How to Become a Dietary Technician

Proper nutrition is important for everyone in order to maintain good health. Dietary technicians work with nutritionists and dieticians to plan meals, educate the public and conduct research.

Job Duties

The responsibilities of a dietary technician will vary depending on the setting they work in. For instance, technicians who work in prisons may have different responsibilities than those who work with food suppliers. Technicians may plan healthy and well balanced menus for schools, correctional institutions and healthcare facilities including nursing homes and hospitals. In some instances, technicians work with people who have specific nutritional needs, such as hospitalized patients and the elderly.

Part of the job of a dietary technician may also include educating people on the importance of proper nutrition. This includes teaching people how to make appropriate food choices. For instance, dietary technicians may work with individuals who are overweight in order to help them understand topics, such as appropriate portion size and calorie intake.

Dietary technicians also may ensure the public gets the information they need to make proper nutritional choices. This involves working with food manufacturers ensuring food labels are accurate.

Some dietary technicians also work for universities, hospitals and government agencies conducting research. Research may involve learning more about the link between nutrition and the prevention or development of certain diseases.

Requirements

The requirements to work as a dietary technician vary by state. Some states require dietary technicians to be registered while other states do not. Specific state requirements can be found through the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Even if state licensure is not required, education in nutrition is usually required for employment.

Education and Registration

There are both two-year associate degree programs and four-year bachelor’s degree programs in nutrition and food sconce. Classes include chemistry, medical nutrition and anatomy.

Related Reading: Accredited Nutrition Degree Programs

Individuals who seek certification will need to complete a two-year dietary technician program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. The program must include a 450 hour supervised internship performing the duties of a dietary tech. A four-year bachelor’s degree program in dietetics is also an option. After completing either pathway, an exam administrated by the Commission on Dietetic Registration must be passed in order to become registered as a dietary technician.

Skills and Traits Needed

Working as a dietary technician may be a great career choice for people who are interested in nutrition and have a strong desire to help people. In addition, there are several traits and skills, which will help an individual be successful in the field.

Strong Interpersonal Skills: A large part of the job of a dietary technician is helping the public understand their nutritional needs. Whether this is done at a school or healthcare facility, the ability to work effectively with all different populations is needed.

Teamwork: Dietary technicians work under the supervision of a dietician. They also work with other professionals, such as doctors and nurses to develop optimal nutritional plans. Administrators need to able able to work well as part of a team.

Motivation Skills: In some cases, dietary technicians will be educating people and teaching them how to change their eating habits. They are part teacher and part coach. It is helpful to have the ability to motivate others.

Job Outlook and Salary

Dietary technicians work in various industries including healthcare. They may find employment in acute care hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Schools, weight management clinics and correctional facilities also hire dietary technicians. Dietary technicians may also find opportunities in federal, state and local government agencies, as well as food manufacturers.

The salary for a dietary technician will vary depending on their years of experience, education and whether they are registered. Geographic location may also play a role in salary. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic in 2013, the average salary for dietary technicians was about $29,000 a year.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, employment opportunities for dietary technicians are expected to grow faster than average. The growth may be due to an increased emphasis on disease prevention and the growing knowledge of the link between nutrition and diseases.

Pros and Cons

Dietary technicians have the opportunity to help people become healthier through proper nutrition, which is a gratifying part of the job. They also may find employment in several settings. This allows a technician to change industries and seek new challenges, which can keep the job fresh. New research regarding nutrition is always evolving, which also provides dietary techs an opportunity to continue to learn about their profession.

Almost all professions also have a few drawbacks and working as a dietary technician is no different. Not everyone will take nutritional advice in order to improve their health. Some people will be noncompliant with a nutritional program, which can be a frustrating part of the job.

Related Reading

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