The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.
~ Thomas Edison ~
The importance of healthy eating as a longterm lifestyle, rather than as a short term weight-loss solution or fad diet, has become far more widespread in Australia as people have started to pay attention to the nutritional value of what they put in their bodies. According to a study released by the Australian Government Department of Health, one in two Australians has at least one of eight common chronic conditions. Many of these clinical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, can be caused by poor nutrition choices.
In Australia, people are increasingly turning to more natural remedies, care plans and ways to help prevent or fight disease through healthier lifestyles.
This increased awareness has also led to growth in the demand for people who are qualified professionals ready to begin working as a nutritionist. Perhaps you are interested to study nutrition and consider the field as a career option? If so, you might be wondering what level of qualifications, training or experience is needed to practice as a nutritionist or the skills needed to gain employment in a related job.
Do You Need a Bachelor Degree to Work in the Field of Nutrition?
In truth, anyone in Australia can call themselves a nutritionist without any study or qualifications. However, the public these days are becoming more savvy; they (rightly) want to see your qualifications. Plus, you obviously can't become a member of the Nutrition Society of Australia without proof of qualifications or training.
People can study a wide variety of nutrition-related programs at different levels. Different courses, from short training programs to courses at a Diploma or Bachelor degree level, include:
- Sports Nutrition Certificate, or other certificate-level short programs
Simple certificate or employment pathway training courses provide you with the core knowledge and skills required for nutritionist jobs. They also serve either as a springboard into other specialised courses of study or as further information for your own sports and personal health and nutrition needs.
- Certificate III or IV in Allied Health Assistance
Courses at a certificate level provide background into basic anatomy and body systems, how to deal with clients and other practical experience required to succeed in the nutrition industry.
- Diploma in Nutrition
A diploma or advanced diploma in nutrition is a nationally recognised qualification that provides in-depth knowledge and skills training in all aspects of nutritional health and medicine.
- Bachelor of Health Science
Programs at the degree level of study not only cover nutritional health and medicine but also areas including biological science, food packaging and public health.
So, let's say your study is nearing completion and you're thinking about entering the job market. What sort of nutritionist jobs can you get and where can you find work?
Where Can You Look For Nutritionist Jobs?
When you're ready to begin working as a nutritionist, you will find there are many roads you can travel down. Nutritionists often gain employment in:
- private practice
- fitness centres
- health departments
- aged care facilities
- food industry.
The actual careers or roles undertaken by qualified nutritionist professionals also vary widely.
Clinical Nutritionist Roles
The large bulk of a clinical role involves the design of nutrition programs to help improve the health of clients. Nutritionists deal with medical issues that are considered short-term (such as pre-operation), chronic (such as diabetes) or for prevention of disease. If this sounds like a job you'd like, consider applying for work in hospitals, public health clinics or in private practice.
A role in sales may entail either retail or marketing. In both work situations, you'd be dealing with getting the nutrition message out there, along with the products. If you like the idea of delivering the nutrition message personally, you may be more interested in consultancy work or in working in a health food store. If you're more interested in the marketing or product development side of things, you may consider looking for a job as a product manager or even a health blogger.
If you have commercial qualifications, experience or chef training, why not combine these skills with your nutrition knowledge? People can apply for a job and work in this capacity in hospitals, aged care, child care, and other catering fields. While there are not many schools in Australia that offer 'school lunches', many nutritionists use their knowledge and passion for food to work in the school setting and help teach nutrition or cooking as a consultant.
If you have a 'science mind' and enjoy research and investigation, a job in food technology may be the career you're after. Employment as a food technologist means you are responsible for ensuring new food products meet safety and hygiene regulations in the production stage. Nutritionists work in both product development and actual production.
This field is different from the clinical role in that you deal more with people as clients in a public setting. The nutritionist's primary role in this type of job is to provide nutrition and health information for a variety of needs, not just medical or clinical ones. People working as a nutritionist in an advisory capacity tend to work in fitness centres offering sports nutrition advice, nutrition care in health and wellness clinics or in private practice.
Government departments and institutions have the highest demand for promotional professionals with a degree or experience in nutrition work. People can get a job as a health manager, health assistant, promotions manager or public health manager.
Tips and Hints from Experienced Nutritionists
You don't have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.
~ Julia Child ~
The internet is awash with information on healthy eating and nutrition. Being aware of fads and misinformation, and not getting sucked in to the social media nutrition spiderweb, however, is essential. The best place to get advice about the food you put in your body is obviously from qualified nutritionist professionals. Here are a few red hot tips — directly from top nutritionists in Australia.
- Listen to your body: Nutritionist, Lindi Cohen (The Nude Nutritionist) laments the 'soul-destroying' practice of counting calories or points and says that following rules, like don't eat carbs after 5 pm, can be counterproductive to your health care. Listening to your body, focusing on what you can eat (rather than craving what you can't) and loading up on vegetables means you're more likely to sustain any changes to your eating habits. Essentially, it comes down to training your body and mind.
Be healthy but don't give up 95% of your life to weigh 5% less.
~ Lindi Cohen ~
- Keep it simple: Self-described 'veggie warrior', Kate Wengier from Foost is a passionate advocate for keeping things simple when it comes to good nutrition. She says people don't need fancy ingredients, nor do people need to study confusing mantras or rules, in order to look after their bodies. Simply put good food into it.
- Eating chocolate can help: before you go and scoff that entire Lindt block — stop! It's all about moderation — and dark chocolate. Sugar is one of the biggest diet killers and so much of it is hidden in 'healthy' foods, which doesn't help, or in 'pretend healthy foods' — those that claim to be healthy, or fat-free, but are full of sugar. Again, no help! Every study tells us that sugar is addictive. Going 'cold turkey' with sugar will produce withdrawal symptoms. A small amount of dark chocolate is a great way to help feed the sugar cravings, making a successful transition to healthy eating easier. Again — it's about training your body and mind.
- Plan ahead: if you've had a rough day at work, left your job late and then got caught in traffic with all the road-rage fuelled people, the last thing you'll want to do is cook a meal. You're more likely to reach for something from a packet or grab a drive-through cheeseburger and chips on the way home. Instead, spending a couple of hours on the weekend preparing some meals for the week, or cooking up double servings on a few nights and freezing them are great ways to help people stop reaching for 'minimum nutrition' food items.
If you're considering training and seeking employment in nutritionist jobs in the future, it will help if you model a healthy eating lifestyle as well. Who knows — the next time we write an article about nutrition, whether it's sports nutrition, public health nutrition or even animal nutrition, we might be quoting your ideas and thoughts.