As a dietitian, you probably chose your profession because of a genuine desire to help people eat right, feel better and control their health through a proper diet. Even so, it does not hurt to investigate what fields in your career offer the best compensation. The median annual income of a registered dietitian, as of 2010, is around $51,000, but jobs paying as much as $75,000 are available, according to the United States Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who are bilingual can expect to make a bit more in the public sector.
Scientific and Technical Nutritionist
With an average wage of about $75,000, a career as a scientific or technical dietitian by far pays the highest wage. This is primarily a position for those dietitians interested in a working in a managerial capacity for a large food manufacturer and distributor. They work to provide a more nutritional product for the consumer while balancing their employer's concerns about the bottom line and helping the company stay within government guidelines for nutritional labeling and content.
Coming in at about $68,000, the dietitian who works for the federal government in the capacity of a consultant or analyst makes roughly $17,000 more a year than the median salary. The departments of agriculture and education are two of the branches of government where dietitians may be employed, preparing data for the public's benefit. This also includes those dietitians employed by the federal government's correctional facilities.
Home Health Care Services
A home health care dietitian primarily works with the home bound and elderly. They teach patients how to shop for and prepare food for their own needs and often work in conjunction with primary health care providers.This area of nutritional health care deals mostly with elderly patients, and occasionally children, who have specialized metabolic needs. The pay averages around $62,000 a year.
Although positions in consulting for retail are rare, with only about 110 jobs in the United States according to the BLS, the pay is on the upper end of what can be expected as a nutritional health care provider, coming in around $61,000. These consultants help with marketing and educational outreach for retail outlets that cater to the health-conscious consumer.
Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories
If you are primarily interested in research and the scientific end of nutritional science, then a career in medical and diagnostic laboratories is for you. Expect to earn about $60,000 a year.
Private Medical Practice
Dietitians specializing in outpatient care and working in a private medical practice can expect to earn about $54,000 a year. These nutritionists help educate patients with specialized dietary needs on how to buy and prepare meals that suit their particular medical needs. Specialized areas include renal, diabetic and anemia. They work with a medical practitioner to make certain patients follow their prescribed diets.
Medical and Surgical Hospital
A specialized field of nutritional health care is providing support and advice for the primary medical caregivers in a hospital setting. These nutritionists help patients by providing them proper nutrition while they are in the hospital. They specialize in metabolic disorders and high-needs patients who may be experiencing difficulty with a normal diet. Their pay averages about $53,000 a year.
Nursing Care Facilities
Although employment in the nursing care facility is on the decline, there are still roughly 5,000 dietitians working in the industry as of 2010. The pay is almost identical to those working in a hospital setting, around $53,000 a year. The decline is due, in part, to more nursing home facilities outsourcing their nutritional needs to a food supplier. The contractor brings in prepared food, eliminating the need for nutritional analysis.
Local Government/Community Care
A registered dietitian working in public health can expect to earn less than the average salary, around $49,000 annually. These jobs are with local correctional facilities, public schools or social services. Public health dietitians help local governments and school districts meet federal nutritional requirements.
Specialized Food Services
Often, a dietitian will specialize in a particular field of nutrition to provide care for patients with a specific ailment. These dietitians make about as much as their outpatient provider counterparts, taking in about $49,000 a year. They often work with a specialized medical facility, such as a dialysis clinic or a facility that manages diabetes. This field usually demands education beyond the four-year degree required of most registered dietitians.
2016 Salary Information for Dietitians and Nutritionists
Dietitians and nutritionists earned a median annual salary of $58,920 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, dietitians and nutritionists earned a 25th percentile salary of $47,200, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $71,840, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 68,000 people were employed in the U.S. as dietitians and nutritionists.