So you are probably wondering…what are the highest paying nutrition jobs? Have you heard the rumors that dietitians are not paid enough? While the average salary may leave some room to grow, there is a wide range of what is possible. The max? The limit does not exist!
Let’s start with what our average benchmark salary is for dietitians and then leap from there.
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What is the average pay for a dietitian job?
Registered dietitians have many possible career paths available. The RDN credentials pave the way for numerous opportunities to make a difference, from working in a hospital setting, doing research, having a private practice, or becoming a professor.
The range of pay is quite wide and depends on what work you’re doing, where you live in the country, your experience, and additional certifications (not to mention your ability to negotiate). On average, dietitians make about $60,000 a year.
For more on the average dietitian salary, check out this post.
But if you’re ready to go higher, let’s explore the dietitian jobs that have the potential to make a whole lot more than average. Let’s pull back the curtain to see who is making the most!
13 highest paying dietitian jobs
Dietitians can work in a myriad of settings. Some pay far better than others!
Do you love talking about the benefits of a specific supplement or staying on top of the latest in medical technology? Some registered dietitians become sales representatives for medical companies, such as Abbott, a company that makes adult and infant supplemental formulas.
On average, an Abbott sales rep makes $135,000 per year (1).
You could also work as a sales rep for diabetes supplies, such as glucometers. When you have the opportunity to work on commission, your bonuses may be significant.
Clinical Research Dietitian
A dietitian working in a research setting may be working in a university setting, for a hospital, or in an industry setting. The salary will vary by setting and experience.
Clinical research dietitians may make an annual salary as high as $120,000 per year (2).
Do you have the flexibility to travel? Or are you seeking the ability to take time off between spans of work? You may enjoy working as a contract dietitian. It may be the same kind of work as being hired directly by a hospital or nursing home, but with a specific time frame in place.
Clinical Nutrition Manager
Ready to take the reins in your department with strong leadership? Become a Clinical Nutrition Manager (sometimes called a chief dietitian). leading a department and managing a budget can earn you an average salary of $90,000 (3).
Nutrition Manager dietitians are in leadership roles in hospitals, nursing homes, and the armed forces. And in certain companies, your role may be at a regional or even national level.
Course Creator Dietitian
Do you have a skill set that people keep asking you about? Maybe you should try your hand at launching a course to teach others what you know!
One example is Erica Julson, who is a well-known name in the field as an SEO expert. While her course is a few years old, she has continued to revamp the course and her process to make the most out of her efforts.
Maybe you’d prefer to be on the screen instead of behind the screen? Let’s chat about being a media dietitian – and their salaries – next!
For this information, we chatted with Amy Gorin, an inclusive plant-based dietitian in Stamford, CT, and a media expert.
“As a media dietitian, I work with companies I love as a spokesperson, recipe developer, consultant, and on-air personality. I also freelance write for publications such as Food Network and Everyday Health, and I run a plant-based food blog called Plant Based with Amy. I also run the Master the Media, which is a media-training program for registered dietitians that provides 65 CPEUs. It teaches dietitians how to get their names in the news and skyrocket their incomes via the multiple revenue streams that can come from working with the media.
In my former career, I was a magazine editor. When I went back to school to become a dietitian, I knew that I wanted to combine the two professions to become a media dietitian—and run my own business.
In the past 12 months, I’ve earned $203,000 from my work with brand partnerships as a media dietitian, and in addition to that I have five additional revenue streams–including freelance writing, my Master the Media Coaching Program, and more.”
–Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Master the Media
Sports Nutrition Dietitian
While the average sports nutritionist may not be at the top of the list for highest pay with an average salary of $55,000 or so, a dietitian in private practice may make far more (4, 5, 6). When you’re in charge of your own rates, you could command an hourly consulting rate of 100s of dollars per hour.
The gold-medal standard (ha) certification for specializing in sports nutrition is the Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). Our blog post gives you the full scoop: Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).
Dietitians are well positioned to provide blogs, web copy, emails, and other pieces of content for online businesses. Not only are we well trained to provide accurate, evidence-based information, but we are also nutrition experts that help online content to look good in the eyes of Google (this is in regards to SEO, which Erica Julson teaches in her course we mentioned earlier).
Ana Reisdorf, founder, and owner of a copywriting agency has a team of several dietitians. She offers copywriting services and has her own online course for sale which teaches RDs how to launch their own writing business.
“Last year the business made almost $425k, and I paid myself just under $100,000. The bulk of my business expenses go into paying my contractors. There are 6 core team members and another 4 who come in for special projects. In total, they take a little more than half of what the business made, which is fine. There is no way I could personally make that much on my own, so I am grateful for them!” – Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD CEO and Founder of Reisdorf Writing Services
Do you like offering advice, strategy, and an outside perspective? Look for opportunities to work as a consultant dietitian. The average salary for a dietitian doing consulting work is $93,000, however, the sky’s the limit of how high this pay scale can go. Some consultant dietitians report making nearly $400k in a year (7).
Long term care is a specialty prime for continued growth and the opportunity to create a flexible and financially rewarding career.
Private Practice Dietitian
A private practice for a dietitian can be a part-time side hustle, a full-time one-person show, or a bigger business with multiple employees or contractors. As your own boss, you get to decide what set-up serves your vision the best; keep doing the work that you do the best and learn to delegate the rest.
If you work with clients on a 1:1 basis, at some point you’ll max out your income because there are only 24 hours in the day. But, you can expand your opportunities by exploring other modes of income. Lacie explains:
“Individuals in private practice can both diversify and optimize their time by creating streams of passive income that are not directly connected to education and counseling. Including but not limited to writing, advertising, partnerships, or asynchronous group classes.” –Lacie Peterson, PhD, RDN, BC-ADM, CDCES, FADCES, FAND, Dietetic Internship Director, Clinical Associate Professor Nutrition at Utah State University
Outside of sales, there is more work to be done in the industry as a dietitian. And the pay? Well above average!
One dietitian shared “I get paid $120K plus a $10K annual bonus at my job as a Product Manager. My company is a health technology company that focuses on biometric testing and analytics.
I got into this by working in customer success at my first company as an RD. I helped answer customer questions and contributed to the scientific analysis of literature, eventually moving up to help improve the product itself. I just wanted to share because I think it’s such a cool job. I work on mobile application development, contribute to the scientific understanding of our product, and have the opportunity to help people on a global scale. The company hires RDs in other capacities as well, in positions like content creation, marketing, and research. There are so many options and I just wanted to put it out there to share the wealth!”
Certified Diabetes Educator
Additional training and advanced certifications may pave the path toward a higher salary.
One dietitian shared that “five years ago I got a job as a CDCES and found that was the key in commanding a higher salary. I took the CDE test and I was able to earn more, even though my skills didn’t change after the test. I currently make about $80k and live in Alabama.”
Working in the VA may garner you a higher-than-average salary.
Katie Dodd, MS, RDN, CSG, LD, FAND, shares her previous experience working in the VA:
“An advanced level practice dietitian in the VA has a specialty credential (ex. any of the CDR certifications like the CSG or CDR, or the diabetes certification, etc.) and provides advanced level care to complex patients. An advanced-level practice dietitian doesn’t have to manage people or run programs. They are just recognized for the specialty care they provide.
I was an Advanced Level Practice Home Based Primary Care Dietitian with my specialty credential in geriatrics (Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition). VA pay varies by region, but I was making $100,739 as a GS 12-10 dietitian before leaving my job.”
Did that grab your attention? You can search for job postings in the VA right here.
Your salary is not your only benefit
Keep in mind that your salary is important, but it is not the only benefit you should keep in mind when considering your entire benefits package.
In addition, pay attention to:
- Paid time off, including federal holidays, vacation, and sick time
- Retirement matching
- Insurance, including medical, vision, dental, and also liability
- Annual bonuses
And beyond those benefits, also explore the other aspects that will influence if a job is a good fit for you. Since you will probably spend more time each week in your work than anywhere else, the less-measurable aspects have a significant impact on daily life. No salary can completely compensate for a negative work environment, an inflexible work schedule, a micromanaging boss, a crushing workload, and burnout.
No matter what, no employer is going to lead with their best possible offer. The ball is in your court to negotiate during the interview process as well every 6-12 months. We walk you through how to advocate for yourself right here: The Dietitian’s Guide to Negotiating Pay.
Income vs. expenses
As we chatted through in the average dietitian salary article, dietitians living on either coast and in big cities tend to have a much higher average income.
But…they also tend to have a far higher cost of living.
So, how do you take home the greatest percentage of your salary? Reduce costs where you can…lower your living expenses wherever possible. If you have the opportunity to work remotely and live somewhere that costs less, that might be the best of both worlds.
You can also boost your bottom line by adding another stream of revenue…or two, or three!
Multiple streams of revenue
In a world that can feel pretty unsettling at times, from a global pandemic to the great resignation, we seek security and safety. Having a high-paying job is a welcome buffer from the fears of debt and other financial considerations.
But what is even better than one high-paying job? Having multiple streams of income. It is a smart strategy to consider more than one income stream to reach your total salary and lifestyle goals (and more quickly).
No matter where you work, you have the option to cultivate more than one income stream. From copywriting to course creation to selling digital goods right here in RD2RD, it all adds up!
Katie Dodd is an inspiring example of a dietitian who has leveraged multiple streams of income to have a profitable business that she loves running. Her hard work and strategy afford her a lifestyle that she loves and the security that she appreciates. She explains:
“I think of multiple streams of income like a lake with lots of different streams feeding into it. If one of those streams runs dry, it’s okay: you are still making money. Having multiple streams of income provides security but it also allows you to make more money as a dietitian.”
While your first role as a dietitian is probably not going to launch you into the land of six-figure salaries, you can set your sights on a higher salary. With the right game plan, consistently advocating for yourself, networking, and considering multiple streams of income, you can make well above average.
And as inspiring as these dietitians are in this post, we can continue to raise the standards for our field.
So what will you do next? Will you open up your own store right here on RD2RD and take Katie’s advice to launch a new revenue stream?
Further reading on RD2RD
Right here on RD2RD, we have a collection of blog content to support you in career development. Here are a few of our favorites:
- What is the Average Dietitian’s Salary? (+ Tips for Getting Paid More)15 Dietitian Interview Questions to Prepare You for Job Hunting – Let’s talk about money – M-O-N-E-Y! This post breaks down average dietitian salaries by position and offers tips to get paid more.
- 15 Dietitian Interview Questions to Prepare You for Job Hunting – What are the dietitian interview questions you should prepare for? We’ve got you covered with those, as well as the questions you should be asking your interviewer.
- The Best Unconventional Jobs for Dietitians: Think Outside the Clinical Box!– Move over clinical: if that work doesn’t light you up, open up this post as quickly as you can! We have 28 unconventional jobs for dietitians to explore