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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. Individuals in this field will either work for government agencies identifying the nutrients in new foods, for private companies and businesses in the development of new foods and products, or as privately employed professional using one's skills to tailor diets to the needs of one's clients. Individuals in this field are well trained and highly educated, particularly on how certain foods, either alone, or in conjunction with other foods, may affect a given body based on various factors.
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. The RDN is 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 into an accredited dietetic internship (DI) program and complete the required hours of supervised practice in community, clinical, 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.
Degrees for Dieticians
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
An online bachelor’s degree for dieticians will be conferred as a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) depending on the program emphasis. The bachelor’s degree in dietetics is a 4-year program that blends liberal arts education such as communications, English, philosophy, and psychology with core degree courses. The core dietetics bachelor of science program will typically include classes such as: principles of nutrition, world nutrition, fundamentals of dietetics, life cycle nutrition, food science, dietetic management, medical nutrition, management of dietary systems, applied dietetic management of nutrition programs, sports nutrition, community health, nutrition counseling, clinical physiology, and nutrition & biochemistry. 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
The online master’s degree for dieticians blends upper level courses in dietetics and nutrition science to prepare student for advanced positions in the field or the PhD program. The master’s degree in dietetics is conferred as a Masters of Science (MS) and takes 2-3 years to complete the program depending on the course load and curricular design. 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 colleges and universities. The PhD program can last 4-6 years dependent upon on the number of courses taken at a given time, transfer credits accepted, and the length of time it takes to complete the dissertation. Upper level classes in the doctoral dietetics program may 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 college degree programs 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.
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
How to Become a Dietician
To become a dietician, you will need to successfully complete a series of discrete steps. Below you will find a summary of those steps to help you understand the milestones required as part of the process. The steps to become a dietician include:
Step 1 – Earning a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree in dietetics from a CADE accredited college or university
Step 2 – Verify with your state of residence the work experience requirements. Typical work requirements include 6-12 months in an approved accredited program
Step 3 – Register for and successfully pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) examination
Step 4 – Apply for licensure from your state of residence
Step 5 – Find work in the field as a member of a small or large organization in the public or private sector as a dietician
Step 6 – Focus on transferrable skills to help grow your career and skill set. Register for continuing education credits as prescribed by your state to keep your license active.
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
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.
Where Do Dieticians Work?
Dieticians can work in a number of industries and sectors of the economy. In fact, dieticians can be employed by private organizations, government research facilities, community health providers, public agencies, and non-profit organizations in a variety of industries. The list below represents the top 5 employers of dieticians in the United States.
Top Employers of Dieticians
- Medical and Surgical Hospitals 17,840
- Outpatient Care Facilities 6,870
- Nursing Care Facilities 4,790
- Local Government Agencies 3,960
- Specialty Food Services 3,780
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 providing coaching, counseling, education, research, and mentoring on food nutrition and wellness.
- Federal Government
- Community Health Clinics
- Clinical Nutritionist
- State Government
- Food Safety
- Recreation Centers
- Menu Development
- Local Government
- Insurance Carriers
Job Growth, Salary and Related Fields
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.
Common 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
Top Job Duties of a Dietician
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 food service operations to ensure adherence to mandated standards such as: nutrition, safety, sanitation, and quality
- Assessing the nutritional needs, diet restrictions, and current health plans 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
States with the Highest Employment of Dieticians
- California 7,860
- New York 4,960
- Texas 4,610
- Florida 2,950
- Pennsylvania 2,860
Top Paying States for Dieticians
- California $71,430
- Maryland $67,440
- Oregon $67,040
- Hawaii $66,870
- New Jersey $66,540
Individuals interested in dietetics may also be interested in clinical nutrition, public health or dietitian assistant.