How to Become a Dietitian
Job Duties of a Dietitian
Skills and Qualities of a Dietitian
Dietitian Salaries
Influential Professional Dietitians
Leading Dietitian Organizations
Top Cities for Dietitian Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Dietitian

A career as a dietitian usually requires a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics, food service management, or a related field. There are currently 281 programs for bachelor's degrees and over twenty for master's degrees which are accredited by the American Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Forty-eight states and jurisdictions have laws regarding dietetics, and the requirements in each vary. Individuals wishing to pursue a career in this field should make themselves aware of the requirements where they wish to practice.

The Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education offers a Registered Dietitian (RD) credential to individuals who finish academic coursework at an accredited school, complete a supervised internship, and pass an exam. The supervised internship is part of 53 accredited programs. Graduates of programs that do not include the internship can complete 900 hours of supervised experience. Maintaining a Registered Dietitian credential requires a minimum of 75 hours of continuing education to be completed every five years.

What does a Dietitian do?

Dietitians plan food programs, supervise food preparation and service, and advise patients on how to modify their eating habits. Many individuals in this field specialize, becoming clinical, community, or management dietitians, or begin consulting. Clinical dietitians work with patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. They assess each patient's individual needs, plan an appropriate nutritional program, and evaluate the results.

Community dietitians work with individuals and groups through public health clinics, home health agencies, and health maintenance organizations. They assess the needs of their individual clients and develop food and nutrition plans to promote healthful eating.

Management dietitians oversee large scale food preparation programs in medical facilities, schools, company cafeterias, prisons, and other institutions. They hire, train, and supervise other dietitians and food service workers, plan the budget for food and equipment purchases, enforce sanitary regulations, and maintain records.

Dietitians who work as consultants work under contract with health care agencies or have their own private practice. They perform nutrition screenings and offer advice tailored to the specific needs of each individual client. Consultants may work for sports teams, supermarkets, wellness centers, and other organizations with an interest in good nutrition.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Dietitian?

Dietitians should have good communication skills and be able to express their ideas in writing as well as in conversation. Those entering this field will be expected to work well with their clients and should be able to motivate them while still being sensitive to their needs. Most clients will expect a dietitian to be fit, and since many dietitians spend a large part of their work day on their feet, physical stamina is helpful.

How much does a Dietitian make?

Earnings for dietitians vary somewhat by the employer, with those working in outpatient care centers generally making the most and those in government positions generally making the least. Salaries also vary by area of specialty, years of experience, level of education, and geographic location. Median annual earnings for all dieticians in 2006 were $46,980. The middle fifty percent earned between $38,430 and $57,090.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

Ronald S. Moen has been the Chief Executive Officer of the American Dietetic Association since October 2001. He has over 25 years of experience as director of various nonprofit organizations.

Sandra Capra is the chair of the Board of Directors for the International Confederation of Dietetic Association and the director for Australia. Her experience comes from work in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and Fiji. She currently holds the position of Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Capra has authored many scientific articles in the field and been a keynote and invited speaker at national and international conferences. Capra is the editor of Dietetics Around the World and has received several awards and honors for her work.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

With over 68,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The ADA was founded in 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio. This organization is committed to public education to improve the overall health of Americans. Members receive access to resources designed to support them and help them advance their careers. These resources include several publications ranging from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and a bi-monthly magazine to a daily electronic newsletter. The American Dietetic Association is also the industry's voice in government and the media. Continuing education is also made available to members through conferences, workshops, and an online education center.

The International Confederation of Dietetic Associations represents about 150,000 professionals around the world. The ICDA began in 1952 with the first International Congress of Dietetics which was held in Amsterdam. This organization supports national associations by creating an international network of communication which increases the image of the profession and awareness of education, training, and practice.

What are the top cities for Dietitian jobs?

Dietitians are generally employed in hospitals, nursing homes, and medical clinics. Jobs should be available in metropolitan areas where these facilities are located. Currently, the most openings in this field can be found in New York City, which is followed closely by Baltimore, Maryland. Individuals should also be able to find open positions in Chicago, Illinois. Aspiring dietitians on the west coast might want to check out opportunities in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

Other Careers of Interest

Nutritionists are mainly responsible for planning diets for patients and educating people about healthy eating habits. Their job is to study, interpret,...

Dietitian Jobs

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