How do I get into the nutrition field professionally?

by Mike
(Texas)

Basically, I have been into nutrition for a few years now. My family has an unfortunate history of heart conditions and cancer and rather than wait for something to happen, I figured I might as well get a head start on health!


I also had some scary moments growing up with chest pains that the doctors were not sure of. So I basically started researching and reading everything I could about health, nutrition, and exercise. It made a huge difference in my health and appearance and it helped me find my fiance!

I have taken a couple of courses on nutrition, mainly just introductory classes. And that was back in college, and I had not really hit the "Wow, this is really interesting and I could see myself doing this" stage yet. So as of now, the only knowledge I have is what I have gotten out of libraries, medical websites, personal research and stuff like that.

I guess my first question would be, how do I get my foot in the door in the nutrition/health field? Does everything require a degree or certification?

I am really interested in weight loss and nutrition. Is there a way to get into the field while I am trying to get the needed degrees or certifications?

I know the field deals with people's well being and health and that is one of the reasons it is important to have the degrees, and because of that, I have not found a way to get involved in anything. Aside from a personal trainer, what is a way to get experience in the field?

What would you suggest? I will have to go back to school I'm sure, and it will take a while, I work full time so it will have to be weekend classes for a while.

And once someone has graduated or given the certifications and all of that, what is the next best step? I am a marketer/entrepreneur by trade, so I would like to have my own nutrition "business" later down the road, but is there an order that needs to be taken? What kind of options does someone have?

My current job pays the bills and that is about it. It isn't something I enjoy very much but at the moment, it does help. I would really like to find a way to work in this field as I go back to school. I know it would be entry level kind of stuff more than likely, but at least I would be getting experience that would help me later down the road. Any help or advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

And what about you, how did you get your start? What kind of steps did you make to get where you are now?



Answer:

I think it's great that you're interested in the field of diet and nutrition and thinking about becoming a nutritionist/dietitian. It's an exciting, ever changing field that's filled with vast opportunities.

The American Dietetic Association is a good place to start gathering information about credentialing and requirements to becoming a registered dietitian. See this flowchart on the path to becoming an RD.

See detailed information about nutrition certification here.

The term Registered Dietitian or "RD" for short, can only be used by practitioners who are authorized to use the credential by the American Dietetic Association.

Individuals with the credential have completed specific academic and supervised practice requirements, successfully completed a registration examination and maintained requirements for re-certification.

Some RDs call themselves nutritionists.

The definition and requirements for the term "nutritionist" vary and are not legally defined. So know this: Someone who calls him or herself a "nutritionist" is not necessarily an RD.

You'll need the credential to be considered credible.

I'd suggest doing volunteer work (hospital, nursing home, etc.) to get experience or possibly work as an assistant to someone (admin assistant, personal assistant, etc.) if you're looking for paid work.

You say you'd like to have your own "nutrition business" down the road. I'd suggest spending some time defining what that means to you. By doing so, you'll have clearer answers to your questions about what to do once you are properly credentialed.

For example, do you want to be working individually with people in a private office or in large group settings on college campuses? Do you see yourself as a speaker touring the country sharing your knowledge and excitement about nutrition and health or do you see yourself directing the nutrition education for a cardiac rehab program at your local hospital? Once you have a better idea of what you want to do, the path in how to get there will be much clearer.

As for me...

... I've been an RD for 18 years now, and actually chose the path by accident and on a whim. However, it's turned out to be the best thing that's ever happened to me!

I started out working in a hospital and progressed to working in a health resort, having my own private practice, and writing my own website.

I've always followed my heart and pursued opportunities if they excited me. I'm most excited right now about writing my website and sharing what I've learned over the past 18 years with anyone who's willing to read it!

I hope this helps! I wish you lots of luck in pursuing your goals. Enjoy the journey!

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