Registered Dietitian Careers

Overview

A registered dietitian, also referred to as a nutritionist or nutritional consultant, is a food and nutritional expert. As a registered dietitian, you may work in a hospital, clinic, weight loss center, cafeteria, skilled nursing facility or school. Your main goal will be to counsel clients on the healthiest ways to eat in order to achieve their health-related goals and improve their quality of life. If you are interested in becoming a registered dietitian, you will need to complete certain educational, certification and/or licensure requirements. This article will teach you everything you need to know to enter the field of dieting and nutrition.

Educational Requirements

If you want to start a career as a registered dietitian, you will be required to attain a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, food management, dietetics or a health-related field. While in your undergraduate program, you will need to take the following courses: microbiology, physiology, food management, chemistry, math, psychology, sociology, business, nutrition, and biology.

Training

If you really want to be a dietitian, you will be required to complete a 300-hour of supervised clinical internship at a hospital, clinic, school or nursing home (bls.gov). It is important to note that although an advanced degree is not normally required your employer may request one.

Licensure and Certification

Before you can call yourself a registered dietitian, you will need to fulfill educational requirements, a supervised clinical internship and pass a certification exam. Once you have successfully completed all of your requirements, you are licensed and certified as a registered dietitian (RD). In addition, in order to maintain your license and certification, you will be required to complete continuing education courses every 2 to 3 years (bls.gov).

Job Duties

As a registered dietitian, you will be required to perform the following duties:

  • Discussing nutrition issues with your clients
  • Evaluating the health and diet needs of your clients
  • Designing meal plans, taking your clients’ needs and preferences into consideration
  • Assessing the benefits of the meal plans, altering them when necessary
  • Suggesting a healthier lifestyle (diet, relationship, exercise)
  • Teaching the difference between healthy eating habits and unhealthy eating habits (junk foods)
  •  Educating clients and their families on how to prevent and/or manage various health conditions
  • Keeping up-to-date with the latest nutritional scientific findings
  • Providing customized information for clients
  • Teaching hypertension clients how to reduce salt when cooking
  • Developing a healthy diet for clients that consists of reduced fat and sugar (for those who are overweight or obese).
  • Acting as a health coach
  • Providing health-related resources
  • Counseling clients on alternative approaches to health

Salary Prospects

As a registered dietitian, you can expect to make approximately $54,000 per year (bls.gov). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), if you fall in the lower 10%, you can expect to make $33,000 per year, while if you fall in the upper 10%, you can expect to make approximately $76,000 per year. Moreover you will more than likely work full-time with some overtime possible. Approximately 20% of registered dietitians work part-time (bls.gov).

Career Outlook

The career outlook for registered dietitians is excellent. In fact, this field is expected to grow 20% by 2020 (bls.gov). The increasing interest in healthy foods and nutrition is expected to continue in the future. Each year, people become more invested in living a healthy lifestyle. This new found interest is going to spur the increase in the need for registered dietitians and nutritionists.

In addition, as the population ages, there will be an increase in health conditions and diseases. This increase will cause people to seek alternative, less costly ways to treat their ailments, which will increase the need for registered dietitians and nutritionists.

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