How to become a Nutritional Therapist. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Nutritional Therapist do?
Nutritional therapists help people to improve and maintain their health and sense of wellbeing through diet and nutrition. They use their knowledge of food and nutrition to give advice on diet, which may encourage the body’s natural healing process.
As a nutritional therapist, your work would start with a consultation with your clients. This would involve:
- taking a detailed medical history, covering their moods, stress levels, digestion, diet, exercise and family history
- conducting diagnostic tests, using hair samples and allergy testing
- encouraging clients to understand the link between diet and their own future health.
When you have a clear picture of your client’s needs, you would then provide detailed, individual feedback that could focus on which foods to eliminate or increase, vitamin or mineral supplements and other lifestyle changes.
You could see people of all ages with problems relating to issues with their skin, digestion, stress, migraine, and allergies. Your clients could also include people with chronic illness or children with behavioural or weight problems.
You would usually work in a health clinic or other therapeutic setting and occasionally in patients’ homes. There are no set working hours, however, you may need to cover evenings and weekends to meet clients’ needs.
There may be some travel involved in your normal working day as you are likely to have clients in more than one place or centre.
How much does a Nutritional Therapist do?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries can be around £18,000 a year.
- With experience this can rise to between £24,000 and £36,000 a year.
The majority of nutritional therapists are self-employed and charge an hourly rate, which can be between £60 and over £110 an hour.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
There is no statutory regulation within this area. However, you could increase your career prospects by working towards membership of a professional body, such as the Nutritional Therapy Council, and registration with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (see training section below for details).
The Nutritional Therapy Council (NTC) works closely with other professional bodies and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) to regulate the practice of nutritional therapy. You can join the NTC based on your experience and training or by completing an NTC accredited course (these generally lead to a degree or diploma in nutritional therapy).
To get on to a course you will usually need:
- at least five GCSEs (A-C)
- two or three A levels, possibly including human biology or chemistry.
Alternative qualifications may also be accepted – check with course providers (listed on the NTC website) for details.
If you have a degree, you may be able to take a postgraduate course in nutritional therapy. However, some courses at this level target qualified medical practitioners or other state registered health care professionals, such as dentists, pharmacists, nurses or midwives.
Once you are on an NTC approved course, you will study areas such as health sciences, nutritional therapeutics and practice management. You will also usually have a minimum of 50 hours’ supervised clinical practice with clients.
A driving licence will be useful for this work.
Training and Development
You will be expected to keep your skills and knowledge up to date throughout your career. Membership of a professional body (such as the British Association of Nutritional Therapists (BANT) and the Wholistic Nutritional Medicine Society (WNMS)) would give you access to a range of development opportunities, networking events, and professional indemnity insurance – check their website for details.
Organisations from a variety of complementary therapies, including nutritional therapy, have worked to create a single (voluntary) regulatory body, known as the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). The aim of the CNHC is to protect the public by registering practitioners, setting standards for safe practice and providing a means of redress if things go wrong.
It is anticipated that health professionals and the public will use the CNHC register to check if a therapist is of sufficient standard, so it may help your reputation and business if you are registered.
Nutritional therapy is one of the first areas to have access to the CNHC register. You can join via your professional body (check with them for details) or directly through the CNHC website.
- Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council
Skills and Knowledge
- sensitive to the needs of your clients
- a genuine desire to help people
- the ability to understand scientific and nutritional concepts and information
- the ability to communicate complex information and treatment plans
- time management skills
- good listening and negotiation skills
- a logical approach to problem solving
- the ability to keep an emotional distance from clients
- an understanding of when to refer a patient to a conventional medical practitioner.
You may find opportunities for work within private practice, and occasionally with the prison service, NHS and mental health groups.
Your prospects will be greatest as a self-employed therapist. To be successful you need to build up and maintain a sound reputation and client base. You will need to be prepared to market your business, which may involve working long hours at first until you have established your practice.
Depending on your area of interest, you may be able to build up links with local healthcare providers and receive referrals from GPs and local maternity services. You may also find opportunities within health promotion or in areas such as sport development, the media and marketing.