As a dietitian, you can rely on your expertise in application biology and advocate the art of eating well and staying fit. The role and responsibility of a registered dietitian is to educate individuals and groups about eating right food, promote healthy eating habits and suggest diet modifications wherever required.
The extensive dietitian career information presented here will help you learn more about this profession. You can gather information about the desired skill sets, the job outlook as well as career prospects in terms of the various sectors that seek the services of dietitians. Get equipped and be part of an interesting, challenging, rewarding and rapidly growing career field that has a surging demand. If you are looking for attractive earnings, an avenue to make significant contributions to someone's health thereby gaining job satisfaction together with employment stability - clinical dietitian career has it all.
Registered dietitian career
Post completion of high school education, it is mandatory to obtain a Bachelor of Science qualification from a U.S regionally accredited college or university, or a foreign equivalent. A science related major like dietetics, foods and nutrition education, food service systems management or a related area is preferred. Other ancillary subjects that are part of Bachelor's degree may include economics, statistics, bacteriology, physiology, sociology, psychology, home economics, business administration, communication and computer science and management theory.
The Bachelor's degree prepares the students for a major role that of informing and guiding individuals about appropriate diet to improve their health, to avoid certain diseases or to keep existing ailments well under control. The course is designed taking into account the job profile of a clinical dietitian. Students gain firm foundation, knowledge and the required skills. Most educational institutions require students to be involved in individual and group projects. Guest lectures by experts provide excellent one-to-one interactions.
Besides a bachelor's degree, certain laws regulating dietitians have to be complied with. Out of the 46 states in USA, 31 states require licensure, certification or registration. The purpose is to ensure only qualified, trained professional provide nutrition services or consultation to individuals who seek their services. Licensure provides license and only those who have the license are authorized to work as professional dietitians. In the case of statutory certification, those who meet certain requirements are eligible for obtaining and using titles. Uncertified dietitians can still practice but without using certain titles.
Hence, it is mandatory for those who are interested in pursuing a career in dietetics and nutrition to meet the credential requirements, which vary from state to state. It is recommended to determine the state where you would like to work and check the requirements of the state.
In the US, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for American dietetic association awards the Registered Dietitian credential (RD) to those who pass a certification exam. The CDR provides guidance to dietetics practitioners. Prospective candidates have to meet the eligibility requirements laid down by the CDR in order to take the entry-level registration examinations. Current academic degree, supervised experience and confirmation of academic and practice requirements by verifications are all part of the mandatory requirements listed by the CDR. Those who successfully complete the dietetic internship and pass the examination are certified as registered dietitians.
As of January 1st 2008, the number of Registered Dietitians total to 76207 and that of Dietetic Technicians, Registered is 4214. Only after successful completion of Registered Dietitians certification can an individual proceed to apply for Dietetic Technicians, Registered.
Clinical dietitian career
Dietetics is a science. It brings together two sets of people - Those who require expert guidance in choosing right food with those who are qualified and proficient in guiding people to make informed and practical choices about food and lifestyle. The services of clinical dietitians are required in Federal, state and local government agencies, health care facility centers, recreation clubs, residential care facility centers, research labs, day care centers, schools, universities, airlines, nursing homes and prisons.
Besides the mainstream opportunities, demand for wellness dietitians does exist in advertising, sales and food manufacturing sector. Experienced dietitians can also choose to be self-employed. There is greater scope for wellness dietitians who choose to be self-employed. The horizon to explore is wider.
One can write recipes for web sites, newspapers or magazines, prepare food and nutrition literature, write captions for advertising health food, engage in live health chats in radios or televisions, or even work as a trainer. Backed by years of rich experience, clinical dietitians may even be induced to develop a food product, start an enterprise to market and sell the products or services.
Dietitian career options
Dietitians have the option to choose areas of practice. The four major areas of practice include clinical, community, management and consultant dietetics. Accordingly they are referred to as clinical or therapeutic dietitian, community dietitian, management dietitian and consultant dietitian.
Clinical or therapeutic dietitian
Clinical or therapeutic dietitians work in hospital, clinic or any other health care facility. A typical day begins with reviewing the medical charts followed by an interaction with patient and patient's family to gain insight into diet history. Clinical dietitian work in conjunction with doctors and other health care professionals to determine patient nutritional needs and diet restrictions that have to be followed in specific cases.
The interaction helps to understand the state of health, course of treatment and the do's and don'ts in terms of food intake. The clinical dietitian then proceeds to formulate individual menus taking into account the medical and physical condition of the patient. This is followed by supervising meals served to patients to check if it conforms to the prescribed diet and is in accordance with the doctor's prescription.
It is the responsibility of a clinical dietitian to check if the diet brings forth the desired benefits to the patient; if not changes in diet need to be suggested. Taking a step forward, the clinical dietitian interacts with patient's family and suggests dietary changes, the need to adhere to a prescribed diet and the health improvement it begets.
Career opportunities for management dietitians exist in health care facilities, company cafeterias, prisons and schools. The primary responsibility is to oversee large-scale meal planning and preparation. Management dietitians hire workers for meal preparation. They impart training to those hired. The training includes assessment, planning, preparing and serving of meals.
It is also the duty of the management dietitian to be involved in every aspect of food preparation and serving; including inspection of meals before consumption. The object is to ensure that proper nutrients are supplied without any compromise in aroma, flavor and visual appeal. Certain administrative jobs that form part of a management dietitian's portfolio include preparing budgets, procuring food, equipment, maintenance of kitchen sanitation, adhering to safety regulations, preparing records and reports.
The work of a community dietitian is more proactive as the focus is more on prevention than on treatment. The service of community dietitian is required in community wellness programs and international health organizations, public health clinics, home healthy agencies, and any other health maintenance organization.
Community dietitian works towards creating awareness about nutritional food practices with reference to specific life-styles and geographic areas. Such a wellness dietitian imparts knowledge to individuals and group through classes. It is the responsibility of the community dietitian to conceptualize, design, plan and organize all activities related to conducting the classes.
This includes preparing the course materials too. The classes cover all aspects of general nutrition and guide to preventing diseases. Community dietitians who work in home health agencies have the additional responsibility of providing instructions on grocery shopping and food preparation to the elderly and individuals with special needs.
A dietitian who chooses to work under contract with any healthcare center or who sets-up own practice is referred to as consultant dietitian. There is hardly any change in terms of the primary responsibility and it is the modus of operation that differs. Doctors, patients, hospitals, public and private companies seek services of consultant dietitian. Like any other dietitian, the consultant dietitian too interacts with individuals or groups, understands specific needs, suggests, educates and guides in selecting appropriate diet. While working on contract basis, consultant dietitians are required to co-ordinate their activities with others in the organization.
A sports dietitian works with motivated athletes so to provide advice and support on the right nutrition. Such a dietitian designs and implements diet programs and counsels athletes after assessing their needs. A sports dietitian must keep up with emerging research. The sports dietitian needs to plan specific nutritional aspects during a sports event and also the hydration levels. The right kind of diet helps an athlete to achieve improved power to weight ration, elevated endurance levels and increase muscle mass and strength.
Dietitian career tips
Reports suggest that demand for registered dietitians is poised for a steady growth through 2014. Today, there is a noticeable change in people's attitude in eating healthy food. Especially those who wish to keep away from the 'great taste, quick bites, on-the go foods'. Thus, dietitians have a major part to play in constructing a healthy society. Dietitians can proficiently execute the science of human nutrition by helping people understand food and its relationship in leading a healthy lifestyle.
The rise in population over the decades has lead to more health care centers to operate. Likewise, the number of hospitals, clinics, doctors, nursing homes, hotels, restaurants, health clubs, and food manufacturing companies are multiplying to meet the growing need and demands. Correspondingly, the career opportunity for dietitians is bound to increase.