Those with careers in the nutrition and wellness areas have jobs in a variety of settings, including schools and fitness centers, community agencies, hospitals and nonprofit organizations. These careers focus on improving health and well-being through a variety of means, including exercise, diet and alternative medicine. The one thing each of these careers have in common is a dedication to helping others achieve optimum health.
Fitness specialists have a strong background in biomechanics, human anatomy, psychology, neurology and physiology that is applied to human movement and exercise. By developing personalized fitness programs and assessing client needs, fitness specialists are able to help clients reach their goals and live healthier lives.
Nutritionists advise clients on fostering a healthy lifestyle through diet. They explain nutrition issues, develop meal plans, promote better nutrition, evaluate the effectiveness of meal plans and keep up with the most current science research related to nutrition. Some nutritionists work with individuals to reach specific health goals. For instance, they may design a customized low-sodium meal plan for a client with high blood pressure or help someone with Celiac disease adopt a gluten-free diet. Other nutritionists work in group settings to plan healthy meals for hospitals, community groups or schools.
While nutritionists do not necessarily need to have credentials backed by education, science and experience, Registered Dietitians are required to earn a Bachelor's Degree in dietetics from an accredited university or college. They must also complete a 900-hour internship or a professional equivalent, pass a national certification examination and complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years to maintain their licensure. Registered Dietitians have a strong background in food and nutrition sciences, microbiology, anatomy, chemistry and physiology. This background enables them to counsel clients on how to improve their health through dietary changes, exercise routines and weight management techniques.
Wellness practitioners promote the health and well-being of both the mind and body. Also known as holistic health practitioners, these individuals may be trained in alternative medicine and treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, mindfulness, acupressure or other bodywork exercises. They may also specialize in nutrition, counseling or spiritual healing. Some practitioners have degrees in holistic health, natural health studies or holistic nutrition. Others pursue education in areas such as psychology, sociology or health sciences.
2016 Salary Information for Dietitians and Nutritionists
Dietitians and nutritionists earned a median annual salary of $58,920 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, dietitians and nutritionists earned a 25th percentile salary of $47,200, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $71,840, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 68,000 people were employed in the U.S. as dietitians and nutritionists.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dieticians and Nutritionists
- Cleveland State University: Exercise/Fitness Specialist
- University of Massachusetts: Department of Nutrition Undergraduate Guide for Students
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dietitians and Nutritionists
- Career Trend: Dietitians and Nutritionists
Poppy Carpenter graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. In addition to teaching journalism to junior high students, she also covers health and fitness for "PUSH Monthly" and Angie's List.