Editor's Note: This post was originally published September 2017 and has recently been updated and revised for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
When it comes to exciting careers, health and wellness is a fast-growing, future-proofed profession that offers a way to change people’s lives—both clients’ and your own.
A major part of that momentum is nutrition, especially as people become more interested in improving their health. With seemingly conflicting nutrition news and research, there’s a strong need for professionals who can translate complex information and deliver it in a way that’s meaningful. Best of all, choosing a career in nutrition gives you flexibility when it comes to tailoring your career, because the field has a breadth of opportunity. Here’s a handful of top choices when looking at careers in nutrition:
1. Independent Nutrition Professional
Typical salary range: $35,000 to $125,000.
Some nutrition professionals thrive as independent contractors, which means they establish their own consulting business and then meet with clients in multiple settings. For example, they might see clients in their homes, physical therapy centers, hospitals, or coffee shops. You help clients with food journals and customized eating plans, based on what they need. There’s also the opportunity to meet with clients over the phone or online. That greatly expands your potential reach, because you can have clients across the country or even throughout the world. Your income will largely be determined by the strength of your marketing efforts, from finding new clients to bolstering your referral efforts.
2. Corporate Nutritional Consultant
Typical salary range: $40,000 to $60,000
Increasingly, companies are putting wellness programs into place because they’ve realized that healthy and happy employees are more productive, efficient, and collaborative. At larger companies, they're employing nutritional consultants on a contract or full-time basis for duties like consulting with employees individually, leading workshops on better health strategies, developing meal options for employee cafeterias, and spearheading healthy food initiatives.
3. Weight Management Professional
Salary range: $35,000 to $75,000
Many people become interested in changing their diets because they feel the need to lose weight, but they also recognize how easy it is to put that weight back on if they go back to bad eating habits. That’s led to the need for nutrition professionals who can articulate eating plans that are sustainable and manageable—especially for the long term.
Nutrition professionals are working at formal weight management programs, healthcare offices, fitness centers, rehab facilities, and wellness spas. They turn research data into workable action plans for clients and patients.
4. Nutrition Program Developer
Typical salary range: $35,000 to $70,000
A program developer doesn’t just set meal plans—although that’s often part of the job—but also can communicate the larger benefits of a program to individuals and groups.
For example, a program developer may be working in a senior care setting and will create several nutrition programs that are tailored to the needs of those clients, such as developing a heart-healthy diet, a weight-loss diet, and a diabetes-control diet, all with the needs of seniors in mind. Being able to design a nutrition program is a distinctive skill that’s welcomed in many settings, from fitness facilities to resorts to rehab centers.
5. Nutrition Educator
Typical salary range: $25,000 to $35,000
Although every nutrition consultation session involves education, there’s also the opportunity to take on a larger role when it comes to developing material that reaches a wider audience.
You might put together class series that are taught at community centers, spas, fitness centers, or schools. You can also develop one-day workshops on specific topics like weight loss, sports performance, plant-based eating, or senior nutrition. While most people wouldn’t consider the salary range to be high, there are plenty of nutritionists who work as educators part time on the side of working their full time job. This can be a great way to increase your income working flexible hours to teach others on topics that you are passionate about.
No matter what your professional path, keep in mind that salaries can range widely because location plays a major part in income expectations. A nutrition professional in New York City who works at an elite spa won’t make the same amount as a weight-loss counselor in rural Minnesota. But in general, you can usually expect a strong income stream and the chance to change the lives of your clients.
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