So you have graduated from Nutrition college, and after three or maybe even five years of hard work, dedication and sweat, you can now proudly flaunt your degree certificate which you have carefully preserved in your folder. As you scour through job portals, and prep your resume in anticipation of a rewarding career, you frequently encounter a footnote attached to job announcements that reads ‘SALARY - As per Industry Standards’. You have gotten so accustomed to seeing this that you willfully ignore it. The true realization of what this means dawns upon you when you actually get your first job offer. The numbers seem a bit off - maybe they forgot to add an extra ‘zero’ to your salary? Or wait, shouldn’t the annual package in fact be your monthly salary?
The sad truth is that nutrition jobs don’t pay well. And as human-beings who spend the better part of their lives eating nutrient dense foods, our minds are sound enough to know already that wallowing in self-pity and complaining about this is in fact a lost cause.
Peanuts may be good for your health... Doesn't mean you get paid by them as salary!
Unfortunately, the situation may not improve anytime soon and thus, this post will not only attempt to analyse why nutrition jobs pay less but also offer a remedy.
Is there a way for well-qualified nutritionists and dieticians to earn a respectable income for themselves?
For starters, if you are a nutritionist or a dietician who is reading this, and if you are already sensitized, I would like you to pause for a moment and ask yourself if you have been in any of the below mentioned situations before:
An under-appreciated employee at a pharma company
A moonlighting saleswoman at a gym or last but definitely the worst,
An automaton at a hospital whose job is to follow orders dished out by doctors whose nutrition knowledge, let’s be honest, is questionable*.
(*A rare breed of doctors will gladly acknowledge that medical school textbooks had 1-2 paragraphs on nutrition and that sound advice on this subject be sought from experts. However, not all of us have been fortunate enough to cross paths or work with this cohort.)
If the thought of one or all of these situations made you squirm, then congratulations! You are a smart, knowledgeable nutritionist who respects their profession and understands clearly that the industry doesn’t respect nutritionists! Now let’s do a deep-dive on the why?
Focus on curative versus preventive care:
It cannot be disputed that India needs good nutritionists and dieticians, especially with us staring at the obesity, diabetes and chronic disease epidemic. Doctors may be good at treating the sick, but not suited for keeping people healthy. But sadly, our health industry is by and large disease-focused and not health-focused. No wonder cardiologists who perform high-tech procedures like angioplasties get rewarded more than primary care physicians who educate their patients and promote their health so that they would not need these procedures in the first place! The same is true of nutritionists as well. Nutritionists getting paid less has less to do with their lack of competency, but more to do with the bias that our industry has for curative over preventive care.
Salaries in any given field are often dictated by industry norms. Why do actors get paid crores for product endorsements, or CEO's of companies get rewarded with stock options and perks? At the core of it, remuneration is proportionate to ‘perceived value’. Higher the perceived value, greater is the remuneration. Sadly, in the nutrition space, the ‘perceived value’ of nutritionists and dietitians is low. Hence, the salaries are low.
Lack of differentiation:
Hundreds, maybe thousands of nutritionists and dietitians graduate from colleges every year - all equipped with similar skills. Specialization opportunities are limited. Unable to differentiate themselves, young nutritionists often fall prey to pharma industries, gyms, and hospitals and take up whatever first job is offered to them. In such institutions, nutritionists end up conforming to old practices and have not much say in how the business should be run. With very little growth opportunity, inevitably, intellectual stagnation creeps in after a while which leads to frustration.
Poor negotiation skills:
In an industry where nutritionists are perceived as easily replaceable, the shots are called by the employers with very little room for negotiation. It is not uncommon for young nutritionists to be recruited for unpaid internships which in fact should be fully-paid jobs. While engineering and management schools have on-campus placements where minimum salary standards are decided by colleges, such practices have not gained popular acceptance in nutrition schools.
Luckily, it’s not all bad news! Even though our industry may be biased towards curative medicine, the consumers do understand the importance of wellness and are willing to pay a premium for it (provided they see value in it). The spurt in the growth of wellness spas, retreats and a whole plethora of health and wellness products is testimony to this. This opens up a great opportunity for nutritionists and dieticians to establish themselves as entrepreneurs or ‘Nutripreneurs’ as we love to call them!
Now that we understand why nutrition jobs pay less, in Part 2, we would like to explore the solutions. In Part 2, we provide you with 5 simple alternatives to low-paying nutrition jobs! (CLICK TO READ)
If you have an opinion or a story to share about how you felt underpaid or undervalued as a nutritionist, please do share below.
- Dr. Vishal Marwah (MS, MBBS) and Dt. Tehzeeb Lalani (BS)
The authors of this article are Entrepreneurs and Founders of the Nutritionist Entrepreneurship Program. The views expressed are personal and without bias towards any particular profession/community.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the 6 week Nutritionist Entrepreneurship Program, and how it can transform your career!