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Dietician

Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in food.

Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in food.

They say, “you are what you eat”, and to some extent it’s true. The food we put into our bodies affects how we act and feel. Diet can play a major role in preventing or recovering from diseases, and in some cases (like allergies, diabetes, or celiac’s disease), changing what you eat can save your life! A dietician is someone who specializes in food, and is dedicated to helping patients make the best nutritional choices possible.

Fast Facts

Minimum Degree Required: Bachelor’s

Top 3 Skills: Biochemistry, Communication, Passion for Food

Average Starting Salary: $35,000/year

Job Description

Within a hospital, a dietician has several roles. First, they are in charge of overseeing the hospital’s cafeteria and patient food. They may have sole responsibility or they may consult with/report to the head dietician(s). Second, they assist in creating patients’ meal plans while at the hospital. They must cater for many different medical, religious, and/or personal diets, with health and good nutrition emphasized for all. Third, a dietician works with patients to create personal lifestyle plans. Some patients may simply be looking to lose weight, or increase their metabolism. Other patients may need help adjusting to new medically imposed restrictions. A dietician can answer any questions the patients have about what they should be eating (and why.)

This job involves interacting with patients and physicians on a regular basis. With multiple duties and multiple patients, multi-tasking skills are helpful. Dietitians typically work full or part time during the standard 40 hour work week, with a limited number on staff overnight or on weekends.

Education

Students wishing to become dietitians should pursue a bachelor’s degree in either nutrition or dietetics. These programs will ensure that students understand not just what food are “healthy”, but why we need certain nutrients, and how specific foods affect our bodies on a chemical level. Some more difficult courses expected of nutrition or dietetic majors may include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Advanced Physiology
  • Nutritional Science

If you have enjoyed science courses in the past, but you don’t want to spend your entire career working in a lab or more clinical setting, consider becoming a dietician.

Certification/Licensing

Most states require some formal acknowledgement to become a practicing dietician. Licenses and/or certificates are mandated on a state level, and typically include passing an exam after completing one’s degree. Additionally, many employers prefer their dietitians to be registered dietitians (RDs) which is administered nationally by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

Job Outlook: Excellent

The BLS predicts a 20% increase in dietician employment between the years 2010 and 2020, which is above average. The median yearly salary for dietitians/nutritionists was over $53,000 as of 2010.

 

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