Dietitian and Nutritionist Career Information

If you are someone who is interested in helping others eat healthy, then you might be interested in some information about pursuing a career as a dietitian and nutritionist. Most often dietitians and nutritionists work in medical facilities, school systems, and government agencies where they plan food and nutrition programs to help prevent and treat illnesses and encourage people to eat healthy foods.

Career Outlook

Dietitians and nutritionists hold approximately 57,000 jobs in the United States. More than half of these positions are in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as physician's offices and clinics. Employment in this field is expected to grow with the aging population increasing the demand for nutritional counseling. The median yearly income for dietitians and nutritionists is approximately $47,000 with the range being between $43,000 and $50,000 per year.

Advancement opportunities for dietitians abound. While you may begin as an assistant or associate, you will usually have the chance to advance to the director of a department given enough experience. You might also think about specializing in a particular area such as renal or pediatric dietetics. Or you could specialize by becoming a clinical, management, or community dietitian. In addition, you can use your credentials to become a self employed private consultant for places like gyms, sports teams, or government programs that supply food assistance to the needy.

Education/Training

In order to become a dietitian or nutritionist, you need a bachelor's degree in food service systems management, foods and nutrition, dietetics, or some other related field. Other helpful courses for someone who is thinking about pursuing a career in this area include business, economics, statistics, computer science, psychology, and sociology. Many states require licenses, so you need to check to see what the requirements of your particular are. You can also earn the designation of Registered Dietitian by completing the required courses as well as having the supervised experience that will allow you to pass the certification exam given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Typical Day

On a typical day a dietitian or nutritionist will assess the clients' nutritional needs, developing and implementing menus to meet these needs. You will also be expected to evaluate and report the results of your nutritional program. If you are working in a medical center, you may have meetings with other health care professionals in order to discuss patients' nutritional needs. If you happen to be serving in a management capacity for a large organization like a school district, prison, or large company, you will oversee large-scale meal planning, working with suppliers to purchase all the food and equipment necessary to prepare meals within your budget. You may also be expected to hire and train other dietitians and food service workers, making sure to enforce all safety and sanitary regulations. In addition, you will probably be required to prepare reports and keep records about your program.

If you are working as a freelance consultant, your job duties will be a bit different. You might perform nutritional screenings and offer advice on what people should eat to lose weight or lower their cholesterol. For example, you might teach someone with high blood pressure how to reduce his salt intake, or you might create a meal plan to help a diabetic patient control her blood sugar.

Most full-time dietitians and nutritionists work a regular 40-hour week although some work weekends and about 1/3 only work only part-time. So you have a lot of different options and flexibility in this career. Therefore, if you are looking for a rewarding job opportunity helping people be healthier, you might seriously consider becoming a dietitian or nutritionist.