How to become an animal nutritionist (with tips and steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Animal or veterinary nutritionists ensure that animals kept in captivity are healthy and happy. This means providing them with enough nutrients to keep them strong and healthy, but not so many that they become overweight. If you're interested in working with animals, you might be interested in learning more about how to obtain this role. In this article, we explain what an animal nutritionist is and how to become one, with a discussion of their main duties, where they work and tips to help you find a job in this field.

What is an animal nutritionist?

An animal nutritionist, also called a veterinary nutritionist, is a specialist in animal nutrition. They work to ensure that animals are healthy and happy by providing them with the right nutrients for their lifestyle. Veterinary nutritionists are experts in the field of animal science and create diets and lifestyle plans for all types of animals. They help animal owners figure out what food their animal needs on an individual basis, considering its breed, age, activity level and environment. The job is highly rewarding as you get to provide a range of animals with healthy food and a good lifestyle.

Related: Dietitian vs. nutritionist: what's the difference?

How to become a veterinary nutritionist

If you want to become a veterinary nutritionist, there are a few key steps to take. Primarily, it helps to have the appropriate qualifications for the job and the right skill set and knowledge about animal nutrition. It's also useful to gain some prior experience before starting your career. Some of the steps to take include:

1. Get a bachelor's degree

Most people start with a bachelor's degree in animal science or nutrition. Animal science degrees are available at many colleges and universities, including those that offer online programmes. You may also pursue an undergraduate programme in human-animal studies if you're already interested in working with animals before expanding into animal nutrition with an additional course or master's degree. If you already have a bachelor's degree in another subject area, consider taking additional courses in animal studies or animal welfare. These help you develop the knowledge base required for this career path.

Related: What does a zookeeper do? (Plus salary and skills)

2. Consider doing a master's degree

Most job roles in animal nutrition require a bachelor's degree. Some employers may also require a master's degree or PhD, in addition to experience working with animals in a professional setting. Some individuals who favour practical work over studying choose to take their master's part-time, so they may continue to work and earn practical experience while studying for their degree. A bachelor's degree may take anywhere from two to four years to complete, and a relevant master's degree usually takes another two years after that.

Related: How to write your degree on your CV (with steps and FAQs)

3. Get relevant experience

Get experience working with animals by volunteering at zoos or gaining work experience in veterinary practices. If there aren't any volunteer opportunities available near where you live, look for other opportunities, such as internships or summer jobs at farms that raise livestock for food purposes. Here, you see how a farmer cares for their animals and what requirements each animal has. Some of these experiences may be unpaid but may help you to secure further paid work in the future. You might even want to join an organisation that provides opportunities for people to get into animal care.

Related: What does a farm worker do? (Duties, skills and salary)

4. Take part in extra courses

Completing extra courses and qualifications may improve your employability. A degree or PhD is a good start, but experience and extra knowledge are also essential. Many colleges or education centres offer extra courses that specifically help to improve people's employability skills. Universities also offer opportunities for hands-on experience. Do some research into courses available in your local area.

Related: Top 20 popular jobs for animal lovers in the UK

5. Register with the Nutrition Society

Registering with the Nutrition Society provides more opportunities for pre-entry work experience at any level. Additionally, science-based graduates may want to join the Association for Nutrition. Many people struggle to find work in this field, but these organisations may direct you towards various opportunities and allow you to gain more experience.

6. Work on your IT and advanced mathematics

IT and advanced maths are the two main skills required to work as a veterinary nutritionist. It's useful to ensure your IT skills are strong enough to handle digital workloads. Advanced maths skills allow you to calculate as efficiently as possible when designing an animal's diet.

7. Develop strong problem-solving skills

Working out the right lifestyle and diet for an animal means considering a lot of background factors. This involves an element of problem-solving, monitoring all of these factors and deciding which are the most important. For example, if an animal is obese, ensure they get enough physical activity to improve that. Every animal is unique, so each situation requires a unique solution.

8. Develop strong communication skills

Depending on the work environment, you may communicate with a lot of different people in this job. Therefore, it helps to get your point across well to avoid any miscommunication and to make sure each animal gets the right treatment. Ensure you also use the right terminology when speaking to different professionals, such as farmers, vets or pet owners. To develop your communication skills, connect with veterinary nutritionists online and through networking events. Ask them about their experiences and what advice they may be able to offer you. Learning about careers and experiences first-hand may help you improve your skills.

What does a veterinary nutritionist do?

Veterinary nutritionists are responsible for the dietary needs of animals. Their main duty is to keep animals happy and healthy by monitoring their diets and lifestyles. Animal nutrition scientists study the nutritional requirements of different species, design feedstuffs for those species, conduct research on animal nutrition and analyse the environmental impact of food production processes. You may monitor how much physical activity the animal does and examine the grass and forage available to them. Some veterinary nutritionists complete lab research and use their findings to benefit other animals.

Depending on the work setting, you may answer emergency calls. This may involve helping vets with sick animals or rescuing animals that are malnourished. This ensures a good quality of care for each animal and helps them get back to normal health. Some veterinary nutritionists complete a lot of office work to complete tasks such as nutrition analysis. They design diet plans, conduct further research and keep records of all the animals they're currently helping. It's beneficial to stay organised, so each animal receives the correct individual treatment.

Related: 7 types of nutritionists (plus salaries and duties)

Where do veterinary nutritionists work?

Veterinary nutritionists work in a variety of settings, including:

  • private organisations

  • government agencies

  • universities

  • hospitals and medical centres

  • research institutes

  • zoos

  • farms

  • pet food or pet supply organisations

  • clinics specialising in animal nutrition

Related: Work in animal welfare: 10 interesting jobs (plus salary)

Tips for finding veterinary nutritionist jobs

If you're looking for a job in the animal nutrition field, it helps to be strategic about your search. Many different types of jobs are available, and some require more specific skills than others. A useful way to find job opportunities is by researching the career path you want. Consider the following tips:

Look in your local area

Depending on where you live, there may be a variety of jobs available in your local area. Look at agricultural workplaces or veterinary practices close to you. If there aren't a lot of choices, expand your search and research the most efficient commute options.

Follow your specific interests

Look into what kinds of organisations are offering jobs in this field and see if they have any openings. If they do have open positions, see if there's anything else you may do to strengthen your application, such as obtaining stronger references or more relevant experience. Looking into a range of places is important, but following your interests is important too. Don't settle for a mediocre role which doesn't allow you to accomplish your goals.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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