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What is Dietetics?
Dietetics is the area of study and employment involved with identifying the nutritional value of foods in a given diet. A dietician is a well trained and highly educated professional. Formal training programs help dieticians understand how how certain foods or combinations of food affect a person based on a multitude of factors.
Individuals with a degree in dietetics find employment with various government agencies, private corporations, and public companies. Dieticians help these organizations and individuals by:
- Identifying valuable nutrients in new or existing foods
- Helping to develop new foods and products
- Tailoring diets to meet the needs of individuals or groups of people
What is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN)?
An RDN (Registered Dietician Nutritionist) is a credential earned by nutrition and food experts to help address complicated, multi-varied issues we face today. RDN's are an in-demand professional designation sought by employers that represents a level of schooling and competence to help people turn complicated food science into pragmatic healthy solutions.
RDN’s can work at public clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, fitness centers, outpatient centers, research facilities, private practices, and the food industry. In order to become a Registered Dietician Nutritionist, you will need to follow a series of steps:
- Graduate from an accredited college or university with a degree in dietetics.
- Gain acceptance to an accredited dietetic internship (DI) program. Complete all requisite hours of supervised training in clinical, community, and food-systems.
- Sit for the national board examination and earn your RDN certification.
- Apply for licensure in your state and begin work as an RDN.
Top Dietician Degrees
When considering dietician degrees online or in class, students need to understand the options that exist from school to school. While each school will have their own degree program and associated requirements, the overview below will help prospective students with their individual research into programs that are best for them.
Most colleges will provide students with: 2-3 quarters of supervised patient counseling in an approved clinic, volunteer hours in food services, clinical observations, and food science applications. Dieticians can specialize in a number of fields with a certification such as: oncology nutrition, gerontological nutrition, sports dietetics, or pediatric nutrition.
The degree options in dietetics include bachelor degrees, master degrees, and doctorate degrees. An overview of dietetic degrees can be found here:
Bachelor’s Degrees in Dietetics
A dietetics bachelor’s degree will be conferred in one of two ways: Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Arts (BA). How the online dietetics degree is conferred will depend upon the emphasis of the curriculum. The bachelor’s degree in dietetics is generally constructed as a 4-year program. During that timeframe, students will take courses that blend a liberal arts education such as English, sociology, philosophy, and psychology with core science courses.
The core dietetics bachelor of science program will typically include classes such as: principles of nutrition, life cycle nutrition, world nutrition, food science, fundamentals of dietetics, dietetic management, applied dietic management, medical nutrition, sports nutrition, management of dietary systems, community health, biochemistry, nutrition counseling, and clinical physiology. Students earning a BS or BA in dietetics will be ready to launch a career in general dietetics for public and private organizations of all types.
Master’s Degrees in Dietetics
Online master’s in dietetics is a degree program melding upper-level courses nutrition science dietetics. As such, students will be prepared to pursue advanced positions in the field or a PhD degree. The master’s degree in dietetics is conferred as a Masters of Science (MS) in most cases. It will be a two to three year advanced degree for most students able to invest time in the program on a full-time basis.
Upper level courses in dietetics may include the following examples: dietary systems, dietetic information systems, medical nutrition therapy, nutrition education, dietetic administration, clinical nutrition, statistical applications, food science, nutrition science, applied epidemiology, microbiology, and quantitative research methods.
Doctorate Degrees in Dietetics
The doctorate degree for dieticians is conferred as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at most accredited universities. The PhD degree will take four to six years based on the school's requirements and your academic pace. Other factors that can affect the length of time to completion include transfer credits, life credits, student pace, and time invested to complete the dissertation project.
Advanced dietetics course work will be focused on specialized areas of study. Examples of doctoral classes you may find in a school's course catalog include: research methods in social welfare, advanced qualitative research, clinical research, nutritional assessments, health statistics, epidemiological methods, metabolism, vitamin functions, community nutrition, nutritional biochemistry, and pathophysiology. Graduates of the PhD program will be equipped to assume management and leadership roles in academia, research, community-based organizations, and private organizations in a variety of industries.
Online Degrees for Dieticians
A number of distance learning or online learning degrees in dietetics exist. From undergraduate programs (such as the bachelor’s degree described above) to graduate programs in the field, online dietetics degrees can be earned remotely. Quality online dietetics degree programs will mirror their classroom-based counterpart with challenging, accredited curriculum taught by highly qualified professors.
Online dietetics degrees are uniquely created to benefit students in the following ways: potential cost savings, access, flexibility, quality programs, and the ability to work and earn a degree. Take the time to explore the online courses by requesting information below.
Educational Requirements for Dieticians
A degree in dietetics prepares individuals for a career as a dietician. A program in dietetics will educate an individual on the effects of various foods on the body, their nutritional value, and how best to optimize ones diet for a given purpose. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is required for entry level positions in dietetics as is experience through an internship either during or after the program.
Programs will involve intensive study of physiology and how foods are broken down and absorbed by the body, what effects and results they may produce, and how such information may be utilized in a professional setting. A curriculum in dietetics may include:
- Food Chemistry
- Holistic Health
- Food Science
- Biomedical Engineering
How to Become a Dietician
Becoming a dietician will require you to follow a number of discrete steps. We have outlined those steps to help you move through the process efficiently towards completion of your vocational goals. The six steps you will need to follow to become a dietician include the following:
Step 1 – Investing the time, energy, and resources to earn a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree in dietetics from a CADE accredited college or university
Step 2 – Verifying the required work experience requirements with your state of residence authorized board. Common requirements for dieticians is six months to a year in a state-approved, accredited
Step 3 – Register for and successfully pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) examination. The CDR examination is a computer-based test that include five sections: 1) nutrition care, 2) food nutrition, 3) foodservice systems, 4) counseling and communications, and 5) management.
Step 4 – Apply for dietician licensure from your state board. You will not be permitted to apply for a licensing without holding the proper degree, gaining work experience, or passing the CDR examination.
Step 5 – Find work in the nutrition field as a dietician, counselor, nutrition scientist, research analyst, or nutrition specialist.
Step 6 – Keep your sights set on being a lifelong learner. Grow your skills and keep learning about nutrition and wellness. Plan on enrolling in seminars and continuing education courses even if they are not annually required by your state board.
Employment in Dietetics
A career as a dietician will involve making dietary plans that cater to individuals in order to achieve a pre-determined goal. Dieticians work with individuals to determine the clients likes and dislikes, their budget, asses a patient's health needs and restructure meal plans as needed.
A good dietician will stay current on developments regarding his or her field, and will promote better nutrition and health through education. Individuals may also seek employment at government agencies with purpose of evaluating and rating new products prior to their release, or at private firms and businesses in order to help develop new products to be introduced into the market.
Top Employers of Dieticians
- Medical & Surgical Hospital: 17,850
- Outpatient Care Facility: 6,880
- Nursing Care Facility: 4,780
- Local Government Agency: 3,970
- Specialty Food Service: 3,790
Where Do Dieticians Work?
Graduates from an accredited college or university with a dietetic degree can also be employed in the following sectors of the economy in a variety of capacities. Licensed dieticians will provide people with varying degrees of coaching, mentoring, counseling, research, and education on food nutrition and wellness.
- State Government
- Federal Government
- Clinical Nutritionist
- Community Health Clinics
- State Government
- Food Safety
- Recreation Centers
- Menu Development
- Local Government
- Insurance Carriers
Dietician Career & Salary Outlook
The growth for dietician jobs is expected to increase faster than average over the next decade as the average weight of the American citizenry increases and the need for better eating and diets becomes more realized. In fact, employment growth is estimated to grow by 16% according to the BLS adding some 16,000 jobs to the industry in the coming decade.
Dieticians may require certification or licensure depending on the state. Individuals interested in becoming a dietician should research their state's requirements. The average salary for a dietician is approximately $58,920 per year with the top 10% making $82,410 and the bottom ten percent making $36,470 a year on average.
Most Popular Job Titles of a Dietician
As you think about a career as a dietician, it is important to get familiar with industry jargon and commonly used job titles. A list of the most common job titles found in the industry for a dietician include the following list:
- Clinical Dietician
- Pediatric Clinical Dietician
- Dietitian, Nutritionist
- Outpatient Dietitian
- Registered Dietician
- Clinical Dietitian
- Correctional Food Service Supervisor
- Dietary Manager
- Registered Dietitian
What Does a Dietician Do?
In a recent survey performed by the United States Department of Labor, professional dieticians provided a list of the most common job duties they perform. As a summary, we have culled the list and found the most popular and relevant items from that survey. The top job duties of a dietician include:
- Monitoring nutrition operations and food service with an eye on adherence to: nutrition, quality, safety, and sanitation
- Assessing the nutritional needs, current health plans, and diet restrictions of individuals in an effort draft treatment plans and counseling benchmarks
- Advising patients, corporations, and families on dietary plans, nutritional principles, food preparation, diet modifications, and while food selection
- Counseling clients on quality eating habits, principles of nutrition, and overall wellness associated with food consumption
- Consulting with medical providers and doctors to understand a patient’s limitations, restrictions, or known allergies prior to establishing a treatment plan
Resources for Dieticians
Students seeking sources of information outside academia may be interested in researching national and regional associations. Examples of top-rated dietetic associations include Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the ICDA. State-based affiliates and dietetics associations near you can be found via EatRight.