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How to Become a Dietitian

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Help Clients Make Healthy Nutritional Choices

As public health in America continues to expand into a varied and complex industry, dietitians are needed to help people make smart choices when it comes to food. It's a smart career for a working mother because you can often work flexible hours or work from home. Dietitians can play a role in schools, hospitals, colleges, health care facilities and private clinics. If you're a strong communicator, interested in science and like helping people, dietetics could be the right career for you.

Job Description

Although a dietitian's job might vary slightly based on where she works, it generally comes down to evaluating a person's current eating plan and customizing something new to account for the person's health. For example, a hospital dietitian might work with an ill patient to create a diet that helps manage symptoms. In a different setting, a dietitian might plan meals for a large number of people, such as creating menus for schools or hospital cafeterias.

Education Requirements

Dietitians need a bachelor's degree, typically in dietetics, nutrition, public health or a similar area, and many also have an advanced degree. Either during college or immediately after, dietitians must complete an internship that consists of several hundred hours of training.

To become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), a credential awarded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you must take and pass an exam given by AND. To maintain that designation, a dietitian must obtain continuing education credits—to the tune of 75 credits every five years—through attending classes, conferences, webinars and other educational courses.

About the Industry

Approximately 30 percent of dietitians work in state, local or private hospitals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Another 14 percent were employed by the government. Dietitians are also employed by outpatient care centers, nursing and residential care facilities and schools. Around six percent of dietitians are self-employed.

Years of Experience

Dietitians earn a median salary of nearly $63,090, with the highest-paid dietitians working at outpatient care centers. The lowest-paid dietitians generally work for the government. BLS recommends earning an advanced degree or additional certifications for the best job prospects.

However, salaries range based on an dietitian's education, years worked, geographic region and hours worked. While the majority of dietitians work full-time hours, according to BLS, about 25 percent work part-time.

Job Growth Trend

As interest in food and nutrition has grown, so has the employment of dietitians. It's projected to continue to increase 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than average for all occupations. This can be attributed not only to the growing number of obese people in the U.S., but also the aging Baby Boomer population.


Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.

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