A dietician is a health care specialist trained in dietetics, studying the relationship of food and nutrition to health. The primary goal of a dietician is to assist clients in attaining and maintaining an optimum level of physical health. Much like nutritionists, dietitians offer their clients personalized advice on healthy diets, drawn from many different branches of science, including nutrition, biochemistry, physiology and psychology.
Dieticians find work at health care facilities, food service companies, government agencies and as consultants. If you think you have what it takes, earning an online degree in health care can help advance your career goals.
To earn the Registered Dietician (RD) credential, an individual must meet certain clear-cut criteria, including:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 48 states currently have laws regarding the licensure of dieticians, but the exact requirements vary from state to state. For example, 35 states require that an RD be licensed, 12 require certification and one requires registration.
The dietician treats illnesses through medical nutrition. To achieve this goal, dieticians evaluate patients’ nutritional needs and then develop, implement and supervise customized nutrition programs. They evaluate the results of these programs and modify them as necessary. In addition to meal planning, RDs assist patients with weight control and dietary management for better health conditions.
Dieticians also consult with doctors and other health care professionals to coordinate their patients’ medical and nutritional needs. In addition to meal planning, RDs assist patients with weight control and dietary management for better health conditions.
The dietician can perform these tasks in a variety of settings, including:
Some dieticians focus on a specific population or type of facility. Community dieticians, for example, provide nutritional services for patients in institutions such as hospitals and nursing care facilities. Management dieticians oversee meal planning in facilities that require the preparation of hundreds or even thousands of meals every day, such as hospitals, prisons, nursing or residential care facilities, and school or company cafeterias.
The number of job openings for dieticians in nursing and long-term care facilities is predicted to increase as the population ages, but the number of positions for hospital dieticians is expected to remain stable. Dieticians with advanced degrees and training (beyond the minimum state requirements) will experience the best job opportunities, especially those specializing in diabetic nutrition and gerontology.
According to Salary.com, average nutritionist and dietician salaries tend to fall between $43,000 and $54,000 a year.
The highest salaries available outside of the health care industry were found in the consulting, management and food service industries. A salary study performed by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 2005 indicates that registered dieticians could earn as much as $72,000 a year.