Pros and Cons of a Pediatric Nutritionist Career
Pediatric nutritionists and dietitians determine the nutritional needs of infants and children then plan meals that ensure a balanced diet. Review the pros and cons of a pediatric nutritionist career to determine if it is a good choice for you.
|Pros of a Pediatric Nutritionist Career|
|High salary (dietitians and nutritionists earned a median annual salary of around $56,000 in 2014)*|
|High growth field (16% increase in employment opportunities between 2014 and 2024)*|
|Opportunities for self-employment or consultation work in the field*|
|Rewarding position helping patients*|
|Cons of a Pediatric Nutritionist Career|
|Nutritionists must earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree*|
|Nutritionists and dietitians must complete an internship*|
|Some states require licensure*|
|Some employers might require a graduate degree*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Essential Career Information
Job Description and Duties
Pediatric dietitians and nutritionists assess the nutritional needs of infants and children and create meal plans to provide a balanced diet. Clinical pediatric nutritionists work in hospitals and medical care facilities to treat patients with medical nutritional needs. Nutritionists and dietitians oversee kitchen staff to ensure special meals are prepared correctly. Pediatric nutritionists might develop special formulas for infants to treat feeding problems and medical conditions.
These nutritionists educate parents and family members on proper food preparation and the nutritional needs of infants and children. They also help parents plan menus for children at home and evaluate the results of changes to children's diet.
Job Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for nutritionists and dietitians is expected to increase by 16% between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reports the increased awareness of nutrition and its effect on health is responsible for the growth in the field. The annual median salary for nutritionists and dietitians was about $56,000 in 2014, according to the BLS.
What Are the Requirements?
According to the BLS, most nutritionists have a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics or a related area. Bachelor's degree programs in nutrition and dietetics include coursework in chemistry, biology, nutrition, microbiology, physiology, clinical dietetics, maternal and child nutrition and food study. An internship might be required for completion of a bachelor's degree program. For students in programs that do not include an internship, programs are available after graduation.
While employers might not require a master's degree in dietetics and nutrition, graduate degrees provide an opportunity to specialize in pediatric nutrition. A master's degree program includes courses in statistics, research methods, biochemistry and pediatric nutrition courses.
Licensure and Certification
States might require licensure or certification for dietitians and nutritionists. In states that require licensure, completing the requirements for a Registered Dietitian credential is similar, according to the BLS. To earn the credential dietitians must complete an approved bachelor's degree program in dietetics and nutrition, complete a 1,200-hour supervised internship and pass a certification examination.
To work as a pediatric nutritionist, you should be able to work well with people, and especially enjoy working with children. Since your job involves teaching parents and families members about complex dietary issues so that they can change their eating habits, you should also be able to communicate well. You should also be able to think analytically, which will help you keep up with and sort through the latest research in the field.
What Are Employers Looking for?
Employers looking for pediatric nutritionists require a minimum of a bachelor's degree education and experience in pediatric nutrition. Some employers require applicants to hold a current registration or license in the state. Below are some examples of positions available for pediatric nutritionists in May 2012:
- A Virginia children's hospital is looking for a clinical dietitian with experience in pediatrics to provide nutritional assessments for patients, plan diets and supervise hospital staff in food preparation. The candidate must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree and at least two years experience in pediatrics to qualify for the position.
- An Illinois employer in the health services industry is looking for a clinical dietitian to provide therapeutic nutrition for children suffering from chronic diseases. Candidates should have at least a bachelor's degree in nutrition, but the employer prefers applicants with a master's degree. In addition, the candidate must have the Registered Dietitian credential or be eligible for the certification and hold a license in the state of Illinois. The employer prefers candidates with at least two years of experience.
- An employer in California in the health services industry is seeking a registered dietitian specializing in genetics and pediatrics. The dietitian will assess patients, develop nutritional care plans, counsel family members and patients and supervise hospital staff in the preparation of food. The candidate must have a master's degree and hold a current registration in California as a dietitian.
How to Gain an Edge Over the Competition
Employers might require job candidates have the Registered Dietitian credential to qualify for a position, but if you want to stand out as a pediatric nutritionist, the Commission on Dietetic Registration also offers the Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition credential. Applicants for the credential must have held the Registered Dietitian credential for a minimum of two years, have at least 2,000 hours of practice in pediatric nutrition and pass an examination to qualify.
Job candidates can gain an edge in the field by pursuing coursework in pediatric nutrition. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry into the field of dietetics and nutrition, but students might complete specialized coursework in pediatric nutrition to work towards a graduate degree, which can make you a more attractive job candidate.
Other Careers to Consider
If a career helping people make healthy choices is interesting to you, but you prefer to educate patients on a broader range of issues, a career as a health educator might be a better choice. Health educators provide information to people in healthcare facilities, public health departments, colleges, universities and non-profit agencies that can help them make healthy dietary and lifestyle choices. According to the BLS, employment growth for health educators is expected to be 37% between 2010 and 2020, and the median annual salary was around $48,000 in 2011.
A career as a pediatric nurse provides the opportunity to work with infants and children for a higher salary than a pediatric nutritionist earns. Pediatric nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for infants and children. Registered nurses work under the direction of a physician and administer medication, educate patients and families, perform diagnostic tests and record medical histories and symptoms. The annual median salary for a registered nurse in 2011 was around $66,000, according to the BLS.