Integrative Nutrition Blog

The Pros and Cons of Earning a Nutritionist Degree

May 7, 2015

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If you’re interested in turning your passion for health and wellness into a fulfilling career, you may be considering earning a nutritionist degree or pursuing another career in the field of health and wellness. Here are some pros and cons for you to consider as you choose which path to follow. 

Nutritionists are experts in nutrition and food science and advise their patients on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve their health-related goals. Here are some of the pros of becoming a nutritionist: 

You get to help people: It’s incredibly fulfilling work to help people achieve their goals and inspire someone to take control of their health once and for all. If you’re passionate about nutrition and healthy eating, it’s great to get paid to do what you love! 

You have many career opportunities: With a nutritionist degree, you have a wide range of jobs at your disposal. You may find work for food manufacturers, retail businesses, in research and public health promotion, or as a dietitian’s assistant or food journalist. Some nutritionists also set up their own private counseling practice, but would not be directly involved in working with diagnosis and dietary treatment of disease. 

Yet becoming a nutritionist is not without its drawbacks. Here are a few cons to consider before pursuing this path: 

Time and money: In order to earn a nutritionist degree, you will spend a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your schooling. Many people don’t realize it takes just as long and costs just as much to become a dietitian, but you will not receive the same qualifications or earning potential. 

Unclear requirements: The requirements for becoming a nutritionist vary state by state, so make sure you do your research first. If you truly see yourself working in hospitals or other clinical settings, you may want to become a registered dietitian instead, because it is a regulated, licensed profession. “Nutritionist” is not a regulated title and many people without a nutritionist degree use it.   

Narrow approach: Be prepared to learn the USDA approach to nutrition – calorie counting, protein to carb ratios, and other government guidelines that fail to take a holistic approach to nutrition. At worst, many of these recommendations are influenced by corporate interests and have nothing to do with health at all. 

If you don’t think getting a nutritionist degree is the right fit for you, don’t fret! You have other options, like becoming a Health Coach. You can work as a Health Coach for a fraction of the time and cost investment, and you get to take a more holistic approach that many clients will benefit from. Health Coaches learn to tailor their sessions to their client’s individual needs, learning a myriad of dietary theories instead of toting a one-sized-fits-all diet mentality. 

It all just depends on what your goals are. What do you think – are there any pros or cons that we missed?  

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