How to become a nutritionist

Written by Kate Norris
Kate Norris
Nutritionist Resource Content Team

The area of nutrition is becoming an increasingly popular choice when considering a career. If you’re interested in how diet impacts both physical and mental well-being and want to help others achieve their health and lifestyle goals, this might be the path for you.

On this page, we'll discuss what it means to be a nutritionist, what skills you need to succeed, and what training is required.

What does a nutritionist do?

Nutritionists use their knowledge of the science of food to help individuals and groups make informed choices about what they eat. A nutritionist may help clients who have specific health concerns or simply want to learn more about living a healthy lifestyle.

Nutritionists work with clients to learn about their current lifestyles, including food, exercise routine, sleeping habits, career and life goals. Working as a nutritionist can be a rewarding career for individuals who are passionate about food, health and lifestyle and want to help others achieve their goals.

On a day-to-day basis, you could be:

  • Helping clients determine which foods will provide them with the necessary nutrients.
  • Discussing short and long-term goals with clients and helping set realistic expectations.
  • Providing menus, recipes, and meal-planning support to clients.
  • Motivating and encouraging clients to make healthier food and lifestyle choices.
  • Staying updated on the latest research in the industry.

What types of nutritional professionals are there?

There are many nutrition approaches you can look to train in. Some of the key ones to know include:

  • nutritionist
  • dietitian
  • nutritional therapist
  • CNHC registered nutritional therapist
  • naturopathic nutritionists (or nutritional therapists)
  • functional medicine practitioners

Please note: Throughout Nutritionist Resource, we will use the terms 'nutrition professional' and 'nutritionist' to refer to all of the above professionals, unless stated otherwise.

For an in-depth look into the various different titles and terms used by nutrition professionals, visit our types of nutrition professionals page. 

Where do nutritionists work?

Nutritionists can work in a number of different settings, including research, the food industry, government, non-government organisations, public health, education, media, sports and exercise. Some nutritionists work for an employer out of an established practice, but many work for themselves. 

A large number of nutrition professionals have their own practices, where they provide their expertise to clients whose goals match their background and specialities, such as holistic health and weight loss. This could include working with clients who are recovering from eating disorders or trying to lose weight, as well as athletes to ensure they are getting enough calories and nutrients to fuel their activities. In a medical setting, nutritionists also work with clients who have shifting dietary needs due to factors such as age.

What qualifications do I need?

The title 'nutritionist' is not a protected term in the UK, this means regardless of qualifications, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. As a result, most employers will require that a nutritionist be registered with the Association for Nutrition. In order to become a registered nutritionist in the UK through the AFN, you must have a degree from an approved university or seven years of experience in a related subject. 

Registered nutritionists typically hold a BSc (Hons) or MSc in nutrition science, as well as three years of postgraduate industry experience. They may, however, have qualified for this title based on relevant knowledge (at least an honours degree) and experience. Registered nutritionists will practise in a specialist area of nutrition such as nutrition science, public health nutrition or sport and exercise. If you are new to the area of nutrition, you may initially choose to do a short course to give you an idea of whether the subject is right for you.

If you have completed a degree that is not accredited by the Association for Nutrition, you can apply to join the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN). To join this register, your training and experience must demonstrate that you have the necessary knowledge, skills and ability to deliver the work of a nutritionist. It’s important to note the registration process is lengthier and graduates are required to complete an additional assessment.

Do I need to join a professional body? 

A nutritionist is not legally required to register with a professional body. However, registration is encouraged. Joining a professional body allows you to demonstrate your professionalism and credibility to clients while also staying current on industry techniques and trends.

Find out more about the role of professional bodies and decide which one may be right for you. 

What happens after I’ve qualified?

If you plan to make a living as a nutrition professional, learning business skills will help you stand out and develop a successful career. With your own website, you can advertise and provide additional information about yourself to potential clients. Establishing a social media presence can also help you interact with more people and extend your client base.

It is also recommended that you produce regular content in your field of expertise, such as blogs, videos, or podcasts. This is a great way to promote your own content while also engaging clients on a more personal level. If you intend to take on clients and charge for your services, it's important that you are sufficiently qualified and insured. This is to protect both yourself and your clients.

Joining Nutritionist Resource is an additional option you may want to consider. With an established site that ranks highly in search engines, the ability to publish articles and events, and support from our dedicated membership services team, we help clients find you. We also help to support your marketing by providing networking opportunities, a sense of community with other members, and resources in our marketing hub. Learn more about joining us and what we have to offer

What is Continuing Professional Development (CPD)?

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) refers to the enhancement and development of the skills you gained from your initial nutrition training. This ensures your skills and knowledge are up to date with the latest techniques, rules and regulations of the industry so that you can practise safely.

CPD opportunities can either be found through our events section or through other organisations (such as professional bodies and training organisations). If you are a registered associate nutritionist or registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition, you must complete 30 hours of CPD each year and keep reflections of your progress. It’s also worth noting that CPD does cost money, so it’s advisable to budget for the expense.

What career progression can a nutritionist expect?

Nutrition professionals will have numerous opportunities to advance their careers, whether through additional training or experience working with various groups and organisations. Initially, you may choose to work part-time as self-employed alongside a more permanent job, this allows you to earn qualifications while working full-time, allowing you to begin building your client base while you learn. From there, you may choose to work within an organisation or go full-time self-employed. 

Useful resources

If you want to learn more about how to become a nutritionist, the following websites may be useful:

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