Career as a nutritional therapist

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Jenny Anderson is a self-employed nutritional therapist based in London. Jenny was attracted to her career because she realised that a good diet and using the right nutritional supplements had a positive impact on her own health.

What is nutritional therapy?

It is a natural approach to restoring and maintaining good health through the use of diet and supplements. It addresses the underlying causes of health problems rather than just the symptoms.

How does diet affect our health?

Our body cells use the nutrients in the food we eat and drink to grow and repair themselves. The modern diet does not generally provide the range, level or quality of the nutrients we need. Also, factors such as smoking, alcohol, stress, pesticides and pollution can actively lower nutrient levels in the body, and this can lead to a wide range of health problems.

What sort of people use your services?

Anyone – from babies and children to the elderly – can benefit from nutritional therapy. Some clients have specific health problems like asthma, depression, fatigue or arthritis. Others just want to improve their general well-being. Nutritional therapy can also strengthen the immune system.

How do you help your clients?

Before a consultation I send out a detailed questionnaire about health, diet and lifestyle, and a 7-day food diary for clients to record everything they eat and drink for a week. Then I visit the client in their own home for a consultation.

We discuss positive changes to their diet, and I give them an individually tailored programme of lifestyle and dietary changes to put into practice until the next time we meet. I could also recommend that they take nutritional supplements, or undergo tests to see if they have a food intolerance.

How long does it take?

The first consultation lasts between an hour and 90 minutes. Follow-up consultations last around 45 minutes. I try to see clients a minimum of three times during the first six months, and then once a year after that.

What hours do you work?

I work for myself, so I can be flexible. I see clients during normal working hours, but if that isn't convenient for them, I can offer appointments in the evenings and at weekends.

How did you train to become a nutritional therapist?

I did a three-year part-time course at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. Most people on the course were working full or part time as well as studying. The first year was science-based with a lot of theory to learn; after that we began to have supervised practical experience advising clients.

What do you like about the job?

I really like working for myself. I know that the harder I work and the more effort I put into finding clients, the more successful I will become. I also enjoy helping people to improve their health by natural methods.

What qualities make a good nutritional therapist?

You must have an interest in natural health and good food. It's important to be a good communicator and, because you are your own boss, to be self-motivated.

How do you market your business and find new clients?

Word of mouth is probably the most important way – existing clients often recommend me to their friends. I also have a brochure and business cards which I distribute in local shops and I give talks to relevant groups of people, such as pregnant women.

Jenny's route to her career as a nutritional therapist

  • Four A levels including biology and chemistry.
  • MA (Oxon) in Psychology.
  • Diploma from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition.
  • Member of the British Association for Nutritional Therapy.
  • Work experience shadowing other therapists.

Jenny's nutritional therapy tips

  • Science A levels will help you to cope with the diploma course.
  • If you don't have science qualifications you could do a science access course or Foundation Degree.
  • Work experience in a natural health clinic or shadowing qualified nutritional therapists can be helpful.

Nutritional therapist related jobs

Salary of a nutritional therapist

  • Most nutritional therapists are selfemployed and incomes vary.
  • A new entrant will probably receive about £15,000 a year.
  • With experience this could increase to £25,000.
  • An experienced nutritional therapist could earn £35,000.

Career as a nutritional therapist

  • There are no set entry requirements for some diploma courses in nutritional therapy, but some GCSEs/S grades or equivalent qualifications will be helpful. Biology, anatomy, physiology and pathology are useful subjects.
  • To do a degree in nutritional therapy the usual requirements are at least five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and three A levels/four H grades, preferably including biology, human biology, physics or chemistry.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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