Let’s talk about money – M-O-N-E-Y!
While money can still be a bit of a taboo topic, keeping things a secret keeps you in the dark about what salary you should be asking for during interviews and reviews and opens the door to pay inequity.
In this article, we’ll be pulling back the curtain on what an average dietitian’s salary is. For this article, we’ll be citing data from a few different sources, including Salary.com, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) salary calculator as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And by the way, the AND salary calculator is free for members (1, 2).
The short answer? The average salary for dietitians is $60,000 with a range of $42,000 to $300,00 and beyond.
The long answer? The salary depends on a lot of different factors. Your salary can depend on what kind of dietitian work you’re doing and in what setting, where you live, if you’re an employee or contractor…as well as how well you’re able to negotiate, and even your mindset. (Psst: we’ll have tips on those, too).
Ready for the details? Let’s dive in!
Disclosure: contains affiliate links. As an affiliate, RD2RD earns a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you.
Average Dietitian Salaries by Job Type
These days, the Registered Dietitian Credential opens a LOT of doors. We work in a wide range of venues and help our patients and clients to live healthier lives in many different ways. We are creating an impact! Here are some of the roles that dietitians can have…and what you might expect to make.
A clinical dietitian is what you might first picture when you picked nutrition as your major; the lab coat, managing patient’s care while they’re in the hospital to recover from a surgery or major health event.
And while working as a clinical dietitian might be your first job, the entry-level pay is probably not going to make you a millionaire. The average clinical dietitian’s salary is $57,000.
How to boost it? Consider taking on leadership roles, getting specialty certificates (such as the Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (CSO), and negotiating.
The average sports dietitian salary for those who are employees, such as working for a college sports team is $52,000 (3). However, you can raise that annual salary quite a bit if you launch a successful private practice and become your own boss or work in another setting, such as product development or research.
If you’d like to learn more about this niche, check out our post: Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).
There is no exact average consultant dietitian salary. Since being a consultant can include a myriad of different work setting and roles, it is tricky to give a precise average. However, this is likely to be a higher paying job on an hourly or project basis.
Not all contract work is clinical. This blog post rounds up some unique roles that dietitians can have: The Best Unconventional Jobs for Dietitians | RD2RD.
WIC dietitians work to provide supplemental food assistance to women, infants and children under the age of 5. The average WIC dietitian’s salary is just under $54,000 (4, 5). This is another common first job for dietitians new to the field.
Speaking a second language or having a breastfeeding certification may boost your income in this specialty.
Public Health Dietitian
A public health dietitian may make below the average annual salary. They may make just under $58,000 per year (6).
What does a public health dietitian do? “Public health nutrition is the application of nutrition and public health principles to design programs, systems, policies and environments that aims to improve or maintain the optimal health of populations and targeted groups.
Community nutrition encompasses individual and interpersonal-level interventions that create changes in knowledge, attitudes, behavior and health outcomes among individuals, families or small, targeted groups within a community setting (7)”.
Long-Term Care Dietitian
The average annual salary for a dietitian working in long-term care as an employee is $56,000 (7).
However, long-term care is a great opportunity to open up your own business and become a consultant. We cover those details with an expert interview, right here: Long-Term Care Dietitians: Responsibilities, Resources, and Tips.
These days, about 10% of dietitians work in long-term care (8).
Private Practice Dietitian
What to know how you might get paid above average…like, way above average? Launch your own business and become your own boss.
Private practice dietitians see clients in an outpatient setting, generally establishing themselves as experts in a particular nutrition niche. Having your own company has the potential to be one of the highest-paying nutrition jobs.
There is no cap on what a private practice dietitian’s salary can be.
Is this a bit scarier than working for someone else? It can be. But the rewards can be far sweeter. It is common for RDs in private practice to report making 6-figure incomes.
Being a military dietitian will garner you a salary that is about average for the rest of the niches. The average Army dietitian salary is about $62,000…unless you’re in Nevada – the average salary for a military dietitian is the highest, surpassing $70,000 a year (9).
In the military, your benefits may include a housing allowance and other robust benefits. These benefits vary by branch and if you’re enlisted or not.
Note: there can be an age cap to work in the military. For example, to work as an Air Force dietitian, you must be between the ages of 18 and 41.
The average salary for a dietitian working in a school setting is $55,000 per year (11). This job title might be nutrition service director or nutrition supervisor.
The School Nutrition Specialist (SNS) is a credential that you might consider pursuing in order to leverage a higher income.
(Psst: this is one of seven specialty certifications for dietitians that we rounded up for you, right here.)
Corporate Wellness Dietitian
A corporate wellness dietitian may have a salary that is well above average. In this niche, the average take-home pay is $84,000 (12).
Corporate wellness dietitians may work with their clients individually and in groups. They may be an employee of their company or corporate wellness dietitians may have their own business and contract with one or more companies.
Working to support veterans may also boost your bottom line. According to Indeed.com, dietitians in the VA system make $69,958, almost 20% more than the national average salary (13).
Roles in the VA include clinical, outpatient, and food service.
Another benefit? The time off! Lisa Andrews of Sound Bites Nutrition chimes in that “11 paid federal holidays per year is also a great perk” of working in the VA.
Eating Disorder Dietitian
If you’d like to make above average, consider working as an eating disorder dietitian. Their average salary is almost $82,000 (14).
This is a niche in which you have the opportunity to pursue a board certification: the Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. Not only will this demonstrate excellence in the field, but the certification can also be a tool to further leverage your income. More on this credential can be found here: Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a CEDRD.
Factors that Affect Dietitian Salary
How many other factors influence what pay you might be offered…and what number you finally land on? A lot! Starting with your skills in negotiating.
The number one tip to make more money as a dietitian? Negotiate!
We cover many tips on negotiating, right here: The Dietitian’s Guide to Negotiating Pay.
If the employer makes an offer that is well below the going rates you’ve researched, counter with what you’ve discovered. Show them the numbers and go from there. The right thing for the employer to do at that point is to save face and make a reasonable offer. If an employer does not want to negotiate, it’s a red flag.”
Lacie offers more advice on negotiating: it isn’t just during the interview!
Getting an additional degree may help to boost your earnings, but it is not a guarantee. Some companies pay more for a master’s or doctoral degree than if you have a bachelor’s degree only.
According to the AND Salary calculator, getting a master’s degree might boost your hourly rate by a little less than $1. That was Ana Reisdorf’s experience: “Getting my master’s bumped me up maybe $1 an hour. That wasn’t really worth it.” Better news: the doctorate may increase your earning potential by $10 an hour.
You can decide what makes the most sense for you based on your own career goals and budget. This minimal increase may not be worth the expense and effort, especially if you’re paying for your own degree.
Best case scenario? Find an employer that will subsidize your tuition.
A master’s degree in nutrition is far from the only option. Some dietitians pursue a master’s degree in business (MBA), a master’s degree in public health (MPH), healthcare administration, or healthcare informatics.
You can also consider pursuing a specialty board certification. The Academy has several to choose from, depending on your niche. Examples include oncology nutrition, renal nutrition, and sports dietetics (we have an in-depth post on the CSSD certification, right here).
Having a board certification may increase your hourly rate by almost $3, according to the AND salary calculator.
It is common to get paid more with experience. “those with 20 or more years of experience earn a median wage $11.08 per hour above those in the field under 5 years (15).”
But always remember: you are your own best advocate. These conversations often happen during an annual review, but you can ask to evaluate your performance and compensation at any time.
Dietitian salaries vary widely depending on location. In general, a greater cost of living correlated with a higher salary (16, 17). For example, dietitians working in California and New York will be offered a higher salary than a dietitian in the midwest.
Similarly, dietitians working in the city often make more than those working in rural areas, but not always. Wyoming and Alaska offer higher wages than you might guess!
Practice pearl: As you calculate your total take-home pay, keep in mind that cities and states that tend to pay more also tend to cost more to live there. If you have the opportunity to work remotely, you have the potential to maximize your income while minimizing your living expenses. Keep licensure in mind if you’re doing Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT).
W2 vs. 1099 Positions
What’s the difference between being a W2 employee and a 1099 contractor? The answer is who is the boss and who pays for taxes and other expenses.
If you’re employed by an organization, you are paid on a regular basis and your employer takes out your taxes from each paycheck. You may also have benefits such as health insurance and retirement matching.
However, if you’re a contractor, you’re paid according to the terms of your contract. In this case, you are your own boss and are responsible for setting aside funds for your tax payments as well as paying for your own benefits, such as health insurance
As a contractor, your hourly rate should be far higher than as an employee to compensate for these additional financial obligations.
As a contractor, you get to set your rates!
Two of the biggest factors in how much you make are your mindset and your ability to negotiate. This is tough in a female-dominated field; we aren’t taught this in school and money discussions are often considered to be taboo.
But: we can change this by talking about money more often, doing our research and continuing to advocate for ourselves and our field at large.
Lacie Peterson explains that “mindset is a very important consideration in making more money. If someone wants a higher salary but doesn’t believe their work is worth it, they may not be as likely or willing to ask for a raise and start the negotiation process.”
Tips for Getting Your Best Salary
The best way to boost your salary is to first do your research. No employer is going to offer their best option right off the bat. Ask for their salary offer range and have your own goal in mind. Work together to find a salary and benefits package that feels good to you both.
We have a lot more tips, tricks, and strategies to negotiate a higher income, here.
The whole package
Your salary is a very important number, but it isn’t the whole package nor is it the only thing that is important.
As you’re exploring roles, keep all benefits in mind as you calculate which role is a good fit for you or not. Beyond the salary, this can include:
- Medical, vision and dental insurance
- Retirement matching
- Continuing education stipend
And at the end of the day, you need to enjoy the work that you’re doing. No amount of zeros in your bank account will keep you satisfied long-term if the work or the work environment is unfulfilling or overly stressful. You can also consider the commute, your potential to continue learning and progressing, your relationships with your peers and supervisor, flexibility of work hours and the ability to work from home.
The average dietitian’s salary today can represent a jumping-off point, if we work together. As a field, as we talk about money, we can join forces to raise this average higher and higher!
Having multiple revenue streams is one way to boost your overall income. On RD2RD, we empower dietitians to make their digital goods work harder for them. As you design the perfect patient handouts, slide decks and ebooks, set up your own shop on RD2RD to make passive income.
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:
- 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