How do I Become a Public Health Nutritionist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2018
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To become a public health nutritionist, it is necessary to complete a training program in nutrition or dietetics, ideally with a public health focus, and to obtain certification as a registered dietitian. This can take four to six years, depending on the program or programs that the candidate completes. Once qualified, a public health nutritionist can work in a variety of settings, and employment prospects can be very good, as many communities around the world are increasingly recognizing the importance of nutrition education for people of all ages.

Many colleges and universities offer a bachelor of science in nutrition or dietetics, sometimes within the framework of public health for the student who wants to become a public health nutritionist. Someone who is really interested in this career may want to consider getting a bachelor's in a nutrition-related topic, and a master's degree in public health, which will provide many more employment opportunities, and can substantially increase earnings.

After graduation, the prospective public health nutritionist will need to pass certification to become a nutritionist. Organizations such as the American Dietetic Association certify nutritionists, usually by asking them to complete examinations and clinical practice. Certification is important, because it allows someone to work as a registered dietitian, and it demonstrates that someone has proved his or her competence and skills in the field, which will permit someone to become a public health nutritionist.


Once certified, it is possible to apply for jobs. Many public health nutritionists work for a health department, in education and advocacy wings. They can also work for hospitals, clinics, and schools, providing education to clients about nutrition issues, and supporting programs like cafeterias to ensure that they provide adequate nutrition. A public health nutritionist can also work in an office, providing policy recommendations and developing public health initiatives, or he or she can work in the academic community, training future nutritionists and public health professionals. Once someone has become a public health nutritionist, he or she can also pursue additional training and certifications which may be useful.

This type of work requires good communication skills, as a public health nutritionist will have to deal with diverse individuals, and someone who wants to become a public health nutritionist may find that it helps to have an interest in food, food policy, and other nutrition topics. It is also necessary to constantly attend continuing education classes, seminars, and conferences, to keep up with advances in the field of nutrition. Many public health nutritionists belong to professional organizations and subscribe to trade journals so that they do not fall behind their peers.



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