The career of a pediatric nutritionist is both exciting and fulfilling. There is also an expanding need for specialists in this particular field. Pediatric nutritionists can choose from a variety of work settings that are available throughout the country. Getting started on a career as a pediatric nutritionist begins at the undergraduate level as there is an ample number of post-secondary schools offering this type of training. The path to becoming a pediatric nutritionist can lead to a rewarding career that is filled with a plethora of future opportunities.
Pediatric Nutritionist Education
Educational requirements for becoming a pediatric nutritionist are more involved than the process of becoming a nutritionist that is without a specialization. Because a pediatric nutritionist deals with children, there is a greater focus on education throughout the country. To become a pediatric nutritionist, individuals must earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition or Dietetics. This education is also expected to incorporate coursework that is specific to the guidelines set by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Most colleges and universities incorporate the necessary coursework into their respective curriculums. This means that students will learn material that has been approved by ACEND.
Because there is such a specific concentration on various pediatric nutritional needs, this field requires more detailed study. Earning a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in dietetics or nutrition will prepare students to work in a variety of sectors. However, pediatric specialties typically require a more focused body of work. That means that students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, are expected to gain practical experience in their specialty area
Earning a bachelor’s degree typically takes four years when students are attending on a full-time basis. There may be the need to take an extra semester of coursework if the Bachelor’s Degree program incorporates additional nutrition specialization courses. Some universities require students to complete clinical internships as part of the undergraduate program. This typically involves a six-month rotation period where students are able to work in a setting where pediatric nutrition is practiced. Students who are enrolled in a pediatric nutrition program can expect to deal with material that focuses on the following concepts:
- Food Science
- Infection Control
- Pediatric Allergies
- Human Anatomy
- Nutrition Therapy
- Critical Care Nutrition
Pediatric Nutritionists also consult with physicians to produce nutritional plans for patients. They deal with families and even set up at-home meal plans. There is a fair amount of collaboration involved, making it more than just a technical discipline. This is another reason the education component provides practical experience.
There’s also the option of acquiring a Master’s Degree of Science in Nutrition. There are ACEND-accredited programs available for students looking to take this route. Some Master’s Degree programs focus more on the area of pediatric nutrition than others. A Master’s Degree is not a requirement to become a pediatric nutritionist, although it can elevate the standing of an individual in this profession.
Pediatric Nutritionist License and Certification
Standards for the educational process to become a nutritionist differ on a state-to-state basis. It should be noted that half the states currently require nutritionists to be licensed. In order to receive that license, a nutritionist must have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition, or Dietetics. In states that do not require licensure, nutritionists do not have to acquire a bachelor’s degree, although most employers often list that as a part of the hiring criteria. Pediatric Nutrition takes credentialing a step further.
Most employers may only consider hiring Board Certified Pediatric Nutritionists. There are several steps to take before earning this distinction. The first is to become a Registered Dietician with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). This is the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That R.D. status must be maintained for a minimum of two years after earning the distinction. A minimum of 2,000 practice hours must then be accumulated in the pediatric nutrition specialty area. Some educational experience and field practice can be used towards those hours. Once that requirement has been met, a pediatric nutritionist can apply for Board Certification. The highest Board Certification available is the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS). This is only available to those who have earned a Master’s or Doctorate Degree in Nutrition, along with 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork.
Nutritionist licensing is left up to the discretion of each individual state. In those states without mandatory licenses, each individual agency can decide on its own credentials for the hiring process. While licenses may not be mandatory in certain states, it is highly recommended to achieve a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree to even be considered for a nutritionist position with a specialty.
Pediatric Nutritionist Job Description and Skills
A pediatric nutritionist can work in a variety of different settings. They may work in outpatient programs or directly for hospitals that deal with children. Others may go into business for themselves and operate in the private sector. Some of the duties of a pediatric nutritionist are as follows:
- Creation of special meal plans for children according to their physical condition
- Assist children with selective eating habits
- Work with children during a transition from feeding tube back to mouth feeding
- Help children who have experienced a variety of appetite problems
- Develop programs for the weight management of children
- Nutritional assistance for children with various diseases and conditions
Since a pediatric nutritionist works with children, there is usually a general affinity for kids. The nature of this work also requires sound communication skills. Pediatric nutritionists are also frequently involved with physicians when it comes to nutritional planning.
The area of food allergies is also a point of emphasis for pediatric nutritionists as there is a lot to consider. Understanding patients’ conditions is also extremely important when managing and designing a meal plan.
Pediatric Nutritionist Salary
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics does not specify an annual salary amount for pediatric nutritionists. However, there is a listing for yearly salary amounts earned by nutritionists and dietitians across the country. The median pay for 2018 checked in at $60,370 annually. The BLS does provide a breakdown of which work environment provide the highest salary mounts for nutritionist and dietitians. They are as follows:
- Outpatient facilities – $66,420
- Hospitals – $61,390
- Government – $59,600
ZipRecruiter put together a more precise salary amount for pediatric nutritionists. The ZipRecruiter 2019 average annual salary mount for a pediatric nutritionist in the United States stands at $70,949. This amount is based on information provided by a number of online databases that list this type of job throughout the country.
There are lots of factors that can cause the annual salary amount of a pediatric nutritionist to fluctuate. The level of education and experience are two prominent factors in determining the annual salary amount of a pediatric nutritionist. Location also plays a role as certain parts of the country feature higher-paying pediatric nutritionist positions.
Licensed nutritionists generally earn more than no-licensed nutritionists, although when it comes to pediatric nutrition, most employers require some type of certification or licensing. Advanced credentials obtained through continuing education can also increase the annual salary for a pediatric nutritionist.
Pediatric Nutritionist Job Outlook
As a whole, there is a growing demand for nutritionists. The BLS estimates that there will be a 15% increase in nutritionists during a 10-year span between 2016 and 2026. The upsurge in health and wellness has also boded well for those looking to become a nutritionist with a specialization in the pediatric distinction. This is a field that is growing each year, intimating that there will be an increasing need for such a specialty. And the fact that it requires additional schooling, indicates that pediatric nutritionists will be in demand for years to come.
Some of the job listings for someone skilled in pediatric nutrition falls under the distinction of clinical dietitian. The job duties, prior experience and educational requirements are generally the same. Some job listings do not classify as a pediatric role in the titling but do state that the position is at a children’s hospital. Clinical dietitians and nutritionists working in this setting deal strictly with pediatric patients.