|Recommended Degree Level||Bachelor|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||58,240|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||5.0%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||3,540|
What's needed: Dietitians complete an accredited baccalaureate program in nutrition and a supervised internship that qualify them to apply for the Registered Dietitian credential. Most programs are didactic, meaning that they provide the classroom component and the student applies separately to dietetic internships. Some schools offer a coordinated program comprised of both classroom training and an internship.
What you study:
Dietetic programs train students in the life sciences as a foundation for nutritional studies. Coursework for dietitians includes:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Food science
- Food service management
- Nutrition science
- Medical Nutrition Therapy
Shows a short overview of the dietician career. Produced for the US Department of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a dietitian, your day varies depending on whether you work as a clinician, food service expert, or consultant. The profession's many choices often involve managing the dietary aspects of illness and teaching people how to eat for optimum health. You interact daily with clients or patients and use your expertise in nutritional science to create appropriate eating plans.
If you are a clinical dietitian, you provide medical nutrition therapy to patients with acute and chronic illnesses. Your morning begins with a review of today’s patient information and consulting schedule. Your first patient has low levels of the blood protein albumin, indicating the need for additional protein and calories. You review his current diet plan and calculate optimal changes. As the patient’s compliance is crucial, you ask him about his food preferences. He is pleased to receive more filling meals and to be consulted about food choices. You write up notes to update the rest of his care team.
Your next patient is borderline diabetic and meets with you to create a diet plan to maintain wellness. She is accustomed to eating meals high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and is daunted by the prospect of drastic lifestyle changes. As a skilled cook, you craft healthier versions of her favorite recipes and print them for her to take home. You also give her a shopping list of healthy grocery items. The patient leaves feeling more in control of her future.
After a quick lunch at your desk while completing paperwork, you head to the conference room to give a nutrition presentation. Today, you are educating celiac patients about how to make gluten-free family meals tasty and affordable. For people learning to live with severe dietary restrictions, tasks such as planning a meal can seem overwhelming. Your audience expresses appreciation for the tips, and you end your shift with final paperwork that quantifies the positive difference you made today in several lives.
Certifications and Licensing
Most states require that dietitians be licensed, and licensing pathways vary between states. Generally, states accept the Registered Dietitian (RD) credential obtained through the independent Commission on Dietetic Registration. Candidates who have completed an accredited dietetics training program are eligible to apply for the registered dietitian (RD) credential and qualify via exam.
Full-time versus part-time:
About 80 percent of dietitians work full time, and those employed in facilities or businesses usually work regular shifts. Self-employed dietitians have more freedom to structure their schedules.
Dietitians work in a variety of settings including medical facilities, schools, and businesses. Hospitals employ about one third of all RDs. Some dietitians are self-employed consultants and see clients in offices or travel to client sites.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook – The site provides a clear overview of the dietetics and nutrition field with an emphasis on the roles of registered dietitians. The information is a good starting point for researching this career path's scope and entry requirements. For a closer look, consult sites that serve nutrition students and professionals.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the field’s largest professional membership organization. The site has a career section that explains to students and career changers how to become a dietitian. You can view a list of accredited programs by state as well as options for advanced degrees. The site also provides helpful job descriptions for credentialed dietitians.
- Commission on Dietetic Registration – The CDR is the credentialing agency for registered dietitians and dietetic technicians. The site includes a clear explanation of licensing requirements and a list of the 46 states that currently mandate licensing. The section on specialty certifications provides valuable information about career options as well as advanced training.
- Explore Health Careers – The site is an academic and healthcare initiative that provides information on many health professions. The section on dietitians focuses on RDs and describes diverse career paths including business consultant and researcher.