For most Registered Dietitians, salary is a highly attractive job perk. Although the majority of RDs do what they do because they're passionate about helping people, it doesn't hurt to be compensated well in return – but not every job offers the same degree of financial incentive. Here's what to know about finding an RD job that pays well, how to improve your odds, and where to look.
Is Becoming a Registered Dietitian Worth It?
Choosing a career as a dietitian is usually an easy choice for those who care about helping others live better lives through nutrition. But not everyone agrees on the value of earning a certification as an RD or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) – which are functionally the same.
The big elephant in the room is the upfront cost. RDs/RDNs have to go through undergrad nutrition programs, complete a supervised dietetic internship, and pass credentialing exams, which can seem like quite a lot if you're just getting started.
The cost of a college education isn't anything to laugh at. Naturally, you might shy away from committing, but the thing to understand is that getting specialty certifications could increase your odds of being paid well.
Leading dietitian and nutrition matching services tend to favor professionals who have proven experience, which usually translates to some form of degree and credentials. If you want a higher salary, you're best off going through the required training.
Registered Dietitian Salary Information
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in May 2021, dietitians and nutritionists earned a median salary of $61,650 annually – or about $29.64 per hour. Most had a bachelor's degree, which is in line with the requirements for RDs and RDNs, and the job outlook projected an estimated growth of 7 percent over the next 10 years.
The Top 5 States with the Highest Salaries for Registered Dietitians
The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly revealed that certain places paid dietitians and nutritionists more than they could expect elsewhere. For annual median wages, the top 5 states were California, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
- California - $85,380
- District of Columbia - $ 80,600
- Hawaii - $75,020
- New Jersey – $74,850
- Rhode Island - $ 74,290
These states are some of the more expensive when it comes to the cost of living. In other words, if you took a job in one of these areas, you should also expect to pay more in rent, gas, and other expenses – just something to think about before you pack up and move across the country.
The Top 5 States for Dietitian and Nutritionist Job Availability
Of course, getting paid is only possible when you can actually find work – so which states might be the best for finding jobs? Well, in terms of total dietitian positions, California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania were the leaders.
Key Factors That Might Impact Your Salary as a Registered Dietitian
Your take-home salary as a registered dietitian will vary depending on your location, but that's not the only factor. Some of the most important determiners of what you'll earn are your experience, education, and who your employer is.
Dietitians and nutritionists with more experience may find it easier to land jobs. For instance, if you're a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) with a master's degree, then you'll probably be a more attractive candidate for research positions or administrative-level jobs in hospital systems.
This isn't to say that you can't work your way up. Just remember that competition is pretty heady in some areas, so looking as good as possible on paper is the safest bet.
Also, having more hands-on experience may put you in a better position to rise to unique challenges and serve your clients. This is particularly important if you want to go solo as an independent counselor!
Your education does more than just decide which credentials you can officially use – It also determines your ability to help niche clients. For instance, to become a pediatric nutritionist, you'd need a firm grasp of children's health issues, development stages, and nutritional needs.
True, it's possible to branch out later by undergoing continuing education, but don't close any doors early on. Leaving yourself open to getting an advanced degree gives you more options, even if you're not ready to commit yet.
Looking at the BLS data, it's apparent that some cities in the same states have significant differences in average salaries – so which employer offers the best compensation?
The answer is that it depends. For example, registered dietitians who work in outpatient care centers tend to make more than those who work in general medical and surgical hospitals. If you helped a pharmaceutical company develop oncology nutrition programs for its trial patients, however, you could command even higher wages. If you're interested in becoming a registered dietitian, be sure to research the salaries in your desired location to ensure you're being paid what you deserve.
Numerous factors impact your pay as a registered dietitian, including which credentials you obtain (RDN/RD vs CNS) and the area where you work. Always remember that investing in yourself gives you more leeway to make lateral career moves and engage in salary negotiation.
Want to see what kind of career-building might help you land that coveted job? Get inspired by taking a peek at a few of these outstanding registered dietitians.