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Public Health Nutritionist Career Overview

April 14, 2024

Promoting healthy eating habits can help improve public health. While many registered dietitians work with individuals or small groups to encourage them to make healthy nutritional choices, public health nutritionists work with the population as a whole. Individuals interested in pursuing a career as a public health nutritionist should read on to explore the role, its educational requirements, and its responsibilities to see if it matches their career goals.

The Role of a Public Health Nutritionist

As part of the public health sector’s commitment to improving health equity and overall population health, public health nutritionists identify poor eating habit trends in a community and research ways to improve them. A public health nutritionist then uses that research to design culturally appropriate initiatives that seek to improve the community’s eating habits and educate community members about their findings.

Public health nutritionists can also work alongside other public health professionals to develop goals that combine recommendations for good nutrition, physical activity, and other positive choices to promote healthy lifestyles.

Public Health Nutritionist Responsibilities

To achieve the goals of public health initiatives, public health nutritionists perform several duties in an office setting and the field. Here are some examples of public health nutritionists’ common responsibilities.

Promote Nutritional Meal Plans

Nutritionists research and design suggested meal plans for members of the community that provide a balanced, nutritional diet. Along with prioritizing healthy foods, these meal plans must be appropriate for the community. For example, community members’ typical budgets, dietary restrictions, and cultural eating habits should be taken into account.

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Create and Deliver Educational Materials

Promoting a holistic approach to healthy living starts with education on eating habits and nutrition. Public health nutritionists organize classes, lead workshops, and communicate with policymakers on the benefits of healthy eating habits.

Research Nutrition and Share Findings

Public health nutritionists need to have a deep understanding of the community or region they serve. Nutritionists must not only keep up with the latest nutrition research but also stay informed on the cultures, practices, and experiences of community members to be able to effectively communicate their findings to them.

Work Environments

Public health nutritionists can generally work in office settings, but may also advise communities on-site. According to the BLS, nutritionists can work in hospitals (27 percent), for the government (11 percent), in outpatient care settings (9 percent), in care facilities (8 percent), and for themselves or be self-employed (8 percent).

Salary and Career Outlook of a Public Health Nutritionist

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for nutritionists was $66,450 as of May 2022. The highest 10 percent of earners made over $95,130. The number of dietitians and nutritionists in the U.S. is expected to increase by 7 percent by 2032, which is faster than the average job growth projected for all professions, according to the BLS. 

How to Become a Public Health Nutritionist

Becoming a nutritionist in the field of public health requires gaining relevant education and key skills. In many states, it also requires a license. Prospective nutritionists should review each step to prepare for their careers.

Education Requirements

Most employers require professionals to have earned at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food, and nutrition, or a related field. While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement, many professionals in the field have a master’s degree. For nutritionists who want to work in public health, earning a master’s degree in public health can prepare them for the specific responsibilities involved in working with entire communities and improving health outcomes on a large scale. 

License Requirements

Many states require nutritionists to obtain licensure before they can practice, so prospective professionals should review their state’s specific requirements to qualify as a nutritionist. The eligibility requirements for licensure can include holding a relevant undergraduate degree with specified coursework, holding an advanced degree, undergoing supervised practice experience, and passing an examination. Some nutritionists also choose to obtain a professional certification, such as the certified nutrition specialist (CNS) credential offered by the Board of Certification of Nutrition Specialists. 


Successful nutritionists working in the public health sector demonstrate the following skills: 

  • Organizational abilities. Planning events, meal plans, and educational workshops require strong organizational skills to bring the projects to completion.
  • Problem-solving skills. Identifying issues in community nutrition is not a straightforward task, so nutritionists must work creatively to identify these issues and find appropriate solutions.
  • Professional communication skills. Nutritionists are often asked to speak at public events, guide educational workshops, and communicate personally with members of the community. These duties require excellent public speaking and interpersonal communication skills.
  • Attention to detail. Researching issues in dietary needs and exploring culturally specific solutions requires attention to detail.
  • Empathy. Public health initiatives targeting eating habits need to be delivered with empathy and community involvement to ensure they are accepted at a populationwide level.

Consider a Career in Public Health Nutrition

Individuals who pursue careers as public health nutritionists can become part of an exciting, growing field in the public health sector. If you are interested in working with communities to improve community members’ eating habits, consider enrolling in Tulane University’s Online Master of Public Health program. Explore the latest methodologies in researching community health and eating habits as you analyze real community public health data in this online, flexible program.

Advance Your Public Health Career with an MPH Program

Pursue Your Degree Online From Tulane University
Find Out More

Recommended Readings

Strategies for Community Health Advocate: Roles and Responsibilities

Black Maternal Health in the U.S.

How to Become a Public Health Analyst


American Nutrition Association, Certify 

Indeed, “What Does a Public Health Nutritionist Do? (With Skills)”

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Dietetic Workforce Capacity Assessment for Public Health Nutrition and Community Nutrition”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dietitians and Nutritionists

U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, Nutrition and Public Health

Zippia, What Does a Public Health Dietitian Do?

ZipRecruiter, What Is a Public Health Nutritionist and How to Become One