Dietitians are legally considered experts in nutrition. They often work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, community and public health settings, culinary and food services, businesses, private practices, and other health care facilities. Some dietitians may work in universities and research facilities where they teach and study the effects of food on human bodies. Nutritionists are not legally considered an expert in nutrition and do not require any formal education. Hence, dietitians and nutritionists are not the same thing and shouldn’t be used interchangeably.
Dietitian Job Description
A dietitian is an expert in food and nutrition. Dietitians help promote healthy eating habits to prevent and treat illness through supervision of food preparation and service, dietary modifications, and public education. Their role in medical facilities and nursing homes is especially important as they provide sound advice to patients on healthy eating habits and evaluate dietary treatments of diseases. Dietitians provide an extremely reliable and unbiased source of information for the entire medical team, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and pharmacists. They often develop dietary plans to meet the nutritional requirements of individual patients according to their medical charts. Depending on the patient’s condition, they may have to provide specialized services, such as total parenteral nutrition (intravenous feeding) or enteral nutrition (tube feeding). Occasionally, dietitians may promote nutritional food and diet awareness through public educational programs in primary schools, colleges, communities, and corporate settings.
The dietitian job description includes:
- Provide explanations for food and nutrition issues
- Establish proper meal plans for the patient in accordance with their preference, health, and financial capabilities
- Evaluate the health and diet needs of patients
- Calculate patient nutritional requirements
- Analyze nutritional content of food
- Educate other healthcare professionals about food and nutrition
- Run health promotion clinics in hospitals, pharmacies, and other community settings
- Educate the public about the need for proper dieting, its importance in disease prevention, etc.
- Conduct dietary, nutritional, and epidemiological research
How to Become a Dietitian
Dietitians are required to have a bachelor’s degree in foods and nutrition, dietetics, food service systems management, and other health-related courses. The 4-year undergraduate program provides classroom learning in clinical dietetics to prepare students for entry into internships. Students who aspire for a higher salary or better job opportunities may pursue a graduate degree. Obtaining the Master of Science in Nutrition degree will qualify them for research, public health, or advanced clinical positions.
After graduating from an accredited college program, students take part in supervised training that should last up to 1200 hours. The training is normally in the form of internship.
Most states require a dietitian to be licensed before practicing, some states require only state registration or certification, and a few have no state regulations.
The title Registered Dietitian (RD) is given to those who hold a bachelor’s degree from an approved education program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). These individuals are also required to work for 1 year in supervised clinical work (1200 hours) and pass a national written exam issued by Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Once licensed, registered dietitians must complete a minimum of 75 continuing education credits every 5 years in order to keep their certification active. Although the registered dietitians designation isn’t a requirement and is unrelated to the certification required by some states, most employers look for this designation because these individuals are usually more qualified and have an advanced degree.
Licensure and certification is only mandatory for the use of certain job titles, such as Registered Dietitian. Those who are not licensed or certified may still practice in certain states, provided they do not use any of these titles and designations. California is the only state that requires just registration, the least restrictive form of regulation.
Click here for Dietitian Salary Page
Dietitian Job Description SummaryHere is a short recap of the dietitian job description:
- Expert in food and nutrition
- Registered Dietitian must be licensed
- 4 year bachelor’s degree program
- 21% employment growth by 2022