Exploring this Job

You can start exploring the field of nutrition right in your own kitchen. Learn healthy ways to cook and bake. Plan and prepare meals for your family; do your own grocery shopping and learn to pick out the best produce, meats, fish, and other ingredients. And, in addition to taking family and consumer science classes at school, take cooking classes offered by other organizations in your community. Supermarkets, for example, frequently offer classes on topics such as how to prepare low cholesterol meals. Another option is to contact nutritionists and ask them about their work. Ask your school's career services office for help with locating nutritionists interested in speaking with students about their job. The school cafeteria, the local hospital, or a nursing home are all places to look for those who would be willing to participate in an information interview with you. And, of course, one of the best ways to learn about nutrition is to get a part-time or summer job in a hospital, nursing home, or medical facility where nutritionists work. In such a setting, you will be able to observe and interact with nutritionists as they work.

The Job

The term nutritionist can refer to a variety of people because regulations covering the use of this title vary from state to state. In some states, anyone—even those with little or no specialized education or credentials—can set up shop as a nutritionist. For the purposes of this article, nutritionist refers to certified clinical nutritionists. Certified clinical nutritionists (CCNs) have the same core educational and internship backgrounds as registered dietitians. In addition, CCNs are specialists who have completed a certain amount of postgraduate education that focuses on the biochemical and physiological aspects of nutrition science.

CCNs typically work in private practice for themselves, as part of a group of health care professionals, or for a doctor or doctors in private practice. CCNs are specialists who have completed at least some post-graduate training in nutrition science. They work with clients to correct imbalances in the clients' biochemistry and improve their physiological function. Through lab tests, consultations with doctors, and discussions with the clients themselves, CCNs review the clients' overall health and lifestyle and determine what nutrients the clients have too little or too much of. They then come up with plans to enable their clients to get the correct nutrition in order to get their bodies back into balance. Their clients may range from people who are slightly ill, for example, or those who feel run down all the time but do not know why, to people with serious diseases, such as heart disease or cancers. No matter what problem brings a client to a CCN, though, the CCN's goal is to correct that client's biochemistry in order to help that person feel better.