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a nutritionist holding a nutritious apple Nutritionists are responsible for planning food and meal plans, teaching clients how to prepare food, and overseeing food intake.  Nutritionists focus on promoting good health and eating habits, as well as in treating and preventing certain illnesses, through the use of food.  Nutritionists can work for hospitals, schools, doctors, and exercise facilities, or they can work for individuals who are interested in using diet to improve health, maintain health, or lose weight.  Some nutritionists focus in areas of specialization, such as pediatric dietetics, cardiovascular dietetics, or diabetic dietetics.  In addition, some nutritionists work for food manufacturers, either guiding them in ingredient choice, producing educational advertising and marketing literature for customers, or working as sales representatives.

While education requirements vary from state to state, nutritionists are required to have a bachelor's degree food and nutrition, dietetics, food service systems management, or a related area, at a minimum.  In addition, most states require additional licensure, certification, and registration to become a nutritionist.  While it is not required, the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association awards Registered Dietician status to those who complete classes and an internship.  In order to maintain this credential, nutritionists must engage in a certain amount of continuing education.  Nutritionists who want to advance their careers may get Master's degrees in nutrition or dietetics.

Some dieticians work in kitchens, cooking or supervising food preparation, while others work in hospitals and homes with clients.  Dieticians generally work typical 40-hour workweeks, though those who work for institutions may work weekends and nights.

In addition to understanding science, biology, and the relationship between food and health, nutritionists must have excellent communication skills and, if they are working with people, a certain amount of compassion.  Nutritionists should be comfortable working with clients with health issues and special needs.

The work outlook for nutritionists will keep pace with average growth, with the majority of positions available at hospitals, care facilities, and doctor's offices.  Those with specialized niches, as well as those with advanced degrees or certification, will see the best opportunities for advancement.

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About Nutritionists