What Dietitians and Nutritionists Do
Dietitians and nutritionists advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal.
Dietitians and nutritionists work in many settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, cafeterias, and for state and local governments.
How to Become a Dietitian or Nutritionist
Dietitians and nutritionists typically need a bachelor’s degree, along with supervised training through an internship. Many states require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed.
The median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists was $61,270 in May 2019.
Employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. The role of food in preventing and treating diseases, such as diabetes, is now well known. More dietitians and nutritionists will be needed to provide care for patients with various medical conditions and to advise people who want to improve their overall health.
Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in the use of food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease. They advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal.
Dietitians and nutritionists typically do the following:
- Assess patients’ and clients’ nutritional and health needs
- Counsel patients on nutrition issues and healthy eating habits
- Develop meal and nutrition plans, taking both clients’ preferences and budgets into account
- Evaluate the effects of meal plans and change the plans as needed
- Promote better health by speaking to groups about diet, nutrition, and the relationship between good eating habits and preventing or managing specific diseases
- Create educational materials about healthy food choices
- Keep up with or contribute to the latest food and nutritional science research
- Document patients’ progress
Dietitians and nutritionists evaluate the health of their clients. Based on their findings, dietitians and nutritionists advise clients on which foods to eat—and which to avoid—to improve their health.
Many dietitians and nutritionists provide customized information for specific individuals. For example, a dietitian or nutritionist might teach a client with diabetes how to plan meals to balance the client’s blood sugar. Others work with groups of people who have similar needs. For example, a dietitian or nutritionist might plan a diet with healthy fat and limited sugar to help clients who are at risk for heart disease. They may work with other healthcare professionals to coordinate patient care.
Dietitians and nutritionists who are self-employed may meet with patients, or they may work as consultants for a variety of organizations. They may need to spend time on marketing and other business-related tasks, such as scheduling appointments, keeping records, and preparing educational programs or informational materials for clients.
Although many dietitians and nutritionists do similar tasks, there are several specialties within the occupations. The following are examples of types of dietitians and nutritionists:
Clinical dietitians and clinical nutritionists provide medical nutrition therapy. They work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, private practice, and other institutions. They create customized nutritional programs based on the health needs of patients or residents and counsel patients on how to improve their health through nutrition. Clinical dietitians and clinical nutritionists may further specialize, such as by working only with patients with specific conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, or digestive disorders.
Community dietitians and community nutritionists develop programs and counsel the public on topics related to food, health, and nutrition. They often work with specific groups of people, such as adolescents or the elderly. They work in public health clinics, government and nonprofit agencies, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and other settings.
Management dietitians plan food programs. They work in food service settings such as cafeterias, hospitals, prisons, and schools. They may be responsible for buying food and for carrying out other business-related tasks, such as budgeting. Management dietitians may oversee kitchen staff or other dietitians.
Dietitians and nutritionists held about 74,200 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of dietitians and nutritionists were as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||30%|
|Nursing and residential care facilities||10|
|Outpatient care centers||9|
Most dietitians and nutritionists work full time. They may work evenings and weekends to meet with clients who are unavailable at other times.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of dietitians and nutritionists.
For more information about dietitians and nutritionists, visit
For a list of academic programs, visit
For information on the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) exam and other specialty credentials, visit
For information on the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) exam and credential, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dietitians and Nutritionists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm (visited ).