Nutritionists may be associated with helping their charges plan healthy meals, but their professions involve much more than saying “eat this, not that.” Nutritionists take their clients’ entire health into consideration, from vitamin consumption to reducing intake of salt, sugar and fats to ensuring a proper amount of fiber and protein that will best fuel the body. Nutritionists find employment in schools, elder care facilities, sports management centers, physicians’ offices and on a consultant basis.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the country’s average wage for nutritionists in 2009 to be $53,230 annually. The BLS’ Occupational Employment and Wages report also noted several types of employers paying significantly higher nutritionist salaries. Topping the list were consulting services for nutritionists, with salaries of approximately $75,100 per year. The federal executive branch of the government also paid its nutritionists at a higher rate, $68,390 per year, as did the home healthcare industry, at $62,050 per year.
No single pattern emerged from the BLS’ list of the top-paying states for nutritionist salaries. In 2009, Maryland led the country with salaries for its nutritionists of $64,600. Nevada took second place with annual wages of $63,860, closely trailed by California at $63,610. Hawaii earned fourth place with nutritionist salaries of $62,750 per year. Connecticut closed out the top five with annual wages of $61,750.
Knowing their way around the food pyramid is a good start, but nutritionists require a period of postsecondary education to attain their salaries. The American Dietetic Association’s Commission for Accreditation for Dietetics Education accredits hundreds of schools across the country offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nutrition, such as the University of Alabama, California State University, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Dakota State University. Each state regulates its nutritionists differently and may require licensing, certification and continuing education.
The BLS anticipates a 9 percent increase in employment of nutritionists through 2018, adding 5,600 jobs countrywide. The bureau notes that employment of nutritionists is often related to the general public’s access to medical healthcare coverage; when patients have insurance covering nutritionist duties, the demand rises. Demand for nutritionists skilled in areas of gerontological nutrition and diabetic nutrition is expected to rise as the general population’s age rises.