Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in the use of food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease. They plan and conduct food service or nutritional programs to help people lead healthy lives.


Dietitians and nutritionists typically do the following:

  • Assess clients’ nutritional and health needs
  • Counsel clients on nutrition issues and healthy eating habits
  • Develop meal and nutrition plans, taking clients’ preferences and budgets into account
  • Evaluate and monitor the effects of nutrition plans and practices and make changes as needed
  • Promote healthy lifestyles 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 and lifestyle
  • Keep up with or contribute to the latest food and nutritional science research
  • Document clients’ progress

Dietitians and nutritionists evaluate the health of their clients through nutrition assessment and diagnostic laboratory testing. Based on their findings, dietitians and nutritionists advise clients on behavior modifications and intervention plans, including which foods to eat—and which to avoid—to improve their health.

Dietitians and nutritionists help prevent or support treatment of health conditions such as heart disease, autoimmune disease, and obesity. Many dietitians and nutritionists provide personalized information for individuals. For example, a dietitian or nutritionist might teach a client with diabetes how to plan meals to improve and balance the person’s blood sugar. Other dietitians and nutritionists 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. Dietitians and nutritionists may work as part of a team with other healthcare staff to coordinate client care.

Dietitians and nutritionists who are self-employed may meet with clients, or they may work as consultants for a variety of organizations. Self-employed workers may need to spend time on marketing and other business-related tasks, such as scheduling appointments and keeping records.

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 create customized nutritional programs based on the health needs of clients and counsel clients on how to improve their health through nutrition. Clinical dietitians and clinical nutritionists may further specialize, such as by working only with people who have kidney disease, diabetes, digestive disorders, or other specific conditions. They work in institutions such as hospitals, long-term care facilities, and clinics, as well as in private practice.

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 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. They work in food service settings such as cafeterias, hospitals, prisons, and schools.

Work Environment

Dietitians and nutritionists held about 74,700 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of dietitians and nutritionists were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private 29%
Government 12
Outpatient care centers 10
Nursing and residential care facilities          8
Self-employed workers 8

Work Schedules

Most dietitians and nutritionists work full time. They may work evenings and weekends to meet with clients who are unavailable at other times.

Education and Training

To enter the occupation, dietitians and nutritionists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. They also typically are required to have supervised training through an internship. Many states require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed.


Dietitians and nutritionists typically need a bachelor's or higher degree in dietetics, food and nutrition, or a related field to enter the occupation. Many dietitians and nutritionists have an advanced degree.


Dietitians and nutritionists typically receive supervised training, usually in the form of an internship following graduation from college. Some schools offer coordinated programs in dietetics that allow students to complete supervised training as part of their undergraduate- or graduate-level coursework.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many states require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed in order to practice. Other states require only state registration or certification to use certain titles, and a few states have no regulations for this occupation.

The requirements for state licensure and state certification vary by state, but most include having a bachelor’s or an advanced degree in food and nutrition or a related area, completing supervised practice, and passing an exam.

Employers may prefer to hire candidates who have a professional credential, such as the Registered Dietitian (RD)/Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) designation. Although these credentials are not always required, the qualifications may be the same as those necessary for becoming a licensed dietitian or nutritionist in states that require a license.

The RD/RDN designation is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It requires completion of a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a Dietetic Internship (DI), which includes supervised experience. Students may complete both criteria at once through a coordinated program, or they may finish their degree before applying for an internship. In order to maintain the RDN credential, dietitians and nutritionists must complete continuing professional education credits within a designated number of years. Beginning in 2024, education requirements will increase to a master’s degree.

The Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) designation is administered by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists, the certifying arm of the American Nutrition Association. Many states accept the CNS credential or exam for licensure purposes. To qualify for the credential, applicants must have a master’s or doctoral degree, complete supervised experience, and pass an exam. To maintain the CNS credential, nutritionists must complete continuing education credits within a designated number of years.

Dietitians and nutritionists may seek additional certifications in an area of specialty, such as diabetes education, oncology nutrition, or sports dietetics.

Personality and Interests

Dietitians and nutritionists typically have an interest in the Thinking, Helping, and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking, Helping, or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a dietitian or nutritionist, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Dietitians and nutritionists should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Dietitians and nutritionists must keep up to date with the latest nutrition research. They should be able to interpret scientific studies and translate nutrition science into practical eating advice.

Compassion. Dietitians and nutritionists must be caring and empathetic when helping clients address dietary issues and any related emotions.

Listening skills. Dietitians and nutritionists must listen carefully to understand clients’ goals and concerns. They may also work with other healthcare workers as part of team to improve the health of a patient and need to listen to team members when constructing eating plans.

Organizational skills. Because there are many aspects to the work of dietitians and nutritionists, they should have the ability to stay organized. Management dietitians, for example, must consider both the nutritional needs of their clients and the costs of meals. Self-employed dietitians and nutritionists may need to schedule their appointments and maintain patient files.

Problem-solving skills. They must evaluate the health status of patients and determine the most appropriate food choices for a client to improve overall health or manage a disease.

Speaking skills. Dietitians and nutritionists must explain complicated topics in a way that people with less technical knowledge can understand. They must be able to clearly explain eating plans to clients and to other healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care.


The median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists was $61,650 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,530, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $93,640.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for dietitians and nutritionists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Outpatient care centers $74,640
Government 61,830
Hospitals; state, local, and private 61,820
Nursing and residential care facilities         60,840

Most dietitians and nutritionists work full time. They may work evenings and weekends to meet with clients who are unavailable at other times.

Job Outlook

Employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow 7 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 5,600 openings for dietitians and nutritionists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Interest in the role of food and nutrition in promoting wellness and preventive care, particularly in medical settings, continues to increase.

The importance of diet in preventing and controlling certain illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease, is well established. More dietitians and nutritionists will be needed to provide care for people who have, or are at risk of developing, these conditions.

Moreover, as the population ages and looks for ways to stay healthy, there will be more demand for dietetic and nutrition services.

For More Information

For more information about dietitians and nutritionists, visit

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

For a list of academic programs, visit

Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics

For information on the Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RD/RDN) exam and other specialty credentials, visit

Commission on Dietetic Registration

For information on the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) exam and credential, visit

Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists

For information on the Clinical Nutrition Certification (CCN) exam and credential, visit

Clinical Nutrition Certification Board




Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

I would like to cite this page for a report. Who is the author?

There is no published author for this page. Please use citation guidelines for webpages without an author available. 

I think I have found an error or inaccurate information on this page. Who should I contact?

This information is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Truity does not editorialize the information, including changing information that our readers believe is inaccurate, because we consider the BLS to be the authority on occupational information. However, if you would like to correct a typo or other technical error, you can reach us at

I am not sure if this career is right for me. How can I decide?

There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. On this site, you can take the Career Personality Profiler assessment, the Holland Code assessment, or the Photo Career Quiz.

Get Our Newsletter