Dietitian: Education and Career Information
If you are interested in making a difference in the lives of others as it related to the management of food and healthy eating, a career as a dietician may be for you. This is a specialized position that contributes in this area in a number of ways and can be very lucrative, based on position and career path.
What does a dietitian do?
A dietitian has a number of components in their position. They create diets for individuals, educates and advises clients on how important healthy eating habits are, finding the right balance between foods you eat and exercise for optimum health, providing information to a diverse clientele on how therapeutic diets can improve condition management, analyzing the nutritional contents of the food, Calculating individual nutritional requirements based on internal factors, writing reports, case notes, administrative tasks, advising the media on certain nutritional values and health risks as it pertains to food. You will find dietitians in schools, hospitals, private practices, governmental entities, nursing homes and other places where food recommendations are needed.
How much does a dietitian earn?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a dietitian makes an annual average salary of $56,300. They can make more depending on the level of education, years of experience and location of their job. The salary can also fluctuate based on the type of facility in which they work. On the low end, this position makes around $34,000, with a high of around $78,000 or more. The career outlook for this position indicates that this career is expected to increase 21% through 2022, partly due to a growing elderly population in need of nutritional services.
What kind of skills does a dietitian need?
There are a number of skills needed to be successful as a dietitian:
Reading and Writing: This position must have proficiency in reading and writing to be able to disseminate the information needed to the different entities that are dealt with. There are reports to write, information to read and make decisions on, record keeping and a host of duties that require a high level of reading and writing.
Critical Thinking: A dietitian must be able to assess a situation and make logical decisions based on the information gathered. Being able to think critically to put protocols and recommendations in place is essential.
Speaking: A dietitian must be able to speak to individuals and groups to make sure they understand any instructions or information given to them. A dietitian is used to dealing with the public on a number of areas to make sure the community as a whole is on one accord.
Coordination: A dietitian must coordinate a number of things at once, so having good coordination skills is key. Being able to juggle multiple tasks and keep everything in order makes a big difference in successfully completing the job.
Decision-making: A dietitian must be able to make sound decisions based on the information they have gathered to create menus, recommend solutions to problems, write reports for different entities and make decisions on administrative tasks.
Management: As this role grows, a dietitian must be able to manage both tasks and people. They should be able to issue directives and supervise certain tasks, control the administrative functions, and be a good manager in every aspect of this position.
Science: A dietitian must have a good grasp of scientific rules and methods to perform calculations that will provide adequate information. They must be able to use science to get information to the masses with the best recommendations that will work for everyone based on the needs of the clients and patients. They should also be able to use calculations and a science-based methodology to explain their findings to governmental and other regulating entities.
Quality Control Analysis: It is important to be able to conduct tests and different inspections of products, services and processes to ensure patients and clients are receiving the best diets, information and tools need to stay healthy.
Negotiation: Having good negotiation skills is key, as there will be a number of instances where this role will have to bring others together to work collaboratively and get things done. Being able to successfully negotiate their position and get others on board is an important part of progressing in the field.
Other skills needed include biology, chemistry, therapy and counseling, and education and training. A high degree of customer service is also needed, as this role works with a diverse set of individuals.
There may be some hands-on internship requirements needed to complete the program, but it is based on the school and their specific guidelines. Every person who is seeking certification as a registered dietitian must have completed a CADE-accredited internship program, which includes one year of supervised field experience in a food service or health care facility. Master’s program students may be expected to complete a thesis, which may also be based on a clinical practicum.
There are a number of educational requirements needed to become a registered dietitian. The first step to becoming a dietitian is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, nutrition or a similar health science field. These programs are four-years, and have core courses in food service organization, medical nutrition therapy, experimental foods, human nutrition and quantity food production.
Once the bachelor’s degree is obtained, individuals must take an exam to become registered as a dietitian (RD). Every state is different in the criteria they expect, but certification is mandatory to perform and be recognized as a licensed dietitian. There is a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. There are also 75 continuing education credits required every five years.
Many individuals choose to continue their education and pursue a graduate degree. This opens the doors for higher paid positions, which include research and other advanced clinical positions. This degree is the Master of Science in Nutrition, and includes core coursework such as exercise physiology, metabolism, nutritional biochemistry, developmental nutrition and research methods.
Many individuals who are seeking a career in dietetics usually become members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to gain valuable resources and work with other individuals in the field. This organization is the world’s largest membership of food and nutrition professionals.
This can be a very interesting position for someone who is up for the challenge and wants to make a difference in the nutrition, food, and dietetics industry. There are a number of areas where dietitians work and make a significant impact. If this sounds like a career path that is intriguing, this could be a good stepping stone to higher positions in this field in the future.