Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

What do nutritionists do?

Nutritionists use science, communication, and evidence to improve the health of individuals, communities, and populations. Career pathways for nutritionists are varied. Our graduates finish with an evidence-based foundation of basic nutrition. Degree-qualified nutritionists often work in multidisciplinary environments and bring an in-depth understanding of how diet, health and food relate.

Careers in Nutrition

Whether you are interested in working with communities, sports teams, businesses or have a passion for food and sustainability, there is a career path for everyone. Below is a summary of broad areas where degree- qualified nutritionists work with many working across these fields and beyond.

Practice of Nutrition

Nutritionists or Dietitians work in practice in clinical or community settings and combine communication skills, knowledge of behaviour change and scientific understanding of evidence to improve health.

Professional roles may include Private Practice Nutritionist, Dietitian, Health Writer, Health Coach, Wellness Coordinator, Community Dietitian or Nutritionist, Recipe Developer.

Potential Employers include Hospitals and Clinics (e.g., Mission Nutrition), Non-Government Organisations and Sports Trusts.

Food Nutrition

Food is at the heart of everything we do in nutrition including creating menu plans and recipes to meet dietary guidelines, finding solutions to feed growing populations, and using technology to develop new food products. Graduates who have a passion for food might consider careers which closely combine knowledge of food and nutrition. Many food companies employ Nutritionists as part of their social responsibility or for research and development.

Professional Roles include Food Safety Specialist; Recipe Development; Product Development; Food and Nutrition Communicator.

Potential Employers include Ministry of Education Ka ora, Ka Ako, My Food Bag, Food providers, manufacturers or retailers (e.g., Fonterra, Silver Fern Farms).

Public Health

Public Health Nutritionists and Dietitians work with communities, within workplace or school settings or whole populations to design, deliver and advocate for policies and programs around improving food choices, food access and health.

Professional Roles include Policy Analyst, Health Policy Advisor, Health Promotor, Healthy Lifestyles Advisor, Evaluation and Research.

Potential Employers include Government (e.g., Ministry of Primary Industries, Ministry of Health) and NGOs (e.g., Heart Foundation, Cancer Society, Stroke Foundation).

Sports Nutrition

Sports Nutritionists work with athletes, sports teams, and clubs to improve performance, recovery, health and wellbeing. Careers are not limited to working with athletes but can include other paths.

Professional roles include Nutritionist for elite sports teams, sports nutrition consultancy, health promotion and product development.

Potential Employers include Professional Sports Teams, Sports Institutes, NGOs, New Zealand Defence Force.

Science and Research

Many nutrition roles involve some research, but some organisations employ science graduates specifically for research. Students with an interest in research or an academic career often continue into postgraduate studies, for example MSc.

Professional roles include Project Coordinator, Clinical Trial Monitor, Lecturer.

Potential Employers include Universities, Research Institutes (e.g., Plant and Food New Zealand), Government and Businesses.

What is the difference between a Registered Nutritionist and a Dietitian?

Anyone can call themselves a “Nutritionist” but only degree-qualified nutritionists can become registered. Many roles within the nutrition field can be completed by a degree-qualified Nutritionist or a Dietitian. Our undergraduate course prepares students for further study to become a Dietitian. Dietitians have specialised training to work with patients and within clinical settings such as hospitals and residential care. Dietitians must be registered to meet the New Zealand Dietitians Board standards. The title of Registered Nutritionist can be used by those who meet the criteria outlined by the Nutrition Society of New Zealand. Before becoming Registered graduates can apply to be Associate Registered Nutritionists. For more details on the difference between Nutritionists, Registered Nutritionists and Dietitians

How can you prepare for your career while you are studying?

Papers from Sports and Exercise Science, Food Science, Public Health, Māori and Pacific Health, Agriculture, Marketing, Science Communication maybe helpful in further tailoring your degree depending on your interests. Early in your degree it would be helpful to visit the University of Otago Career Development Centre. Keep an eye on Seek to view relevant job descriptions and skills employees are looking for. Use Linked-in to find out more about specific roles. Seek advice from Department staff. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities through the Dunedin community (Dunedin volunteers), the University Social Impact Studio and the Department of Human Nutrition which will help provide practical experiences to bolster your CV.

Read more about some of our students and their career paths.

Back to top