What is a dietitian?
This is a health care professional who specializes in the science of nutrition and food. Being a dietician you may find yourself working with clients/patients who have special dietary needs like people who are bulimic or diabetics. When you see a dietician they will help you implement diet modifications to achieve a specific health related goal or to promote a lifestyle that is healthier. One important thing to note is that nutritionists and dieticians are not the same thing and they should not be used interchangeably. Many times dietitians will work closely with a physician to help make sure that their patients are receiving appropriate and safe nourishment. They have expertise in biology and disease process along with food chemistry that helps them to create their patients with a personalized nutrition plan. If you are a dietitian who provides medical nutrition therapy to patients are referred to as clinical dietitians.
Job description of a dietitian
When you see a dietician you know that they are an expert in nutrition and food. Some of the things that you would do as a dietician can include:
- Helping to promote healthy eating habits to treat and prevent various illnesses through the supervision of service and food preparation, public education, and dietary modifications.
- When working in nursing homes and medical facilities the role of a dietician is very important as they help their patients by evaluating dietary treatments of various diseases and providing good advice on healthy eating habits.
- They will provide for the entire medical team unbiased and reliable sources of information. The medical team can consist of nurses, occupational and physical therapists, doctors, pharmacists, and speech therapists.
- Developing dietary plans that meet the nutritional requirements of their patients according to what the patient’s medical chart states.
- Having to provide specialized services like tube feeding referred to as enteral nutrition or intravenous feeding referred to as parenteral nutrition. Which one they would use would depend on the condition of the patient.
- Attending public educational programs in the community, corporate settings, and educational facilities to promote diet and nutritional food awareness.
- Provide explanations for nutrition and food issues.
- Make the correct meal plans for a patient in accordance with their health and food preference.
- Calculate nutritional requirements for patients
- Analyze nutritional content of different foods
- They help patients lose or gain weight
- Diagnosis along with treating different diet-related disorders
Being a dietitian you need to have great organization and communication skills. A dietitian needs to be able to monitor their patients and make notes in the patient’s chart if they are making any progress or not and if necessary they may have to change their meal plans. You should also have good comprehension and reading skills because it is not only necessary but very important that a dietitian read the latest literature on diets, what is healthy and not healthy, new improvements in the field of dietetics, new information about diseases, and so much more that they need in order to pass it onto their patients.
How to become a dietitian?
In order to become a dietitian you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree but there are some that decide to further their education and get a graduate degree. In the United States as of 2009 there were 18 master’s degree programs and 279 bachelor’s degree programs that the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Educations (CADE) and the Dietetic Association (ADA) approved.
The bachelor’s degree program that a dietitian must have needs to be a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, other health science field, or dietetics. The bachelor degree will take you 4 years to complete and provide the student with classroom instruction in clinical dietetics. It also qualifies students for entry into an internship or supervised practice. The classes that a student dietitian may take can include experimental foods, food service organization, human nutrition, quantity food production, and medical nutrition therapy.
If you decide that you want to further your education and work toward your master’s degree it could help you find employment in public health, advanced clinical positions, or research. Getting your master’s degree could be an option for a person to become a dietitian if they hold a bachelor’s degree in a field that is unrelated to nutrition. If you want to further your education and focus on clinical and research methods in dietetics and nutrition you would work toward a Master of Science in Nutrition program. In this graduate program you would have classes in exercise physiology, nutritional biochemistry, research methods, and developmental nutrition. You may also have to complete a master’s thesis.
Almost all states have the requirement that in order to practice as a dietician you need to obtain certification, registration to practice, or licensure. The strictest form of any state regulation is the licensure. If you try to practice as a dietitian without being licensed you will be subject to prosecution. If the state requires certification you must meet state-specific predetermined qualifications to get that certification. For using certain job titles it is mandatory to have certification. If you are not certified you may still be able to practice as a dietitian but will not be able to use any title that requires you to be certified. The least restrictive form of regulation is registration and at this time the only U.S. state that requires this is California.
For nutrition and food professionals who have a bachelor’s degree from an educational program that is approve the ADA offers them the Registered Dietitian (RD) title. To receive certification you must also have completed an internship program or a CADE accredited school. To get a certificate it will generally include one supervised year of field work in a food service or healthcare facility for a total of 1200 supervised hours. Once they meet this requirement they can take the national Commission on Dietetic Registration exam. After passing the exam they will become certified registered dietitians. Every five years you have to earn 75 continuing education credits to keep their certification.
If a dietitian wants to become an educator and teach people and their patients about healthy lifestyles in government agencies, colleges, private businesses, or hospitals they may need to have the credential of Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). One of the major drawbacks in having a dietitian major it may be hard to find a job outside the dietetic field so if you are unsure whether you want to become a dietician or not you should check out the employment rate, type of jobs that are offered to a dietitian before you commit yourself to getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the dietetic field.
Work environment and schedule
Approximately 15% of dietitians are self employed and work on a contract basis in different healthcare settings or have their own private clinics but the majority of dietitians work in hospitals. Some dietitians work in physician clinics, cafeterias, long-term care facilities, schools, retail pharmacies, palliative and hospice care services, correctional institutions, and nursing homes. Most dieticians work with the National Health Service (NHS) and can specialize in one of the many different fields that are related to diet in some way. These specialized fields can include children’s health, sports, diabetes management, weight loss surgery, and so many more.
Most dietitians will work regular business hours 5 days a week but may work occasionally on weekends. They are not on call as physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals. If you are self-employed you will have more flexibility and can work when you want or are needed.
Pros and cons of being a Dietitian
In order to be a great candidate for this job you should be full of life, opened to people, with great communicational skills. You also need to be able to offer facts about what foods are good, which diet to follow and commonly what should a patient consume when his health is affected. The rewarding when working with people is being able to prepare them for a healthier way of life. You could find yourself working with difficult cases, such as patients who confront themselves with a disease in which is needed a clear and accurate monitoring of their diet in order to control or even prevent some ailments.
You will be like a teacher that educated a person who is suffering from hypertension on how to put less salt when he or she is cooking. There are plenty of job openings if you want to work as a Dietitian especially in areas such as clinics, community centers, even in research facilities, or advertising, marketing and many other.
The number of demanding is always growing due to many people who are in need of these professionals in order to live a healthier life when it comes to a diet menu. People will always have an increased interest in nutrition as well in their health, so this job also brings security.
The education requirements will vary from one state to another. The majority of states will require from a Dietitian to possess a Bachelor’s Degree. The specialty area should be in food and nutrition, in dietetics, and in some cases even a Master’s degree in the specialty of Nutrition. Some experience in the area of a school cafeteria or a hospital one is indicated during the years of training that will add a huge bonus to your CV.
You will also have plenty of opportunities to advance in this career such as becoming a Registered Dietitian, this involving additional training and continuous education. The main con here is that the training programs can be pretty expensive and at the end of your study years you’ll get into some financial debt.
Another con is linked with the environment in which one of these professionals is working. You can be exposed to bacteria that comes along with the food and other unexpected situations. You’ll work will involve standing on your feet for many hours and even you’ll have to keep a clean area and avoid as much as you can unsanitary conditions.
Education in this field as showed earlier can be very strict, and the competition in this field is highly for those who have only a bachelor’s degree. The job opportunities grow fast due to the main issue of obesity and the sense of awareness that was born in many people. So you’ll have to prove yourself and become one of the best to beat the competition.
Dietitian job growth
The employment growth projection for dietitian for the next five to ten years is estimated to have a rate of 16.5%-19.5%. This is due to the nature of the job, since many people that are suffering from diabetes and not only also people that are suffering from various conditions apply for the services of these professionals. Living a healthy life also means eating healthy food. The job growth in this field is also linked with the growth of the aging population that is looking to live a healthy lifestyle and not only.
Many medical settings with preventative care are interested more and more in the role that food has in the human body, and the promotion of health and wellness has increased a lot this leading to an increased demand for dietitians. With other words, the job prospects are very good, and this job allows you also to be self-employed.
On average a dietitian’s annual salary is approximately $52,150 but if you have a specialized degree such as renal or pediatric dietetics. If you are a dietitian who works in private agencies or clinics you can earn an average annual salary of $75,480 or more. A dietitian who has over 10 years of experience can earn more than $70,000 a year on average.
In addition to the salary a dietitian will usually be offered a bonus package that can include paid vacation and sick days, life insurance, health insurance that may include the family, 401K, pension, social security, vision and dental care, profit sharing, and yearly bonus. If you are a self employed dietitian you most likely will not have a benefit package and your average annual salary may fluctuate as it depends on the patients you have and the services you are offering.
The top paying industries that employ dietitians are:
- $88,100 in an animal food manufacturing company
- $74,270 in a miscellaneous nondurable goods merchant wholesalers
- $69,360 in a Federal Executive Branch
- $66,590 in a grant making and giving service
- $64,700 as a insurance carrier
- The top paying states include:
- $82,650 in Maryland
- $71,840 in Nevada
- $68,700 in California
- $65,050 in Hawaii
- $63,560 in Alaska
The top paying dietetic specialties include:
- $38,705-$66,960 in the specialty field of nutrition
- $35,937-$66,960 in the specialty field of counseling
- $39,213-$65,184 in the specialty field of patient education
- $41,156-$66,910 in the specialty field of diabetes educators.
Salary of a Dietitian in 2015
The salary of a dietitian in US for the year 2015 is influenced by a majority of factors. First of all, your salary will be influenced according to the facility in which you are working. For instance, many dietitians are self-employed this leading to higher incomes than those who work in the public areas. Those who already have gained a lot of experiences can advance in their job and be even promoted to directors or even to associates.
The yearly salary for an average dietitian in the US can be estimated at $52,154 per year. The amount can be even more or less, according to the state in which one works, the setting, and the specialization that he or she possesses.
Dietitian Salary in 2016
The main factors that impact and affect the income of dietitian in the United States, for the year 2016 are the geographical location-state, city, area, educational level as well as the type of employer and years of experience in the field.
For instance, a registered dietitian in the US can expect a median income that reaches at around $49,686 per year, according to Payscale. The lowest income point for a registered dietitian reaches at around $40,010 per year while the highest point can reach up to $71,010 per year.
The salary for these professionals is estimated to start from $39,418 per year and climb up to $64,980 per year with yearly included bonuses that can reach up to $2,952 and profit sharing that can be comprised between $251 and $4,326. The commission that is granted for registered dietitian can reach at around $15,010 per year, this leading to a total income package that ranges from $39,990 per year and up to $70,729 per year.
The average dietitian salary in 2016 in the US is estimated to be around $56,010 per year with a median income situated at $50,078 per year. The salaries tend to range from $39,717 per year, and it can climb up to $65,700 per year. The bonuses that are granted are estimated to reach up to $1,981 per year while the profit sharing is estimated at $405, this leading to a total payment that ranges from $39,952 per year and $71,678 per year, according to Payscale.
These salaries vary a lot according to the early mentioned factors and according to the cost of living and the living expenses that vary from state to state. According to the BLS else known as the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top paying states for these specialists are California, Connecticut, Maryland and a few other. For instance, the average yearly income in California for a Dietitian is estimated at around $71,872 per year while in Connecticut the average payment reaches around $63,821 per year.
The national average income for dietitians reaches at $51,735 per year. According to location, the incomes of these specialists are well quoted in Cleveland where the median income is estimated to be around $54,476 per year that is above the national average. Great salaries above the national average can be found in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other. On the other side incomes that are paid below the national average can be found in Philadelphia and Chicago.
Dietitian salary in Canada, Australia and UK
If you are considering moving to Canada, the UK, or Australia to work as a dietitian or already live there it is important to know that the average annual salary in these three countries is somewhat close to the average annual salary in the United States.
- UK—the average annual starting salary for a dietitian ranges from 21,176-27,534. If you have a specialty you can have an annual average salary of 25,472-34,189 and if the dietitian has a higher level of education they can have an annual average salary of 30,460-40,157.
- Canada—the average annual salary ranges from CAD$43,408-CAD$70,534. The lowest paid dietitian has an average annual salary of CAD$44,000 and the highest average annual salary of CAD$70,500.
- Australia—the average annual salary ranges from AU$35,842-AU$69,766 with an average yearly bonus from AU$0.50-AU$18,297.
Conclusion on dietitian salary
When comparing a dietitian’s average annual salary with other medical professionals it is remarkably lower but you can receive a higher average annual salary with advance specialization and more experience. You also have to look at the benefit package that is being offered to you. As more and more people become health conscious they will start to eat better but if they are not sure where to start, what type of diet they should be on, or what they should eat so they talk to a dietitian. What affects a dietitian’s salary also includes their education and where they work along with the geographic location. If you want to make a difference in a person’s life by helping them to adhere to a healthier diet and lifestyle then being a dietitian would be a great job for you. In the United States the average annual salary is on the low side but is still a decent salary and the job outlook is looking good because someone at one time or another will find themselves in need of a dietitian to help them start having a healthier life style so they can live longer.
Being a dietitian may mean that there are more job opportunities than for some other medical professional. If you are looking to earn a larger salary you should make sure that you have a master’s degree along with several years of experience.
- First Published Date: 1 August, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 21 August, 2016