Nutritionist

The Job and What's Involved

Nutritionists carry out research and provide evidence-based information and advice about the effects of food and nutrition on health and wellbeing.

As a nutritionist, you would work closely with dietitians and other health professionals (such as pharmacists, GP's, hospital or community-based dietetic and nutrition teams). Your work could include:

  • Practical nutrition research projects.
  • Recruiting volunteers to take part in trials.
  • Processing and analysing biological samples.
  • Raising awareness and educating colleagues in the health field on the benefits of healthy eating and the latest research
  • Targeting healthy eating campaigns at particular groups (or geographical areas) such as young mothers or low-income families.
  • Giving talks and delivering presentations on the results of project trials.
  • Working to make healthy food such as fruit and vegetables more easily available.
  • Gathering statistics and judging the success of projects.

You would not give clinical dietary advice to individual patients – this would be done by a state-registered dietitian.

In the NHS you would generally work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Part-time and flexible work may be available.

You could work in various settings such as hospitals, local health clinics and GP surgeries. You may spend time travelling within your local area to visit different centres and people's homes.

Salaries in the NHS can range between £22,000 and £46,600 a year.

In the food industry salaries can range from £20,000 to £50,000 a year, depending on experience and responsibility.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could work within the NHS or as a nutritionist in the food industry (for example in product development) or the media.

Common job titles include community nutritionist, public health nutritionist and food for health adviser.

Education and Training

Many employers will expect you to be on the Nutrition Society's Voluntary Register of Nutritionists. This register is administered by the Association for Nutrition (AfN).

To get on to the register you need an approved degree or postgraduate qualification in nutrition or public health nutrition. Once you have graduated, you can apply to join the register as an Associate Nutritionist or Associate Public Health Nutritionist.

With around three years' professional experience, you will be eligible for full registration as a Registered Nutritionist (RNutr) or Registered Public Health Nutritionist (RPHNutr). You can also apply for registration without an accredited BSc or MSc if you have at least seven years' professional experience in nutrition.

You can search for degrees in nutrition on the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) website.

To get on to a nutrition degree you will normally need at least two A levels including biology and/or chemistry plus five GCSE's. You should check exact entry requirements with course providers, as they may accept other qualifications such as an Access to Higher Education course.

Some employers may also prefer candidates with a relevant postgraduate qualification.

Once you are on a nutrition-based course, you will cover a range of subjects such as:

- Food science
- Biochemistry and physiology
- Health promotion
- Nutrition at different stages in life
- The effect of nutrition on disease

You may have an advantage when applying for a course (and for your first job in nutrition) if you have some experience in the health service, for example as a healthcare assistant or dietetic assistant.

If you want to work unsupervised and directly with patients, advising on a one-to-one basis, you must train as a dietitian and become state-registered with the Health Professions Council (see the Dietitian job profile for details).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You will need to keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career by taking part in regular Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities. See the Nutrition Society's website for more details on this.

You could go on to specialise in sports nutrition by taking a further relevant postgraduate degree and joining the voluntary Sport and Exercise Nutrition Register.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A nutritionist needs:

  • Excellent communication skills.
  • The ability to relate to people from all backgrounds.
  • A non-judgemental attitude.
  • The ability to inspire and motivate people.
  • A keen interest in healthy eating.
  • Good knowledge of the impact of diet on health.
  • Evaluation and reporting skills.
  • Good time management and organisational skills.
  • The ability to work as part of a team and in partnership with other professionals.

Your Long Term Prospects

Opportunities for registered nutritionists in the NHS have increased due to the rise in community health initiatives. With experience, you could progress into management and policy development.

Many registered nutritionists offer their expertise on a consultancy basis to the media, the food industry or in publishing.

Get Further Information

The Nutrition Society,
Interim Professional Body for Nutrition,
28 Portland Place, London W1B 1DE
Tel: 020 7291 8378
Website: www.nutritionsociety.org

NHS Careers,
PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

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