Dietitians and nutritionists advise their patients or clients on the proper food to eat in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They typically work in hospitals or clinics, assessing the health of patients and then working with them to develop meal plans that meet their health needs. A dietitian or nutritionist might also promote nutrition by giving presentations about diet and nutrition and the relationship between what you eat and how it affects your body, particularly in managing diseases or teaching weight goals.
Dietitians and nutritionists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and health spas. A dietitiian and nutritionist job description can include:
• Clinical dietitians, who specialize in medical nutrition therapy, usually in a hospital or long-term care facility. They create meal plans for individuals and groups and then monitor those plans to ensure they are working and make adjustments as necessary.
• Management dietitians, who create meal programs for hospitals, cafeterias and food corporations. Job duties in this area may extend to buying food supplies, and overseeing kitchen staff and other dietitians.
• Community dietitians, who educate groups of people on the benefits of a healthy diet and ways to achieve those goals.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong growth in this field over the current decade, with a 20% gain in the number of dietitians and nutritionists by 2020, a rate that is faster than the average of other occupations nationwide.
As of 2010, according to the BLS, the median pay for dietitians and nutritionists was $53,250 a year.
In most cases, dietitians and nutritionists begin their careers by earning a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food, nutrition or a related field (such as food service management). The coursework in most college or university programs focuses on nutrition, physiology, chemistry and biology. Typically, many dietitians and nutritionists then spend hundreds of hours in training after graduation.
Most states also require license and certification for dietitians and nutritionists. Many employers also prefer job candidates to obtain the designation of Registered Dietitian, which is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.