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Dietitian Career Guide

A career as a dietitian is one that offers a variety of opportunities in a quickly growing field that is helping to tackle the current global obesity crisis. To become a registered dietitian, you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field and to complete a dietetic internship. As well as this, dietitians must have a genuine passion for healthy eating, strong interpersonal skills and excellent organization skills.

I get to help people change their relationship with food into a positive relationship rather than a negative relationship. It is life changing to finally have peace with food

Jennifer Mcgurk

Dietitian Career Ratings

Income

Career
Growth

Personal Growth

Contribution

Influence

Job Profiles

Real-Life Dietitian Job Profiles

Below is a list of links to anonymous job profiles of REAL PEOPLE who have filled out our survey and offered to share their insights with our users about their job in the Dietitian field.
ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33667 Weight Loss Counselor Female 23 $25,000 edina, NY 01/01/2010

Overview

What a dietitian actually does

Dietitian’s are uniquely qualified to translate scientific information about nutrition into everyday information about food so that it can be used to provide practical dietary advice. Dietitian’s work to assess, diagnose and treat any diet related issues and diseases, such as digestive problems, gaining or losing weight, eating disorders and food allergies. They can also work closely with athletes who want to improve their sporting performance. The typical duties and responsibilities of a dietitian include:

  • Providing health advice to patients and promoting healthy eating
  • Advising patients about special diets (e.g., lactose or gluten free)
  • Writing and maintaining reports on patient progress
  • Educating other health professionals and the public about nutrition
  • Establishing and addressing the key health needs of an individual or a community
  • Implementing ways to facilitate dietary changes
  • Working as a key member as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • Supporting the work, and following the advice, of other healthcare professionals

Why they are needed

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 115 million people suffer with obesity-related problems worldwide. Dietitian’s promote healthy eating choice, which reduces the likelihood of obesity and therefore obesity-related diseases and deaths. This directly benefits the individual and their family as they will be healthier, happier and living longer. It also benefits the wider community by taking the strain off healthcare services.

Pros and cons of a career as a dietitian

Pros:

  • Dietitian’s can work in private clinics or become self-employed, which offers flexible and desirable working hours
  • Dietitian’s help patients to develop healthy working habits which can vastly change and improve their lives, making it a very fulfilling and rewarding career
  • Dietitian’s work across many different environments and with many different people each day, making it interesting, special and exciting

Cons:

  • Dietitian’s may have to work with difficult patients who don’t want to change their lifestyle or eating habits, which can make the job very challenging and tough
  • Dietitian’s who work in healthcare settings may have to be on call, meaning they may have to work long and unsociable hours
  • It is not a particularly accessible career to enter, as a bachelor’s degree and the completion of an internship is typically required

Employability

Job market

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is predicted because the interest in the role of food and nutrition in promoting health and wellness has increased and the importance of diet in preventing and treating illness is becoming more well-known. Moreover, as the population ages,  people will look for ways to stay healthy, and there will therefore be more demand for dietetic services.

Career paths

To become a dietitian you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food, nutrition, public health nutrition or a related area. If you want to become a registered dietitian (RD), which is recommended as many employers prefer RD’s, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and a dietetic internship, which consists of at least 1,200 hours of supervised experience. This will also includes the completion of coursework laid out by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is the governing board of all dietitians in the United States. In order to maintain RD credentials, dietitians must complete 75 continuing education credits every five years.

Dietitians who have earned advanced degrees (e.g., masters or PhDs) or certification in a specialty area may have better job prospects. The Commission on Dietetic Registration offers several speciality certifications in topics such as sports or pediatric dietetics.

Example Job Titles for Dietitian

Below is a list of common job titles in the Dietitian field. Click the links below for more information about these job titles, or view the next section for actual real-life job profiles.

Benefits & Conditions

Income and benefits

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for dietitians and nutritionists in the United States was $61,270 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,890, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,360 per year.

The highest paid industries were outpatient care centers, where the average annual salary was $68,000, followed by hospitals ($62,110), the government ($60,670) and finally nursing and residential care facilities ($59,320).

Autonomy and Flexibility

Dietitians get to make precise decisions surrounding the treatment programmes of each of their clients. Based on this, dietitians get to a lot of self-governed work and therefore a lot of autonomy.

The amount of flexibility, however, will vary dependent on what industry a dietitian is employed by. For example, dietitians who work in healthcare or hospitals may have to be on call, whereas self-employed dietitians or those who work for private practices will have more control over there hours and therefore more flexibility.

Locations and commute

According to Zippa, the best states for Registered Dietitians in 2020, which is based on annual wage, career prospects and job opportunities, are:

  1. Nevada, where the average annual salary is $70,403
  2. West Virginia, where the average annual salary is $66,644
  3. Mississippi, where the average annual salary is $63,866
  4. Delaware, where the average annual salary is $70,166 (but there are less job opportunities than higher ranking states)
  5. New Jersey, where the average annual salary is $71,398

The worst states for registered dietitians are: Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin and Tennessee.

Work environment

Dietitian’s work full time, sometimes having to work evenings and weekends to meet the needs of clients who are unavailable at other times.

Dietitian’s tend to work in small teams with other healthcare professionals. The largest employers of dietitian’s are: hospitals (30%), government (14%), nursing and residential care facilities (10%), outpatient care centers (9%) and self-employed workers (6%).

Career Satisfaction

Common Matching Personality Types

Which personalities tend to succeed and thrive in Dietitian careers? Based on our research, there is a relatively strong positive correlation between the following personality types and Dietitian career satisfaction. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many exceptions, of course, but if you fit into one of the following personality types then we suggest you give strong consideration to a career in Dietitian.

16 Types (Myers-Briggs)

  • None

Big Five (OCEAN)

  • None

DiSC

  • None

Enneagram

  • None

Holland Codes (RIASEC)

  • None

Personality types

Although not greatly explored, one study, conducted as part of a university thesis, found that 48% of all dietitians were represented by the Myers Briggs types ISTJ, ISPJ, ENTJ and ESPJ, which all share a common preference for sensing and judging. The same study also found that specialized dietitians with a preference for extraversion were more likely to be satisfied with their current career than those with a preference for introversion.

It has also been suggested that dietitians are ISFJ personality types on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. This is because ISFJ’s are nurturing, compassionate, caring and have an interest in ensuring others are safe and well cared for, which is exactly what dietitians need to do.

Accomplishment and mastery

As educational commitment is required to become a registered dietitian, there is a high sense of accomplishment and mastery once qualified. Also, when patients have a huge breakthrough and change their eating habits due to your hard work, there is a high sense of accomplishment and mastery.

Meaning and contribution

As mentioned previously, there is a global problem with obesity. Dietitian’s help with this global problem by encouraging people to live a healthier lifestyle and to adopt healthy eating habits. This encouragement and guidance contributes to the reduction of obesity and therefore the reduction of obesity-related problems worldwide, making it incredibly meaningful.

Life fit

Dietitians tend to work normal full time hours, meaning it is an easy career to fit into typical life. On top of this, dietitians who work for private practices or are self-employed will have greater control over their hours and potentially a better life fit. However, some dietitians may be on call if they work in a healthcare setting, making it hard to fit into typical daily life.

Who will thrive in this career?

Obviously, those who have a genuine passion for healthy eating and helping others will thrive in this career. Similarly, those with patience, dedication and empathy for others will thrive in this career as a dietician will spend a lot of their time working with others to help them through their problems.

Who will struggle in this career?

You will struggle as a dietitian if you do not see the value in healthy eating and living a balanced lifestyle. You may also struggle if you do not like being self governed, as dietitians are very much in charge of their own work and decisions.

Requirements

Skills and talents

As well as a passion for healthy eating and the ability to motivate others, dietitians will need skills such as:

  • Interpersonal skills, as dietitians will have to work closely with their patients, listen to their goals and concerns, and build healthy and trusting professional relationships. They will also need to have interpersonal skills when working with other healthcare professionals.
  • Analytical and scientifc skills, as dietitians must keep up to date with the latest food research and  interpret scientific studies to translate nutritional science into practical eating advice
  • Problem-solving skills, as dietitians must evaluate the health of their patients and determine an appropriate treatment plan to improve their health or manage their disease
  • Compassion, as dietitians must be caring and empathetic when helping clients address health and dietary issues and any related emotions
  • Organizational skills,  as dietitians must schedule appointments, manage billing and files, keep records up to date, assess costs of food, produce programmes on time and much more
  • Written and verbal communication skills, as dietitians must explain complicated science in a way that people will understand, communicate with team members and write up detailed reports

Education

To become a dietitian you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food, nutrition, public health nutrition or a related area. However, registered dietitians (RDs) are preferred by most employers. To become an RD, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (masters preferable) and a dietetic internship, which consists of at least 1,200 hours of supervised experience. This will also includes the completion of coursework laid out by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which is the governing board of all dieticians in the United States. In order to maintain RD credentials, dietitian’s must complete 75 continuing education credits every five years.

Dietitians who have earned advanced degrees (e.g., masters or PhDs) or certification in a specialty area may have better job prospects. The Commission on Dietetic Registration offers several speciality certifications in topics such as sports or pediatric dietetics.

Certification

Many states require dietitians to be licensed in order to practice, the requirements for licensure will vary by state. However, most require a bachelor’s degree, completing supervised practice and passing an exam. As mentioned previously, many dietitians earn the Registered Dietitan credential, as this is viewed favourable by employers.

 

How to Become

Summary

A career as a dietitian is one that offers a variety of opportunities in a quickly growing field that is helping to tackle the current global obesity crisis.

Immediate action

If you are thinking of becoming a dietitian, then it would be worth have a look at colleges that offer the appropriate degrees. We also recommend trying to get some experience in the field and talking to a qualified dietitian to find out about the job in more detail.

Education and learning

To become a dietitian you must first complete a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food, nutrition, public health nutrition or a related area. To become an RD, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (masters preferable) and a dietetic internship, which consists of at least 1,200 hours of supervised experience. Dietitians who have earned advanced degrees (e.g., masters or PhDs) or certification in a specialty area may have better job prospects.

Skill development

During their dietetic internship, aspiring dietitians will learn all the skills necessary to become a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians must also continue to improve their skill set on the job every five years.

FAQs

Ask a Question

Have a question about Dietitian careers? If so, our mentors would love to help! Just click on a mentor’s profile below and then fill out the “Ask a Question” form on that page. Your question will then be emailed to the mentor, who can then email you a reply.

ID Job Title Gender Age Earnings City & State Date
33667 Weight Loss Counselor Female 23 $25,000 edina, NY 01/01/2010

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