The Key Skills Needed To Become A Nutritionist

nutritionist skills

If you’ve ever considered a career in diet and nutrition, it’s natural you’d be curious about the key nutritionist skills and characteristics you’ll need to succeed.

OriGym’s complete guide explores all the best job skills for a nutritionist to have, as well as how you can work on developing the nutritionist skills you need to succeed. 


The first step to becoming a nutritionist, though, is to first achieve a qualification in the field, and OriGym’s prestigious sports nutrition course offers the ideal introduction to the industry.

Learn about our courses today by downloading our FREE prospectus, or get in touch with our dedicated expert team to find out more. We’ve also linked a free resource below, to help you get the best possible start in your nutrition career.


Develop Sports Nutrition Expertise with OriGym

Enquire today to hear how our sports nutrition courses could be the next step in your career!

What Is A Nutritionist?

While this may seem a simple question, especially as we’re predominantly looking at the skills needed to be a nutritionist, it’s vital to understand exactly what we’re exploring. Fitness can often have overlapping or similar terms, and addressing misconceptions can help us to make a more informed decision on career options.

In simple terms, a nutritionist is someone who is qualified to dispense formal advice on diet, nutrition, and how food affects the body, both positively and negatively. 

They’ll often (but not always) have a degree in nutrition, or a nutrition-based field, and have worked on developing their nutritionist skills, which we’ll cover in more detail shortly, over the course of their study.

They’re commonly used in conjunction with a personal trainer to create comprehensive plans for those looking to achieve their fitness goals, lose weight, or develop a more complete understanding of nutrition for their workout plans.

Nutritionists also work in more clinical settings, such as hospitals and clinics, providing expert support to those who need it most, as well as designing plans that are designed to get those patients back on their feet.

Because of this wide range of areas a nutritionist can work in, they need to fully develop and understand the right nutritionist skills, as well as how they can deploy these in their day-to-day duties.

Soft vs Hard Nutritionist Skills

Fully understanding your nutritionist skills (for your resume or CV) is a complex process, especially as different skills can apply to nutrition that might not apply to other areas of your expertise.

From experience, we’ve found that the best way to do this is to break these skills needed to be a nutritionist down into soft and hard skills.

Soft skills are the kind of trait that you can’t learn from a textbook or online. They’re personal characteristics that define who you are, and how you deliver your services. These are usually measured through emotional intelligence, which can make them tricky to quantify.

For example, your levels of empathy and understanding would be classified as a soft skill - this still affects your ability to get involved with your role as a nutritionist, but can’t be learnt by conventional methods.

Hard skills are the opposite - these are more tangible nutritionist skills that can be learned, and developed over time through regular practice and study. An example of this would be how well you understand macro- and micronutrients, and how they fit into an average diet.

When it comes to the nutritionist skills needed to be successful, let’s explore the key traits you can work on, as well as what you’ll need to prioritise to excel in your field.

Soft Nutritionist Skills

First, let’s look at some of the more emotional traits and characteristics that form fantastic foundations for your nutritionist skills.

#1 - Great Communication Skills

Communicating is a key part of any role in the fitness industry. Whether you’re a personal trainer who’s passing on instructions, a gym instructor organising your class members, or a nutritionist outlining the benefits of eating healthily, it’s crucial to put that information across in an insightful and intelligent way.

This is perhaps one of the most important nutritionist skills for your resume. Your level of communication is often an indicator of how accomplished you are in your role, and how well you relate to those you’re helping.

It can also be a good way to establish relationships with those you’re working with, and help you to build bonds of trust. This can be especially helpful with clients that have issues with diet and nutrition, or find it difficult to enact meaningful changes in their lives.

Not to mention that, if you’re working in a clinical environment as a nutritionist, skills like communication are absolutely invaluable, and offer an excellent way to ensure that issues are dealt with effectively, quickly and, above all, safely.

#2 - Compassion & Empathy

As we’ve previously discussed, emotional intelligence can often be difficult to measure or keep track of. One of the best ways to understand your own emotional intelligence, as well as being one of the most important skills of a nutritionist, is how compassionate you are.

Empathy and compassion are crucial in any job where you work closely with others, but it’s of particular importance in fitness. 

You need to be able to understand others’ motivations, and how they might be feeling if they’ve achieved (or not achieved) something they’ve been working towards, as well as how you can better tailor your advice and consultation to their current emotional state.

This not only underpins many crucial job skills for a nutritionist, but it’s also a great trait to take into consideration when thinking about your own accomplishments, too.

Giving yourself credit when you’ve achieved something you’ve worked hard for, and cutting yourself some slack if you’ve not quite managed it this time, can significantly improve your overall mental health, and, in turn, the way you deliver your nutritional advice.

#3 - Excellent Time Keeping Skills

This is perhaps one of the more common traits that are mentioned in job applications and CVs, and for good reason. Being punctual is an excellent characteristic to have, and it’s one the most important soft skills of a nutritionist.

Regardless of whether you’re working in a freelance capacity, or you’re contracted at a more clinical facility or hospital, ensuring that you arrive when you should, and have the right amount of time to move between consultations and appointments, is absolutely crucial.

While this can seem like a basic step, and one that you assume you’d do automatically, it can be a difficult skill to master. Many people struggle with timekeeping, and working on this soft nutritionist skill is an ideal way to make sure you’re always in control of your commitments.

We’d strongly advise making a note of your appointments. Some people choose to do this using an app or calendar on their phone, but it’s a great idea to use a dedicated fitness journal to keep track of your consultations in another place.

You might also want to build in a habit of setting off slightly earlier than you might need to, to allow for more travel time. This is important if you’re driving to the gym or hospital, but it’s equally important if you’re walking to work, too, especially as bad weather can increase your travel time.

#4 - Well-Organised

This ties heavily into our previous point, but being organised is hugely helpful when you’re thinking about the list of skills a food nutritionist needs to possess. Let us explain why.

In a similar vein to personal training, you’ll need to keep track of any appointments or consultations you have with clients, as well as ensuring that you always have the correct data to support your ideas and suggestions.

This is where your organisational skills need to be as sharp as possible, especially as your business begins to grow, you start to take on more responsibilities and clients, and you need to manage your time effectively. 

Keeping track of all of this data can prove a challenge, especially if you’re new to the industry, or you’ve struggled with organisation in the past, which is why we’d suggest finding a piece of software that can help you to organise your schedule, as well as add in clients to available time slots.

Utilising technology, as well as more simple options like a diary or journal, can substantially improve your overall levels of organisation, and ensure that you’re always where you need to be, when you need to be there.

#5 - Provide Encouragement

All of us, at one time or another, will suffer from a lack of motivation. That’s especially true of fitness and our diet - these can often be sticking points for the vast majority of people, and rediscovering motivation can be difficult.

That’s where you need to be adaptable in your role as a nutritionist. One of the key nutritionist skills is the ability to provide encouragement, motivation and support when your clients are at their lowest, or are finding it difficult to get going.

Understanding your clients goals and motivations are a key way to do this. Learning each individual that you work with, what they’re aiming for, and how you can help them to achieve that, is an essential part of being a successful nutritionist.

For instance, using SMART goals and simple steps can help a client to visualise how each step along the way is ultimately going to help them achieve their goals, and can provide a more manageable outlook for their future.

Or even just a short conversation that helps a client to reevaluate their goals, making them more realistic, can go a long way towards helping them with any issues they may be experiencing to do with motivation.

#6 - Highly Self-Motivated

While motivating others is one of the most important nutritionist skills you can work on, it’s just as important to work on motivating yourself, especially as we can all struggle with inspiration at times.

Having a good grasp of what motivates you, as well as your own overall goals and aspirations, is crucial to ensuring that you can provide the best possible experience for your clients and customers. 

This is especially true on the days where you’re really struggling to find the motivation or drive to do what you need to do. This might be because of personal reasons, or perhaps you’ve just lost sight of why you’re undertaking a role as a nutritionist. 

Being able to give yourself that boost is absolutely crucial, and can even help you to pass on helpful advice to your clients and customers. For instance, if you find a particular tactic is helpful in motivating you, you could then pass that information on.

Or, if you find inspiration through specific motivational running quotes, you might find it helpful to make those a part of your nutritionist skillset, and deploy them when your clients are struggling to get going.

#7 - Enthusiastic About Nutrition

It might seem self-explanatory, but having a passion for diet and nutrition is perhaps one of the most important skills needed to be a nutritionist. Enthusiasm is one of the key aspects of helping your clients achieve their goals.

There’s actually a good reason behind why this is one of the key job skills for a nutritionist. If you seem noticeably interested in what you’re talking about, or you come across as enthusiastic about the advice you’re giving, it can significantly help a client make a healthy lifestyle change.

Showing enthusiasm and passion for a specific way of thinking, or even a diet plan that’s perhaps worked for others in the past, can have a significant impact on how likely your client is to get involved with, and stick to, the plans you outline.

Having a good level of enthusiasm also ties heavily into the idea of self-motivation. If you’re working alongside clients and customers everyday, doing something you’re passionate about, you’ll feel far more motivated, and willing to go the extra mile for those you’re working with.

#8 - Committed To Self-Development

Often, with careers in fitness, you’ll need to continue developing and growing in your field to make sure that you can retain your clients, as well as provide the most up-to-date information to those you work with.

This is especially true in nutrition, meaning that a strong desire to continually develop is one of the most important nutritionist skills you’ll need to possess to succeed in the industry.

Understanding how and why development is important often comes from learning what you can gain from following the latest updates in the world of nutrition.

Development doesn’t have to be through strict academic courses, though - something as simple as following online articles (such as those on OriGym’s insightful blog), reading a book from an author you admire, or browsing scientific journals for the latest in cutting edge developments. 

However, undertaking additional courses (OriGym’s Level 5 Obesity and Weight Management course, for instance) not only provides you with additional expertise in the field, but your additional qualification makes you immediately more attractive to potential clients.

Hard Nutritionist Skills

#1 - Knowledgeable About Nutrition

As we’ve previously mentioned, hard nutritionist skills are those you’ve worked on over time, and can continue to build upon as you develop as a professional. Arguably the most important of these is a firm understanding of the principles of nutrition, diet, and how food affects the body.

Of course, as you train as a nutritionist, skills of this nature become part of what you know, and what you’re passionate about. Learning these skills, and ensuring that you retain and deploy this knowledge in your consultations, is absolutely crucial if you’re looking to succeed in the field.

This includes all the components of a healthy diet, such as the right minerals and vitamins for energy, the correct dosages of macronutrients, and how you can effectively structure a diet to incorporate all of those.

As you might expect, these are all elements you’ll learn as part of any good Level 5 nutrition course, but it’s also important to build an understanding of how you can include each of these elements into a tailored diet plan for the clients you’re working with.

We would also strongly recommend supplementing that more academic knowledge with the suggestions, recipes, ideas and information that nutritional resources (such as blogs, articles and books) can provide.

Knowledge is something that you’ll continue to develop over the course of your career in nutrition, making this one of the most important nutritionist skills you can work on.

#2 - A Good Understanding Of Marketing

While it’s not necessarily one of the first things you think of if you’re wondering “what skills must a nutritionist have”, marketing can make a huge difference when you’re looking for clients.

Even a good grasp of the fundamentals of marketing can have a huge positive impact on how well you do as a freelance nutritionist, as well as how you frame yourself to those who are looking for specific packages or services that you offer.

Marketing is an umbrella term that incorporates all the things you can do to market yourself as a nutritionist. There are plenty of simple steps you can follow as part of your nutritionist business plan.

Setting up social media pages dedicated to your nutritionist business, building a simple website for clients to book consultations with you, and even producing business cards and flyers that better advertise your business, are all easy ways to get started with a dedicated group of clients.

Certain nutrition courses, such as OriGym’s industry-leading sports nutrition course, will even offer advice and guidance on how best to market your business, as well as providing support for your future career endeavours.

Is Becoming A Nutritionist Hard?

Now that we’ve established all the nutritionist skills for your resume, it’s important to address one of the more frequently asked questions - is it difficult to get qualified as a nutritionist? 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to this question. To become a nutritionist, you’ll need to have completed an accredited qualification, as well as possess all the nutritionist skills we’ve mentioned above. 

These courses can be completed as part of a degree, or as a vocational qualification through a registered provider like OriGym. As you might expect, though, a degree is completed over the course of a few years in a university.

With OriGym’s Level 5 sports nutrition course, on the other hand, you’re guided through the whole process by a team of dedicated experts, all of whom have experience with nutrition, who can answer any questions you have, 7 days a week.

And with an average completion time of 12 weeks, you can qualify much quicker than you might with other options. 

Ultimately, though, how easy it is to qualify as a nutritionist depends on the effort you put in, as well as how effectively you can develop the hard skills needed to be a nutritionist.

Before You Go!

With this article, we aimed to outline all the key nutritionist skills needed to succeed in the industry, as well as how you can expect to incorporate each of these into your consultations.

The first step, though, is to qualify as a nutritionist. OriGym’s prestigious sports nutrition course takes you from novice to expert in as little as 12 weeks, with expert guidance every step of the way. Download our FREE prospectus to learn more today!


Develop Sports Nutrition Expertise with OriGym

Enquire today to hear how our sports nutrition courses could be the next step in your career!

Written by Chris Allsobrook

Senior Content Editor

Chris is a former English teacher, turned content editor. He holds a first-class honours degree in English Language and Creative Writing from the University of Central Lancashire, before going on to complete his teacher training, and obtain a PGCE at Liverpool John Moore’s.

Chris is a keen runner and is currently undertaking both his fitness instructing and personal training qualifications here at OriGym. 

Outside of fitness, you’ll often find him gaming, watching the football, cooking, or spending time with his family.

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