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Careers in Nutrition and Wellness

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Careers in nutrition and wellness title graphic showing healthy foods and exercise equipment.

There’s nothing more satisfying than watching someone transform their life with the help of excellent nutrition and wellness support. If you’re the kind of person that loves to talk about whole foods, mindful eating, and well-being, a career in the nutrition and wellness field might be a great fit for you.

The career options available are diverse enough to match different skill sets and interests, plus you’ll have the ability to find a secure job or build your own business with most of these specializations. With a projected growth rate of 21% between 2012 and 2022 (and beyond), nutrition and wellness is a field that is destined for lots of career and job opportunities.

If you’re having a hard time imagining all the job possibilities in this field, this article was written just for you. Who knows, you might find your dream career on this list. So let’s get right to it.

What Are The Best Career Options in Nutrition and Wellness?

There’s a perfect job for everyone, whether you love to work with clients one-on-one or you’d prefer to focus on developing products in the lab. If nutrition and wellness is something you have a passion for, you just need to bring your personality and lifestyle goals to discover the right fit.

You might be interested in being a holistic wellness coach and get to help people transform their whole lives. Or perhaps you’d like to be a nutrition-focused technician and create healthy meals for people to rave about. Or you might love creating wellness plans that help people get more superfoods, vitamins, and minerals into their diets.

Whatever your dream career lifestyle might be, you’ll find some ideas here to help you get started.

1. Holistic Wellness Coach

Holistic wellness coach on a hike breathing in the fresh air.

A Holistic Wellness Coach focuses on a person’s whole life in order to create balance and well-being. While nutrition and exercise are important parts of wellness, the complete lifestyle that a person engages in has just as big of an influence.

For example, a Holistic Wellness Coach could help a client discover the root cause of unhealthy eating habits. Perhaps they’re not getting enough sleep at night, so they feel a need to get a burst of energy from a sugary treat. Or maybe they’ve been ultra stressed at work, so they’re soothing their nervous system with comfort treats.

A Holistic Wellness Coach might also help a client work through their struggles with relationships, finding ways to manage their emotions in healthier ways. They might encourage mental health practices and help their clients find ways to incorporate better care of their mind so they can have better relationships in all areas of their lives.

They also might work with a client who wants to be more physically active in ways that make them feel good and meet their fitness goals. A Holistic Wellness Coach would work with this client to determine their true intention for their physical fitness and then find those activities that both are enjoyable and also challenge them at the right levels.

All of these aspects of their life matter when it comes to figuring out how to help someone create sustainable change that lasts a lifetime. A Holistic Wellness Coach knows this and uses this approach to help clients finally find the well-being they’re searching for.

While there are many health and wellness programs out there, a holistic emphasis offers a specialization in true whole-life coaching. It gives the coach more credibility with a holistic approach, as well as specialized skills that help clients heal and thrive.

Holistic Wellness Coaches can be self-employed, which allows them to build a business that fits their ideal lifestyles and financial goals. They can also work in doctors offices and wellness centers. You might also find them working in gyms or health spas, corporate wellness programs, or for holistic retreat centers. The career options are flexible, meaning you’ll be able to work in the environment that is best for your needs.

Accredited training is recommended and most programs are 6 to 24 months long. Some programs are built for working adults, so they’re flexible and online. Holistic Wellness Coaches that run their own practices can make upwards of $100 per hour and the most ambitious can bring in six-figure annual incomes. Those that work as employees for companies often make an average income right around the $50,000 per year mark (source).

Thoughts from an IAWP Graduate on Holistic Wellness Coaching

“I chose wellness coaching because it provided me the freedom to share and explore a healthy lifestyle beyond diet and nutrition. It has provided me the flexibility to become a guide on pelvic floor health and bring awareness to a health topic not shared enough.”

Molly Sommerhalder, Women’s Embodiment and Wellness Coach at Swan in the Lotus Yoga and Wellness

You can learn more about the differences between a wellness coach and a health coach in our informative article here.

2. Health Coach

Health coach instructing her client in yoga poses.

A health coach focuses on improving their clients’ overall health. They specifically focus on physical aspects of health such as nutrition and exercise. They might work independently in their own businesses, in a private practice with doctors or other health professionals, in a hospital, for a corporate wellness program, or in other similar environments.

Health coaches complete certification programs or can undertake degree programs focused on health promotion and coaching. They make a similar income to Holistic Wellness Coaches, with self-employed coaches having the biggest income potential and employed coaches making approximately $50,000 per year (source).

You can learn what it takes to become a health coach by reading our deep dive article here.

3. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

A registered dietitian nutritionist surrounded by healthy fruits and vegetable.

A registered dietitian nutritionist is a medical professional focused on the application of nutrition to disease and health issues. Dietitians often work in hospitals, in nursing homes, or in collaboration with doctors. They are licensed professionals that have passed a board exam, plus they’ve completed a bachelors or masters degree in dietetics.

Most dietitians are medically oriented, meaning they help people who have acute disease conditions modify their meal plans so they can be more comfortable and live longer. Some dietitians have a holistic approach to their work, though it is less common.

In order to become a dietitian, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition or dietetics. You’ll then be required to pass a board exam to become licensed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The average yearly salary for a dietitian in 2021 is $63,963 (source).

4. Nutritionist

A nutritionist designing a healthy meal plan for a client.

While a dietitian is a very specific title with detailed training and credentialing requirements, nutritionist is more general and applies to many types of nutritional counseling jobs. Whether a person can call themselves a nutritionist differs from state to state.

Some states see “nutritionist” as synonymous with dietitian, so they require the same educational and licensure backgrounds. In others, it’s unregulated and anyone with an interest in nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist.

Depending on your state and career goals, you might need to complete a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and then go on to complete dietetics requirements as well. Or you might just need to complete a training program in nutrition that then allows you to work with others as a nutritionist.

Some people who take this career path decide to become Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) or a Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN).

Nutrition specialists must have either a graduate degree or doctorate plus a 1,000 hour internship before they can take an exam for their license. CCN’s must have a bachelor’s degree plus a 900 hour internship or they must receive a master’s degree in human nutrition from Bastyr University or the University of Bridgeport before taking the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board exam.

On average, nutritionists made $64,150 in 2019 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is, of course, dependent on the area of the US a person works and the type of place they work in. Self-employed nutritionists often have the most earning potential.

Learn more about the differences between a nutritionist and health coach in our article here.

5. Food Scientist

Two food scientists working together in a lab.

Food scientists are trained in the scientific aspects of the food industry. They focus on how to properly preserve foods, make them safe for distribution, scale products to a bigger market, and other scientific aspects of the food industry.

People working in food science are typically bachelor’s degree prepared, though some are master’s and doctorate level scientists. On average, they earn $62,800 annually (source), with those who have more advanced degrees earning the most.

6. Nutrition Educator

Nutrition educator teaching kids about healthy eating.

A nutrition educator focuses on teaching others about nutrition. They might work in schools with children, in colleges, in corporate wellness programs, or with public health departments. They require a specialized education focused on both nutritional science as well as teaching.

Nutrition educators are responsible for creating a healthy eating-focused curriculum, teaching nutritional principles in various settings, and doing administrative duties related to the programs they work for.

Most nutrition educators have at least a bachelor’s degree and some have more advanced degrees. On average, a nutrition educator earns $56,962 annually (source).

7. Sports Nutritionist

A sports nutritionist eating a green apple while taking a break from exercising.

A sports nutritionist works with athletes who need a specialized sports nutrition program to help them achieve their goals. This might include gaining muscle, quicker recovery, and other issues specific to athletes’ and fitness enthusiasts’ dietary needs.

Most sports nutritionists have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition or dietetics. Some states require licensure in order to practice. Check your state to see what the requirements are both educationally and for registration. The average annual salary for a sports nutritionist is currently $53,533 (source).

8. Nutrition and Dietetic Technician, Registered (NDTR)

Nutrition and dietetic technician cooking a meal in a commercial kitchen.

A nutrition and dietetic technician typically works with a dietitian to create healthy meals for individuals or groups of people. They might work in a kitchen, prepping healthy food, as well as developing the menus with the dietitian’s expertise and support. They also might work with a government agency, such as WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), or in food service.

This career is considered more of a technical program, and is often a certificate or similar schooling pathway. You’ll need to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in order to register for the programs, and there are different paths for each. You’ll also need to pass a certification exam to become registered with the state.

The average salary range for this career is $30-60,000 per year (source).

9. Life Coach

Life coach working with her client.

A life coach works with individuals to improve their overall experience of life. They might focus on one specific aspect of their client’s lives, or they might take a whole-life approach to their coaching.

Life coaches do not have to complete a training program in order to start practicing, but most of the time they choose to train and be certified by an accredited program. Coaching is a specific skill set and often training is the best way to acquire the skills needed to help people transform their lives.

There are many, many life coaching programs, both in-person and online. Some are short in duration and others can take several years to complete. Some programs are accredited by well-known associations, others are independent.

On average, life coaches earn $41,258 (source). Earning potential increases with self-employment, though it can be important to find ways to make your business stand out through having a unique niche or target audience.

10. Clinical Dietitian

Clinical nutritionist discussing meal plan with patient.

A clinical dietitian is a very similar career path to a registered dietitian, however the distinction between the two is where and how they practice. While registered dietitians usually practice in hospitals with acute health issues, clinical dietitians typically work in private practice doctor’s offices and wellness clinics. They usually focus on helping patients resolve chronic health issues through therapeutic nutrition.

Their educational path and requirements are the same as the registered dietitian path mentioned above, with the difference being that they choose a different emphasis in their dietetics program. The average salary for a clinical dietitian is $58,861 (source).

11. Food Safety Auditor

A food safety auditor in personal protective equipment inspects a food processing plant.

A food safety auditor works in the environmental health field. They visit food processing facilities, farms, meat packing plants, restaurants, and other food-related establishments to do an audit for food safety.

As food safety regulations are always increasing, food safety auditors are in high demand. They are usually bachelor’s or master’s degree prepared, with additional certifications that are specific to the field of work. On average, food safety auditors make $85,639 annually (source).

12. Nutritional Therapist

A nutritional therapist counsels one of her clients during a session.

A nutritional therapist is similar to a nutritionist and a dietitian, however they focus on a therapeutic approach to working with clients. They might specialize in women’s health, reproductive disorders, weight loss, or a similar emphasis from a nutritional perspective.

Depending on which state you live in, you might be required to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition or dietetics. You might also be required to pass a licensing exam and become registered with the state. The average annual salary for a nutritional therapist is $60,370 (source).

13. Eating Disorder Nutritionist

An eating disorder nutritionist counsels a young female client.

An eating disorder nutritionist is a nutritionist who focuses specifically on helping people recover from eating disorders. This career is very similar to a general nutritionist, but with an expertise in disordered eating patterns and how to resolve them.

This practitioner would work one-on-one with clients to develop strategies and nutrition plans to help them heal from the effects of an eating disorder. They would also design strategies to help their clients overcome the disorder itself.

An eating disorder nutritionist needs a degree in nutrition or dietetics, and may or may not need a dietician license in order to practice depending on the state they’re working in. The average salary for this career is $62,330 (source).

14. Regulatory Affairs Specialist

A regulatory affairs specialist presents a proposal to her coworker.

A regulatory affairs specialist often works with government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and similar organizations. They focus on the legal side of healthcare, ensuring that things on the market are safe for public consumption and that companies are balancing out their needs with the public’s needs. From a nutritional perspective, they might work to ensure food products are safe, as well as FDA or USDA compliant.

A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required, with an emphasis on the business and science side of things. Higher degrees lead to better job promotions and opportunities, as well as an increase in income ability. Current average salary for regulatory affairs specialists is $68,294 (source).

15. Public Health Nutritionist

A public health nutritionist gives a presentation from a laptop.

A public health nutritionist is a public health professional who has a specialized emphasis in nutrition. Instead of working one-on-one with people to improve their nutrition, the public health nutritionist focuses on creating campaigns and resources to help the public engage with food in healthier ways.

This professional might create nutrition plans for various budgets, then offer these plans as resources on a public health website. Or they might construct a local public health education campaign aimed at educating people about the easy ways they can improve their health through food choices.

A public health nutritionist needs at least a bachelor’s degree in public health, though a master’s degree would also be a good idea. You’ll choose an emphasis on nutrition. You could also get a bachelor’s in nutrition and then a master’s in public health.

On average, public health nutritionists earn $53,000 per year, with an earning potential up to $75,000 annually (source).

Thoughts from an IAWP Graduate

“I chose to become a Holistic Wellness Coach as I always felt this role best matched my value system and what I stand for. My training is in the field of School Psychology and I always saw myself as a guide and coach to my students and parents versus the typical psychologist/counselor role.

I was less into analyzing a person and their past and more focused on their present concern and looking at ways to best support them in achieving their present goals. I have always seen the “whole” person, not just a piece of them or their challenge but their whole selves.

Guiding someone to become their best versions of themselves — physically, socially and emotionally — is why I love being a holistic wellness coach. It is a role that can bring a tremendous amount of empowerment to others and at the same time instill optimism, joy and a sense of fulfillment. What could be better?”

Susan Batastini, Holistic Wellness Coach at Walk 2 Wellness

Why Holistic Wellness Coaching is The Best Option

Wellness coaches at a team building exercise hold their hands in the air a smile.

While there are many career paths in the nutrition and wellness field, there’s only one that focuses on helping people change their whole lives. A holistic approach to nutrition and wellness ensures that people can create changes in their lives that will last a lifetime. A Holistic Wellness Coach is properly trained to do just that.

It can be frustrating to try to help people to change their diets, only to have them slip up nutritionally and end up back at square one again. A holistic approach involves getting to the root causes of their emotional, mental, and physical struggles, then developing plans that center their needs and wants.

As a Holistic Wellness Coach, you’ll have the flexibility to design a business that works well for your lifestyle, as well as have a specialty that can help you stand out in the field. You’ll be able to charge more for your services and you’ll be well-prepared to create a career you love and that will sustain you and your family.

At the IAWP, we are committed to our students’ success, both while in our accredited program and after you graduate. If you’re ready to discover if becoming a Holistic Wellness Coach is the right career path for you, get started with your complimentary Wellness Coach Career Kit today.

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About the Author

Suzanne Monroe

Suzanne Monroe is the author of Live Well Dream Big: The Ultimate Guide to Becoming Your Best Self and Living Life on Your Own Terms. She has also written and published The Holistic Cookbook & Lifestyle Guide: 12 Weeks to a Healthier, Happier You, the co-author of 101 Ways to Improve Your Health and the host of the Live Well Dream Big Podcast. Suzanne was inspired to create the IAWP Wellness Coach Training & Certification Program in collaboration with other leading health experts in order to inspire people to create meaningful careers and spread the message of wellness.

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