Finding a Career in Nutrition

May 14, 2016

Image via Shutterstock

Written by our friends at Thrive Market

For many people, nutrition and wellness is a passion. But if you voraciously read medical journals, devour kale and quinoa salads, and inspire all of your friends to start meditating daily, you might find that you’re ready to turn your passion into a professional career. But before you enroll in a certification program or go back to school to get a nutrition degree, it’s important to at least have an idea of what you might like to do once you graduate.

There’s never been a better time to be a health and nutrition coach; as global interest in wellness grows, more people need specialists who can help them discover how to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. As a health coach or nutritionist, there are many ways you can help people. You’re not limited to sitting in an office and taking individual meetings with clients every day, although you could if you wanted to! There are plenty of exciting ways to put your new skills as a coach and mentor to good use.

We’ll tell you how to get started, what to expect, and how to find a career in nutrition that works for you.

Get schooled

First things first—it’s imperative that you receive proper training in health coaching and nutrition before you start working with clients. You’ll want to pick a program that correlates with the type of job you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in conducting medical research, working in a hospital, or diagnosing and treating patients, you should work toward a degree in dietetics, with the goal of becoming a registered dietitian.

If you prefer to work as a mentor, health authority, and wellness advisor for individuals, you should consider becoming a Health Coach or holistic nutritionist. You can learn what you need to know about guiding clients to better, happier, healthier lives and become a Health Coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Explore your options

Once you’ve decided on your certification program, it’s time to start thinking about how you can use your knowledge to develop a career you love! This is the fun part—because nutrition and wellness are such broad sectors, you’ll have plenty of unique and interesting career options. Think outside the cubicle when you’re brainstorming about the future—there are so many different pathways you can take to find success in a nutrition career, and they don’t all have to take place behind a desk or at a corporate company.

If it’s challenging for you to even begin thinking about what you could do with your new certification, it’s helpful to write down what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at. Try answering a few questions to get those creative juices flowing:

  • What do you like about your current work?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
  • Do you like collaborating with teams, or do you prefer to do things on your own?
  • Does having scheduled work hours (like a 9-to-5 job) appeal to you, or would you rather have a more flexible schedule that could include weekends and late nights, but more freedom overall?
  • Of your personal skills, which are you most proud of?
  • What most excites you about working in wellness and nutrition?

Take a few minutes to sit quietly and meditate on your answers. You’ll probably be a little surprised with what you come up with, and the “dream job” you begin to sketch out might look different than what you’d initially imagined. That’s great! As you dig a little bit deeper into what fuels your passion, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy doing, a clearer picture of what you might want to do will emerge.

Try doing this exercise every day for a week, and then take a look at how your answers have evolved. You’ll probably see a few patterns that continue to come up—maybe it’s really important to you to see clients every day, or to collaborate with like-minded coworkers. It’s crucial to keep these patterns in mind as you weigh what you might want to do once you officially enter the field.

The possibilities are endless—there are truly so many things you can do with a nutrition and health coaching certification. Here are just a few.

Health and nutrition jobs

Corporate health coach

Americans are working longer hours than ever, and sleeping less than six hours a night on average. That translates to a lot of work-related stress—and causes many high-performing office workers to burn out. Huge companies like Facebook, Huffington Post, and Google realize that putting their employees’ health first is hugely important to not only keep their best workers happy, but also to the success of the business overall.

It’s not uncommon for big companies (even ones that have nothing to do with health!) to have a Health Coach or nutritionist on staff, to serve as an advocate for employees. Corporate Health Coaches are responsible for maintaining and creating programs that support the overall wellness of all employees. That might mean menu planning for weekly employee lunches, organizing seminars and townhalls about health and wellness trends, curating fitness and meditation classes, and working one-on-one with individuals who have questions about work-life balance. Access to an in-house Health Coach is a huge perk for workers, and it can really boost morale.

Health coach at a gym or boutique fitness studio

You don’t need to be a personal trainer to work in fitness. Whether you’re interested in working at a big gym or a smaller boutique-style studio, nutrition plays an important role in helping clients achieve results from their workouts.

The number one reason clients keep coming back to a gym or studio? Results. If they’re putting in the work during sweat sessions, people want to see their bodies change for the better. But no matter how much time you spend working out, you can’t outrun a bad diet!  Sometimes frustrated clients don’t realize this, and blame their lack of results on the workouts. Here’s where having a health coach on hand can be helpful for gym owners. You’ll work with clients and guide them to make better food and lifestyle choices, empowering them to think about their health outside of the gym. And when a studio or gym can make nutrition and fitness work hand-in-hand, clients look and feel better—and are more likely to stay loyal.

Food or wellness blogger

Just a few years ago, blogging was considered a hobby. But now it’s possible to legitimately make a six-figure salary with an online persona and blog. The most popular health and wellness bloggers have a niche—they focus on something specific, like creating vegan desserts or making healthy meals for their family—and build a brand around it. And now more than ever there’s an audience that’s interested in living healthier, more balanced lives. Find a topic that speaks to you, start writing, and see where it goes! Check out these popular healthy blogs for inspiration:

Recipe developer

If you love experimenting in the kitchen with healthy foods, you’re probably already creating interesting and exciting recipes. Why not get paid to do it? Sometimes food bloggers want to diversify their recipe library by adding vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, or low-sugar dishes to their website, but they just don’t have the time or the expertise to create those recipes on their own.

Even food brands need a little help with recipe development—you know that gluten-free cookie recipe on the back of your favorite almond butter? The brand probably hired a Health Coach or nutritionist to create it!

Wellness writer

When the New York Times has an entire section dedicated to wellness, you know it’s a legitimate field! Educated wellness writers are in demand everywhere, from print publications to online magazines. The field is so varied—you could write for a running magazine, a green beauty blog, and everything in between. If it seems overwhelming, first think about the types of stories you like to read, or what you’re drawn to when you’re scrolling through social media. Sometimes writers work full-time for one company, but you can also write on a freelance basis and submit your work to different publications you’re interested in.

Specialized Health Coach

This is what most people think of when they imagine life after nutrition school. You’ll work one-on-one with clients to help them create more balanced and healthy lives. Once you become a Health Coach, you’ll probably end up focusing on a specific group or type of client you’d like to work with. Maybe you love helping new moms get back on track or working with athletes to fuel their performance. Whatever your specialization might be, you’ll get to make a direct impact on your clients’ lives as you lead them toward optimal wellness.


Many nutrition school graduates end up starting their own companies, usually based around healthy eating and living. From developing their own food products to opening wellness centers to starting juice bars, IIN graduates have so many opportunities to create their own dream jobs.

Most importantly, remember that you entered the health and wellness industry because of your passion—whatever you end up doing, make sure that it aligns with your vision for happiness. If you wake up every morning and look forward to spending the day doing what you love, your job title doesn’t matter.

Have you been thinking about a careeer in health and wellness? Share with us in the comments below what your vision for a dream career looks like!

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