,608 per year on average, which is about $17.60 per hour.

Those who are just beginning their career as a Nutritionist will make closer to $13 an hour, or $27,040 per year.

When you have the highest credentials, you could make over $47,000 per year as a Nutritionist.

Nutritionists who work in larger cities with more clients may find that they have a higher salary.


What kind of education do you need to be a Nutritionist?

It is important to be well-educated to work as a Nutritionist.

That is why you will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree to find success in this career.

Plus, certification is important to show that you are accredited and have the most valuable credentials to work as a Nutritionist.

It should take anywhere from four to five years to become educated as a Nutritionist.


Are Nutritionists in high demand?

More people are becoming health conscious in today’s world, and that means that Nutritionists are in higher demand than ever.

The role of a Nutritionist has grown over the last decade and will continue to grow by about seven percent over the next ten years.

Those who are looking to become a Nutritionist should consider completing their education now and getting started right away.


What skills do you need to have to be Nutritionist?

First and foremost, you will need to understand nutrition and diets to find success as a Nutritionist.

Then, it is necessary to have good people skills and know how to communicate with all types of clients.

Time management skills, being personable, and adapting to different styles are all necessary for this career.

Along with that, you will need compassion, empathy, and decision-making skills.

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