Nursing Career Paths: Where Nursing and Nutrition Intersect

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Apr 11, 2019

Apr 11, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

The job market for nurses is already huge, and yet, is expected to grow over 15 percent in the next 10 years. 

There are a lot of reasons to get into this field of work, especially if medicine and helping others is a passion of yours.

But what about when your passion for medicine is rivaled by an interest in nutrition? Are there any nursing career paths that involve nutrition? 

Luckily, there are. We're going to tell you about a few of these careers, how you can get there, and what you can expect on the job. We'll also talk salary and outlook so you can feel secure knowing your future career will stick around. 

Without further ado, let's get started!

Nursing Career Paths Involving Nutrition

Whether you are already on your way to a degree in nursing or still considering which direction to go before you take the leap, or looking to land your first nursing job, nutrition is a great sub-field to enter. 

One of the most important aspects of our health is in regards to our diet. In fact, many illnesses and conditions can be solved or alleviated by diet and lifestyle alone!

Having this knowledge at your disposal will not only make you a better nurse, generally speaking, but also give you the opportunity to advance your nursing career through nutrition. 

There are two main paths that you can go down when it comes to careers involving nursing and nutrition. That is a clinical nurse or nurse practitioner.

We're going to pick a particular career from both of these domains and break them down for you one by one. Read on to find out more:

Clinical Nurse Nutrition Specialist

If you are interested in adding nutrition into your nursing career and would like to continue working directly with patients in a clinical setting while integrating management and outreach, this may be for you.

Here's a little summary of what a clinical nutrition nurse does on a day-to-day basis.

A clinical nurse specialist is responsible for patient care and interaction in a clinical setting in a specialized field or unit. In this case, the specialization is in nutrition. 

Interactions with patients include:

  • Assessing their diet and its relation to various medical conditions
  • Recommending dietary changes
  • Treating illness through nutrition

There are also responsibilities beyond patient care. This includes management, system and patient outcome improvements, research, consultations, and education. 

A career in this field requires special knowledge of nutrition science, nutrition therapy, and continued education over time.

They can work in a hospital setting, rehab facility, outpatient center, or clinic.

Education Requirements

In order to become a clinical nurse nutrition specialist, there are certain education requirements that must be met. 

Firstly, a bachelor's of science degree in nursing is required. From there, you will seek out a license as a registered nurse. 

Next, is residency and clinical nursing experience. This can take a couple of years but is sometimes necessary for the next step of schooling. 

Once you have some clinical and nursing experience, you'll enter a post-graduate masters program with a focus on nutrition. This is where you will gain the most hands-on experience working in your particular field. 

When studying nutrition, you'll get the opportunity to learn all sorts of awesome things like healing through diet, preventing disease, and how chronic inflammation affects weight gain. You can learn more info here on that. 

Finally, after graduation, you will pursue your licensure and board certifications. Those who wish to go beyond the required and become an expert in their field may go on to complete their doctorate degree.

Pay and Compensation

This may seem like a long time of studying and schooling before you finally get to enter your desired field. But, if you are passionate about becoming a clinical nurse, you probably already knew that. 

This long-term education commitment does, however, come with some benefits. Namely, your salary.

According to Payscale, the average starting salary for a CNS is $83,619 a year. If you do pursue a doctorate degree, you could see a mid-career salary that reaches over $100,000 a year. That's pretty incredible for a nurse!

Nutrition Nurse Practitioner

While there are many similarities between an NP and CNS, there are some important differences that should be addressed before choosing a path. 

A clinical nurse specialist has a lot of responsibility as far as management, training and education, consultation, and administration. 

An NP, on the other hand, has nearly all the authority in a practice as a doctor and works almost exclusively with patients. 

Common duties among a nutrition NP include:

  • Promoting disease prevention through diet
  • Diagnosing and prescribing
  • Conducting assessments and diagnostic testing
  • Treating chronic or acute illness as a primary care provider

NPs can work at nearly any medical setting. From hospitals to outpatient, clinics to rehabs, you name it. NPs are also found in emergency and intensive care units, as their scope of work is very similar to that of a physician.

Education Requirements

Like becoming a CNS, this is no short or easy journey. There are extensive education requirements that must be met in order to enter this field. 

The first step is to complete your BSN and become an RN in good standing.

A Nurse Practitioner is described often referred to an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, meaning you will need to advance your RN education and experience.

Once you have some RN experience under your belt, it's time to enter a Master's program for Nursing. Here, you will begin to add in your focus in nutrition to your studies. 

By the time you graduate, you will be ready to take your board certification exams and obtain licensure.

Pay and Compensation

Just like pursuing a career as a CNS, the long process of becoming a Nutrition Nurse Practitioner is well worth it. 

Not only have you set yourself up with a wonderful and fulfilling career, but you've also set yourself up for financial success. 

The average salary for an NP is just under $100,000 a year. And, like a CNS, you have the ability to earn more with a Doctorate degree and experience. Sometimes, upward of $120,000 a year. 

Start Your Career Today

There are few careers as rewarding as working with patients to impact and improve their quality of life. Becoming a nurse with a focus on nutrition is a great opportunity to do just that. 

Now that you know more about two different nursing career paths you can take to get there, you're ready to start working towards your goals.

Already earned your degree? Check out our job listings and find the perfect nutrition nursing career today!