Career in Nutrition and Dietetics

What are Nutritionists and Dietitians? Is this the right career choice for me?

Coronavirus Resources for Nutritionists and Dietitians

Are you interested in science and nutrition, and considering a career in health care? Everyone is familiar with the career of nutritionist, but most don’t fully understand that it is a well-trained, licensed position that is rooted in science. Health care itself is a growing job sector, and nutrition in particular is a field that is capturing more and more interest both in the public and in the world of health care As the country strives to offer affordable health care to all, the focus is also shifting toward preventive health care Proper health and nutrition is a huge component of that, for both the healthy and sick.

Nutritionist vs. Dietitian

First of all, there is a distinction between a nutritionist and dietitian. A dietitian is actually licensed nutritionist with a degree. Most people refer to them as nutritionists, but the title “nutritionist” is a much broader job title that can be applied to anyone working in nutrition, with any level of education. The certification requirements for nutritionists vary from state to state and sometimes there are no requirements at all. Dietitians adhere to a national registration program that requires a bachelor’s degree and licensure by passing a national exam and maintaining it annually.

Where do they work and what do they do?

Dietitians and nutritionists can work in many settings. Over one-third works in a hospital, but they can also work in extended care facilities, in community and public health, in smaller clinics, or in private consultation services. Community health jobs could include working in schools or correctional facilities. Regardless of work setting, they assess their patients’ health and nutritional needs and develop nutritional guidelines to prevent illness, to optimize health, and in some cases, to assist in healing from disease or illness. They can specialize by patient population or by disease or illness. You could for instance choose to specialize in pediatric or gerontological nutrition, in oncology nutrition, renal nutrition, or sports dietetics. If you are committed to working in nutrition, you have many options based on your interests and what type of patient population you’d like to work with.

Required Education for Dietitians and Nutritionists

These are general educational requirements. To find state specific Dietitian and Nutritionist requirements Click Here.

You must earn a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in order to become a dietitian or nutritionist. Because nutritionists are not as strictly regulated, you could possibly gain an entry level job with a two-year Associate Degree and gain more experience in the field before continuing your education. Nutrition is heavily rooted in science, so you will need to take plenty of courses in not only food science and nutrition, but also in chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, as well as in nutrition and disease. Most dietetics programs also cover the business side, such as food systems management, economics, communication, and computer science. Regardless of your career goals, be sure to choose a program that is accredited by the American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). There are nearly 300 bachelor’s degree programs for dietetics and nearly 20 master’s level programs.

Why Get a Degree in Nutrition or Health Sciences?

Nutrition Science has rapidly evolved to become one of the most widely studied health sciences today. The significant impact that nutrition plays on ones overall health is an obvious reason for the growing interest in this topic and the need for nutrition science to be studied very closely.

By itself, a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Science can prepare you for a position of leadership in nutrition, dietetics, holistic health, or other areas of health care in private or public sectors. In addition, a background in nutrition education can pave the way for further graduate study and first-professional degrees such as an MD, DO, or OD.

When you study Nutrition Science, you will learn the basis for good nutrition, how it affects health, and how to help others achieve nutritional health.

Further Reading: Nutrition can play a significant role in recovering from cancer: An Interview with Natalie Ledesma, MS, RD, CSO

Registration – Licensure or Certification

Once you complete your degree, if you are interested in becoming a licensed dietitian you will need to register with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), which is part of the American Dietetic Association and is the credentialing body for registered dietitians (RD). Registration is the professional equivalent of licensure or certification. In order to become registered, you will have to graduate from a CADE accredited program, complete a practice program or internship, and pass the commission’s exam. Maintenance of your registered status is necessary, as new research in nutrition science is always underway. A current registration indicates that your professional knowledge is up-to-date. Registration must be renewed every five years by completing seventy-five continuing education units over the five-year period.

What does the future hold for Dietitians and nutritionists?

Mean annual salary for a dietitian was $53,000 in 2007, according to the most recent comprehensive survey done by the ADA and CDR. This was up from $49,000 in 2005. The top 10% percent in the profession earn over $80,000. As an experienced dietitian, you could potentially advance into management positions, teaching positions, specializations, or conducting your own research. As our country struggles with obesity, diabetes, and so many other pervasive health problems, and governing and health care agencies strive for affordable health care for all, the role of nutrition is guaranteed to play a central part in preventive health care Preventive health care makes sense, is effective, and more people realize the value of nutrition in maintaining overall health. Earning a degree in dietetics could provide you with a stable career in dietetics or nutrition, to help people achieve optimal health or return to health.

To learn more about becoming a nutritionist or Dietitian, you can contact schools that offer BS in Nutrition and related programs. If you are still trying to determine the right career choice, take some time to explore additional careers in health care.