Case study

Nutritional therapist and part-time lecturer — Miranda Harris

Miranda enjoys the combination of lecturing and private practice work. Find out how she's developed a successful portfolio career building on her skills as a nutritional therapist

How did you get your job as a nutritional therapist?

After completing an MSc Nutritional Therapy at the University of Worcester, I decided to set up my own private practice as a nutritional therapist specialising in sport and optimum health. I also answered a job advert for the role of sessional lecturer at the University of Worcester and got the job a few months after I graduated. I've now progressed into the role of part-time lecturer in nutritional therapy and sports nutrition

What's a typical working day like?

Clinic assessment days at the university start at 8.30am and may go on until 7.30pm with a maximum of four students in one day, plus extra tutorials in between. Teaching days run from 10.15am until 5.15pm.

If I'm working from home, I try and do some of my own training (for long distance triathlon) before seeing a private client. I may then do a few hours of preparation for either teaching or sports clients. When meeting working with clients, I always assess a situation, client or student from different points of view to give a more holistic approach.

What do you enjoy most about being a nutritional therapist?

I really love the variety; the clients I meet when assessing students and my own clients are all very different, as are the students. I enjoy the different subjects I teach, which include anatomy and physiology, biochemistry, functional medicine and sports nutrition, as well as research methods. I also like the in-depth supervision of MSc dissertations and individual personal tutorials.

This is an amazing time to be involved in nutritional therapy and there are many opportunities available, but you need to put the time and effort in for it to be rewarding.

What are the challenges?

The biggest challenge is fitting it all in. I like to work with my own clients on a long-term basis and send them regular feedback. This means I have to restrict how many private clients I look after at any one time. I often see clients and do their feedback at the weekends, which can be a challenge too, especially if I have my own race plans that weekend. The other biggest challenge is keeping up to date with all the latest scientific evidence, guidelines and policy documents.

In what way is your degree relevant?

It's very relevant because it provided the foundation for my teaching on the nutritional therapy course and has given me relevant knowledge for my private practice. It also provided insight into the academic level needed for an MSc. The course was based on functional medicine (FM), which I believe provides an integrated approach to health, necessary for the future.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I've progressed from sessional lecturer to a permanent member of staff, with different opportunities open to me in the future. My role as a therapist has changed from seeing clients for two to three consultations, to a more long-term relationship, where I might work with a client for several months leading to a special event (for example, an ultra-endurance marathon of 110 miles) or even longer (nearly three years for a cyclist who has had various health issues). In the future I would like to become more involved in research and complete a PhD (both at the University of Worcester).

What are your tips for choosing a Masters in nutritional therapy?

  • Ensure the course is accredited by the Nutritional Therapy Education Commission (NTEC) and enables you to register with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and become a full member of a professional body, e.g. The British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).
  • Decide whether the structure and practicalities of the course and the way the modules run fit in with your lifestyle
  • Ensure the course content fits in with your future aspirations. For example, is it based on FM or integrated/personalised nutrition?
  • Find out what current and past students say about the course.

What's your advice for others wanting a career in nutritional therapy?

  • Have a portfolio of different roles (e.g. practising nutritional therapist, assessing, teaching, speaking at seminars/conferences, writing) so you don’t depend on one source of income. This keeps things interesting and is a great way of networking and keeping up to date.
  • Add different qualifications or skills, such as coaching, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and subject specialties, to your portfolio.
  • Be persistent and don't give up - it takes time to establish yourself but it is possible to do so. Having a passion and interest in the subject will keep you motivated and effective in whatever you choose to do.

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