Since 1974, the federal government’s Women, Infants and Children program has helped millions of low-income women and kids who are at risk for poor nutrition. In 2011, the program helped 9 million women and children in all 50 states. The WIC program provides families with funds to pay for WIC-approved nutritional foods, nutrition education and breastfeeding support. Nutritionists wanting to make a difference in the world use their education and skills to serve underprivileged women and their families.
Education and Experience
A WIC nutritionist must educate herself before she educates others on proper nutrition. Most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, dietetics or home economics. Recommended courses include community health, diet therapy and nutritional counseling. Employers also ask for real-world professional experience in community health, nutrition or dietetics. The WIC nutritionist should be well-versed in national WIC regulations, as well as her state’s WIC rules. Some states sponsor in-house training programs for entry-level WIC nutritionists to hone their skills.
Some states require WIC nutritionists to have a dietitian license, be a state-registered dietitian or hold a nutrition-related certification, like the Certified Clinical Nutritionist designation. While not required, fluency in other languages besides English is highly desirable for WIC nutritionists. Other qualifications include a valid driver’s license and clean criminal background. She should know how to use different medical devices, including infant and adult scales and measuring boards to track client's growth. WIC nutritionists should be socially sensitive when dealing with underprivileged and low-income families.
The main job duties of a WIC nutritionist include assessing a client's nutritional needs and providing nutritional solutions based on those needs. She determines if the babies and kids are growing at the proper rate, by taking weight and height measurements every week or every few weeks. Depending on each family’s needs, the WIC nutritionist develops a meal plan, teaches basic cooking skills and suggests certain meal packages that will help fill in any dietary deficiencies. The nutritionist determines how much funding each family needs and assists the family in obtaining those funds from WIC. For mothers of infants, the nutritionist offers breastfeeding guidance, as well diet and nutrition education for the different stages of a baby’s growth. Other duties include helping clients maintain immunization schedules, teaching group nutritional classes and fulfilling other duties in her WIC office.
Because a WIC nutritionist is a government employee, her salary can depend on the amount of funding her WIC office receives each year. Other factors that affect salary include experience, area of the country and special designations. More experience equals a higher salary, as does living in larger cities and areas of the country with bigger populations. Nutritionists with certifications, like registered or licensed dietitian, earn more money. In California, WIC nutritionists earn $52,000 to $67,000 a year, according to the California Department of Health. According to Dietitian Central, the average salary across all states was $57,000 in 2011, with nutritionists in Alaska earning the most at $98,000 a year and those in Florida and Missouri earning the least at $41,000.
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