Finding a career that offers you the chance to help make a positive impact on the lives of others is important for many people. Knowing you’re doing good in the community is just as important as a good salary in some cases, and as a result it’s important to consider these types of job options. Becoming a public health nutritionist is one career option worth thinking about, and it offers some very real rewards to those who enter the field.
But like any other job, it’s not for everyone. Certain people will enjoy it more than others. Because of this, learning more about what it involves is a good idea. Keep reading to find out more about the job and what it involves.
What Is a Public Health Nutritionist?
A public health nutritionist is an expert in diet and nutrition who works to improve public nutritional habits instead of working one on one with individual clients. They are registered dieticians, and they focus on helping to implement strategies for a community or for a large organization that will improve the nutrition of the population, and thus have a positive influence on that population’s health and wellbeing.
Possible duties include:
- Identify problem areas in nutrition within a community or population
- Develop a strategy that helps improve nutrition
- Provide educational resources to the community to help them make better nutritional choice
- Develop programs and policies for institutions that improve nutrition
- Develop meal plans based on needs, cost, and culture
- Work with others to ensure maximum benefit from proper diet is possible
- Promote better nutrition in general
These professional can work on a variety of different areas. For example, they may be in charge of monitoring the WIC program for a community, or working on the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program. They could work in schools to help make sure that the school system is delivering meals that are healthy, or they may work on programs that deliver food in-home to the poor.
A few key personal traits can have a big impact on your ability to thrive in this position. The following characteristics are needed to truly excel as a public health nutritionist.
- Strong Organizational Skills – Being able to keep track of data and your efforts is important. Good organization will help tremendously.
- Strong Speaking Capabilities – Public speaking is a part of the job, too. From presenting education to the public to helping discuss strategies with colleagues, good speaking skills are needed.
- Good Critical Thinking – You also need to be able to look at data and information and create strategies based on the information. As such, strong critical thinking skills are vital.
Nature of the Work
The job will involve multiple things, and will feature a combination of field work and office work. In the field, you’ll talk to those in the community, assess their situation, and help them learn more about nutritional choices. In the office, you’ll work to fill out reports and analyze data, plus discuss with policy makers and other colleagues about programs and initiatives that can improve the nutrition and the health of the community.
Jobs are found in local, state, and federal governments for the most part though hospitals and schools may also have a need for public health nutritionists. The specific nature of the work will depend largely upon where you are employed.
Education and Training
In most cases the bare minimum requirement for employment as a public health nutritionist will be possession of a bachelor’s degree in food and nutrition. You’ll also have to be registered as a dietician through the American Dietetic Association. However, more and more employers are showing a preference to those who have completed specialized graduate level training. In order to ensure the best job opportunities are available to you, earning a Master’s of Public Health with a specialization in Public Health Nutrition is a much better option, and one that will lead to much better things for you.
Public health nutritionists earn an average salary of about $53,000 per year, though some may earn as much as $75,000. Government organizations will pay higher wages, but jobs aren’t always available. Still, the demand for public health nutritionist is going to rise by 20% over the next several years, so finding employment will likely be no problem.