Finding Your Career in Plant-Based Nutrition
As awareness of the health benefits of plant-based eating goes viral, many people are changing career paths to participate. Entrepreneurs are developing new products catering to new trends and tastes; educators are raising public awareness; more plant-based restaurants are opening, and healthcare practitioners are starting to promote the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet. There is an incredible range of career opportunities within the broad field of plant-based nutrition, including clinical practice, research, public health policy, entrepreneurship, nutrition education, and more.
With a growing consumer interest in plant-based eating, entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity to create new, plant-based food businesses.
Healthcare practitioners have an amazing opportunity to bring the health-promoting, disease-preventing message of plant-based nutrition to their patients and clients. However, barriers such as time restrictions, lack of training, and inadequate reimbursement discourage many practitioners from incorporating nutrition into their practice. At the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, our goal is to educate and empower these practitioners with a comprehensive understanding of plant-based nutrition and tools for incorporating that understanding into their practice. The cornerstone of this education is our Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate program—provided in partnership with eCornell—which offers 30 CMEs to physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, and 30 CPEUs for Dietitians.
If you wish to transition into clinical practice from a different background, you may need to complete a post baccalaureate program for pre-med requirements or dietetic requirements before you can apply to medical or graduate school.
Outside of clinical practice, careers in plant-based nutrition include performing research on behalf of colleges, universities, government agencies, non-profit organizations, or private businesses. Researchers’ activities usually include conducting original studies and publishing papers in scientific journals. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) both have ongoing research positions, and any university with a nutrition or public health department is a possibility.
Run for office! Political leaders help to shape and make important decisions about public health policies, including many that touch on how food is produced and consumed. While some well-known public officials today follow a plant-based lifestyle, we need a lot more who understand the impact diet has on our health, our economy, our treatment of animals, and the environment. Holding public office gives you a platform to advocate for change and a place at the table when policies are being made.
An advanced degree such as a Masters of Public Health (MPH) or a PhD can open many exciting career paths in the field of public health. People with these degrees advance policies and promote strategies designed to improve the health of large groups of individuals. Possible job titles include Policy Advocate, Grant Writer, Clinic Director, Policy Analyst, Sustainability Advisor, Community Educator, and Outreach Manager.
Look into organizations like the Plant-Based Foods Association (PBFA) who are taking a public health approach to getting people to eat more plant-based foods. They aim to:
- Engage in education, public relations, and media outreach to increase visibility for plant-based foods and boost consumer acceptance
- Eliminate policies and practices that place plant-based food products at an economic disadvantage
- Change the debate on important public policy issues such as the dietary guidelines
With a growing consumer interest in plant-based eating, entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity to create new, plant-based food businesses. Plant-based chefs, caterers, restaurateurs, and food makers are monetizing their passion to deliver valuable products and services.
While the plant-based food sector is experiencing tremendous growth, interest in animal-free products is expanding in other sectors too. Plant-based fashion is a major trend, and we have already seen the creation of leather alternatives made from pineapple waste, apple peels, mushrooms, and more.
The growing number of plant-based companies need support from professionals who understand their products and can help them succeed in the market. You could find work as a: Social Media Marketer, Brand Ambassador, Event Planner, Fulfillment Coordinator, Salesperson, or any other role that helps a business thrive – The sky’s the limit! Some of our Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate graduates have pursued entrepreneurial careers as freelance writers, video producers, or bloggers where the only requirement is their knowledge of plant-based nutrition and a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.
If you’re thinking about joining the plant-based entrepreneurs, here are a few quick tips:
- Broaden your audience. In addition to the plant-based folks, make an effort to appeal to individuals who are not living a plant-based lifestyle.
- Talk to your peers. Before you start writing your business plan, take the time to meet with other plant-based entrepreneurs and discuss what worked (and didn’t work) for them.
- Hire like-minded individuals. Looking for staff who embrace the plant-based ethos? Vegan Mainstream or Vegan Jobs are places to post vegan and eco-friendly job ads that will attract the right kind of people.
Nutrition educators may provide one-on-one, or group training, to educate children and adults about nutrition and health outcomes. Typically a nutrition educator will help develop programs to educate a certain population about nutrition and general health and holistic wellness practices. As a nutrition educator you could work in schools, government agencies, private industries, nonprofit organizations, religious organizations and other settings that provide health education.
Note, it’s important for educators to remain vigilant about not crossing the line between educating and treating. This is especially important for anyone pursuing health coaching or other professions whose scope of practice are not yet clearly defined. The website Nutrition Advocacy is a great resource that provides information on regulatory issues regarding the practice of nutrition.
Making the Transition
Changing careers isn’t always simple. If appropriate, use social media to let people know you’re looking for a job or making a career change. Follow people and organizations you might want to work for, or who offer job searching tips and advice. Create and share content that demonstrates your skills and expertise. Find like-minded people, and network in real life by attending a plant-based conference or seeking out plant-based volunteer opportunities to gain some potentially useful experience. Check out job sites specifically geared towards plant-based individuals.
The more people working to promote the consumption of a whole food, plant-based diet, the better. We applaud all those willing to take the leap and follow their passion. Whether you are just starting off in the workforce, pursuing a career that requires an advanced degree, or integrating your passion for plant-based nutrition into your next career, a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition is proof to the world that you have completed a robust course of education in the field.
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