College Nutritionist

Nutritionist sitting at her desk in a college office

Becoming a college nutritionist presents a unique work environment in which a nutritionist’s services are always in demand. This demographic is in need of specific and sometimes critical nutritional advice. Being able to provide such a service can result in a very rewarding career. With college attendance rates at an all-time high, there remains a high demand for this type of profession. Getting started now as a college nutritionist can lead to a future that is filled with stability and sound financial compensation.

What Education does a College Nutritionist Seek?

When seeking out a position as a college nutritionist, it is important to complete the required educational steps. Because these nutritionists will be working in a college environment, it is usually imperative that a nutritionist holds a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition or a related field. Some types of nutritionists can get away with earning a lesser degree, but the fact that a college nutritionist is working in a college environment pretty much makes a bachelor’s degree a necessity. The fact that universities are the ones hiring these nutritionists makes it all the more important to complete that necessary educational steps.

Those looking to study Nutrition at the undergraduate level usually begin by taking prerequisite courses that will prepare them for this specific major. There are a variety of nutrition-based courses along with core classes that are needed to be completed by all students. Some of the classes offered in the Nutrition major are as follows:

  • Food Science
  • Human Anatomy
  • Nutrition and Health
  • Nutrition in the Life Cycle
  • Nutritional Biochemistry
  • Food Safety

There are also a lot of biology and chemistry classes associated with the Nutrition major. Courses differ according to each program, although the general concentration remains similar. There are differences when it comes to specialty areas as some programs place a greater emphasis on certain aspects of Nutrition. As a college nutritionist, it is important to acquire a well-rounded foundation.

Some Nutrition programs have been approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). This simply means that their curriculums have met the standards set by ACEND, which is one of the prominent associations in the nutrition field.

Nutritionists who complete their undergraduate requirements can pursue a Master’s Degree of Science in Nutrition. Some of these graduate programs are more specific while others feature a more generalized area of study. Those looking to become a college nutritionist stand to have a greater chance of finding quality employment with a Master’s Degree, although it is not necessary.

License and Certification

The process for getting licensed as a nutritionist is dictated by each state. Half the states in the U.S. have requirements for nutritionists to obtain a license before they can begin practicing. The other half of the country leaves the decision up to employers. When applying for a nutritionist license, there are specific steps to follow and that is decided upon by each individual State Board. The Clinical Nutrition Certification Board (CNCB) is one that is used by most states.

To become a college nutritionist, a license is mandatory in those states which require one. In those states that do not require a license, most colleges will demand some type of advanced certification. The certifications typically come with the completion of a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition or a related field.

The certification process is different from the licensing process when it comes to nutrition. There are some certifications available that do not require a college degree although those may not carry much weight when applying for a job as a college nutritionist. There are established associations that are synonymous with the field of Nutrition.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics features a commissioning body which handles the certification process. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) issues a variety of certifications, which require the completion of a bachelor’s degree and may also require some additional training. Those certifications are as follows: 

  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionist 
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Dietetic Technician, Registered
  • Nutrition and Dietetics Technician

The American Nutrition Association is another well-known entity that offers a variety of certifications. There are set educational requirements needed to obtain one of these certifications. To become certified as a Certified Nutritionist, the completion of an associate degree is required. A Registered Dietitian certification is issued to those who have earned a bachelor’s degree while advanced degrees are needed to obtain a certification as a Certified Nutritionist Specialist.

The combination of a license, reputable certification, along with a bachelor’s degree provides ample qualifications to be hired as a college nutritionist. The hiring process may change according to each individual University, although collecting that combination of credentials is an excellent way to pursue a position as a college nutritionist.

Job Description and Skills

The duties of a college nutritionist are different than other specialty areas in this profession. The environment needs to be considered and that puts a greater emphasis on different facets of nutrition. For example, meal preparation is a major point of concern for a college nutritionist. Many college students inadequately plan and prepare their meals which can lead to a number of issues. The following issues are often addressed by a college nutritionist:

  • Eating disorders
  • GI problems
  • Weight management
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Managing diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Education remains an integral part of a college nutritionist’s job. Working one-on-one with students also requires good interpersonal skills. College nutritionists have to be aware of students’ eating habits, in order to provide any type of effective nutrition therapy. 

There is a certain level of understanding that is required when working with this particular demographic. Eating habits change according to high-pressure situations and fast-paced schedules, both of which are synonymous with college life. There is also the stress factor to consider as many college students suffer from the worry that is induced by a rigorous academic workload. Being able to balance that lifestyle with nutritional eating habits can lead to a very healthy future. However, many college students need guidance in this area. This places extreme importance on the everyday duties of a college nutritionist, which may include the following.

  • Assessment of nutritional needs
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in eating habits
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Meal plan development
  • Healthy and unhealthy eating education

College nutritionists are frequently encumbered by a number of daily consultations. To keep pace with that workload, there is a need to accurately document each student’s situation. This requires organization and time management skills. Some college nutritionists are faced with heavier workloads during certain times of the year and being able to balance a high volume of students can make the job go a lot more efficiently.

College Nutritionist Salaries

The average salary of a nutritionist is $60,370 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those statistics are taken from the majority of nutritionists and dieticians working in the government and medical sectors as well as those working in residential care facilities. There is also a percentage of nutritionists working in the private sector and that can be applied to private colleges and universities. 

There is no breakdown of college nutritionist earrings by the BLS. Nevertheless, salary amounts in private institutions can go beyond the average national salary amount. Nutritionists also earn different annual salaries based on location. Here is a look at some of the top paying cities for nutritionists in the country, per the latest BLS statistics. 

  • Amarillo, TX – $92,930
  • Modesto, CA – $88,990
  • Waco, TX – $80,560
  • San Francisco, CA – $80,090
  • San Jose, CA- $79,550

College Nutritionist Job Outlook

The overall profession of nutritionists is increasing its size every year. Between 2016 and 2026, the BLS projects that there will be a 15% increase in the number of nutritionists working in the United States. Meanwhile, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that there were 19.9 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in 2018. Projections show that total is expected to increase to 20.5 million by the year 2020. The growing demand for nutritionists combined with the vast number of college students has painted a favorable future for college nutritionists. 

The growing emphasis being placed on nutrition has not only raised awareness, but has also increased the need for these types of specialists at colleges and universities throughout the country. Nutritionist jobs at colleges are not limited to four-year institutions but are also available in greater abundance at two-year colleges. That equates to a favorable outlook for those looking to find employment as a college nutritionist.