The Scoop on Dietitians and Nutritionists

Do you like food? Do you like eating right?

A career as a dietitian or a Nutritionist might just be for you. Jobs in these fields are supposed to grow at the rate of the national average, but you may have a hard time finding a job if larger providers substitute other professionals for Dietitians and Nutritionists or if insurance companies make a hard line on paying for these services, but there are still lots of different places to find a job.

What in the World Does a Dietitian or Nutritionist Do?

As a Dietitian or Nutritionist you would work with patients in planning a meal program to promote health, in teaching people how to make the right food, and even overseeing someone else to see if they are cooking the right things for their health or the health of others. You could become a "Clinical Dietitian" and help to keep the right kind of food to patients in a hospital, nursing home, or health clinic. If you were working as a "Community Dietitian" you would be working to counsel hospitals and other large facilities in how to get the best to their patients or people to promote health (think of it like freelancing.) You could even work as a "Management Dietitian" and (you guessed it) manage food services as hospitals or health clinics.

The work involves a lot of manual labor because you have to get down in the trenches and (many times) just cook the food so people know exactly what they're supposed to be doing. However, if you love food and you enjoy the kitchen then this might be right up your alley.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Dietitians and Nutritionists are required to have a Bachelor's Degree in Dietetics (sometimes people is call it Nutrition or Food Service Management.) There were 237 Bachelor's Degree programs available in the U.S. in 2007 for this area, so you might not have a hard time finding a school where you can get this training, but remember that it is a 4-year Bachelor's Degree Program.

After you get your degree most states require that you get a license to work as a "Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist". After you get your license you may have to get continuing education to renew your license or certificate, but you should check for the rules in your state since they are all a little bit different.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

57,000 people held this kind of job in 2007, and with the demand for alternative medicines and with an aging population there should be consistent growth in jobs for Dietitians and Nutritionists. You could get a job managing a hospital cafeteria, a correctional facility cafeteria, or any other government agency where food is served. You could also manage food services for a nursing home or other kind of health clinic.

If you want to have more control of your work environment you may want to work as a consultant to large facilities like hospitals or prisons or you could even work for yourself and almost be a "personal chef" in consulting individual clients on their dietary needs and how to cook for themselves and promote their health.

Advancement in the field might well include becoming the manager or director of food services for a large facility like a hospital or might involve you leaving the traditional work field to work for yourself. For other people they may want to become sales reps for pharmaceutical companies or food service companies or manufacturers. The job prospects become greater and greater with experience.

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Dietitians and Nutritionists Overview

Dietitians and Nutritionist Salary:$50,590
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:5 years
# Employed in US:53,630
% Who work Part Time:33%
Physical Difficulty:+ +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + +

The Pros of being a Dietician or Nutritionist

  • You only need a Bachelor's Degree to get your license
  • Some states don't even require a license to work as a dietician
  • There are multiple areas of the public and private sector where you can work
  • You may be able to work for yourself as a consultant

The Cons of being a Dietician or Nutritionist

  • Some places where you could find work might seem undesirable (ex. Prisons or company cafeterias)
  • The labor is intensive, especially when it comes to food preparation
  • You spend a lot of time on your feet