How to Become a Nutritionist: Your Ultimate Guide
Our eating habits have a significant impact on our quality of life. What should we eat and when should we eat it? Food and nutrition science plays a huge role in understanding what a healthy lifestyle is. However, this can vary from person to person. So, nutritionists are the experts we seek to find out what’s best specifically for us!
A Nutritionist is someone who has studied the science of food nutrients. Nutritionists are knowledgeable of the functions of the human body and how it should respond to food products. People seek advice and meals plans from nutritionists to better understand food-related issues including digestion issues, allergies, sustained low-energy, or even weight management. Depending on where a nutritionist works, their responsibilities and what they do will be more specific.
As the human body grows and develops throughout its lifetime, people can encounter stages where they need extra help to fuel their body’s correctly; including identifying newly-developed intolerances or changing diets during times of severe illness.
The Australian public’s interest in health, food and diet has grown tremendously over the last few years. Hence, the demand for professional advice and opinion is high, with no indication of dropping.
Approximately half of the workforce works full time, offering many opportunities to work part-time.
What can a nutrition course do for me?
Working in the Australian food and health science industry offers numerous career paths! Depending on your level of education and training, you can become:
Certificate IV Nutrition
A Certificate IV in Nutrition or Allied Health is a great way to start your nutrition journey. These nationally recognised courses will teach you the basics of industry nutrition and patient-handling. For example, a Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance (Nutrition and Dietetics), both offer excellent opportunities to enter this thriving industry. Below are two options of this qualification with explanations of their differences!
Nutrition and Dietetics Specialisation, Allied Health Assistance, Cert IV
This course requires 12 months of full-time online study. You must also complete 120 hours of work placement. Although there are no entry requirements, you need to be at least 16 years old to begin the course. Upon successful completion, you can find yourself working in most entry-level roles across the public health sector, offering nutritional advice and knowledge.
Nutrition and Dietetics, Allied Health Assistance, Cert IV
This course is also offered online but requires up to 24 months of full-time study alongside 120 hours of work placement. This course also has stricter entry requirements. You will need to have finished Australian Year 12 or an equivalent, or have completed a Certificate II or higher. 2 years of relevant vocational experience may also be accepted. Upon successful completion, you will be able to enter the healthcare sector as a qualified assistant to a healthcare professional.
Please be aware that both of these courses require the student to seek work experience independently from the education provider. Please ensure the establishment you choose offers all the requirements needed to complete the course successfully.
Diploma in Nutrition
If you want to jump-start your new career and enter the industry at a higher level, then a Diploma is a great idea for you! This program will cover the basics of nutrition, health and human-body functions through nutrient associations to disease or poor health! This qualification is a great start to becoming a fully-qualified nutritionist, dietitian or wellness coach.
A bachelor’s degree in health science with a focus in nutrition or dietetics usually takes three years of full-time study to complete. For example, a Bachelor of Health Science (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine) takes an average of 3-6 years to complete (full-time vs. part-time study) and includes on-campus practical work experience.
A bachelor’s degree will see you become a nationally qualified clinical nutritionist or dietitian. This means, your knowledge and experience can see you land a career in most of the healthcare and food-science sectors. While there are specific differences between being a nutritionist and a dietician, a nutrition degree will allow you to provide your services in more niche areas such as sports nutrition and development, government-run programs, media and marketing or you can start your own business in clinical nutrition!
A lot of people don’t know that professional nutritional practice is not government-regulated within Australia. This means, there are no formal or legal requirements to call someone a ‘Nutritionist’. This leads to a lot of misinformation and poor, un-professional advice being given to the public.
For this reason, it’s critical to complete a course nationally recognised by the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA) or the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). Other associations to be aware of are the Public Health Association of Australia and the Australian Health Promotion Association. It’s essential to seek advice from registered nutritionists and dieticians and to register yourself if you’re starting a career in the health industry!
Is this Right for Me?
If you have an interest in nutrition, food and health, then completing one of these qualifications is a great idea for you! It’s also important to remember that nutrition professionals are continually dealing with people. Good communication skills and interpersonal skills are essential in these roles! The science involved in the field of nutrition can be complicated, and we need people who can simplify and communicate this information in an effective way!
If you have a head for science, and you’re a people person, then a career in the food science and nutrition industry is the right one for you! You can assist health professionals or work as a clinician in your private practice (or anything in between!)