While many people have a general idea of “what not to eat,” nutritionists are skilled professionals in the areas of nutrition and health. They are concerned not just with what their charges eat, but how food translates into nutrients, minerals and energy to work the best for their clients’ physical condition.
When it conducted its 2009 survey on nutritionist wages, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics determined the average hourly rate for the profession to be $25.59. Nutritionists working for management and technical consulting services led the nation with hourly mean wages of $36.11. Also paying higher-than-average wages were the federal executive branch of the government, at $32.88 per hour, and home health care services, at $29.83 per hour.
The top-paying states for nutritionist salaries were scattered throughout the country in 2009. Maryland took the top honors, with an hourly mean wage of $31.06. In second place was Nevada, paying $30.70 per hour, followed closely by California at $30.58 per hour and Hawaii at $30.17 per hour. Connecticut, at $29.69, also paid higher than the country’s average.
Earning a salary as a nutritionist begins with a bachelor’s degree from one of the dietetics, nutrition or food science programs accredited by the American Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Master’s degree and doctoral programs are also available. Each state has differing regulations on whether nutritionists must be licensed, which requires an exam and possible internship or supervised experience.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects an average growth rate of 9 percent in the employment of nutritionists in the country through 2018, adding 5,600 jobs. Demand for nutritionists’ services is expected to increase in part due to more attention being paid to better eating habits and the attempts to reduce obesity. The BLS recommends food service management, doctors’ offices and outpatient care facilities as the best opportunities to secure salaries in the field.