Spotlights

Job Description

Dietitians and Nutritionists educate people on healthy eating habits to boost energy and help avoid or mitigate health problems like diabetes or heart disease. Since every person has unique nutritional needs, workers need extensive knowledge of various medical conditions and the best course of dietary action for those conditions. It’s often a highly individualized field that requires workers to learn about the people they’re advising, while collaborating with other medical professionals who are working with that same person. 
 
Many Dietitians and Nutritionists work in healthcare settings, but others are independent solopreneurs with their own offices. Some specialize in community practice, focused on youth or elderly citizens. In such cases, they might work within a hospital, school, governmental agency, or even a nonprofit. In these broader roles, they assist with wide-scale meal planning, purchasing, budgeting, and perhaps supervision of others. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Helping individuals achieve their dietary goals
  • Improving quality of life for persons with certain medical conditions
  • Providing critical nutritional input for schools, hospitals, prisons, and elderly care settings
2019 Employment
74,200
2029 Projected Employment
80,100
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Dieticians and Nutritionists work full-time jobs, usually indoors but with occasional travel required. Private consultants may need to offer flexible hours to meet the needs of their clients.  

Typical Duties

  • Review patient/client medical histories including problem areas
  • Determine a course of dietary action to address or prevent relevant medical issues
  • Write out meal plans and preparation instructions, tailored to the client’s likes and needs
  • Discuss healthy eating options and motivate clients to avoid foods or substances that are negatively impacting their bodies 
  • Review progress and adjust accordingly to keep on track
  • Teach nutritional topics in classes, to include how eating habits impact disease
  • Make creative graphics, slides, or other educational and curriculum materials
  • Assess needs of larger groups, such as student populations
  • Oversee food service providers; gauge compliance with applicable health, safety, and nutritional standards
  • Liaison with other medical professionals as necessary 

Additional Responsibilities

  • Train workers as needed
  • Stay on top of changes within the field; generate reports and draft policies
  • Recommend and buy (or assist with buying) suitable food items for large-scale operations; track budgets and spending
  • Create and test specialized meals for certain situations 
  • Draft grant proposals for funding nutritional programs
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Active listening
  • Adept at problem solving
  • Analytical
  • Compassionate
  • Cultural sensitivity and awareness
  • Desire and aptitude to help others succeed
  • Empathetic and patient
  • English proficiency
  • Leadership and training skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Personal service aptitude
  • Persuasive and motivated
  • Skills for coordinating and instructing activities
  • Understanding of basic psychology

Technical Skills

  • Good with budgets and numbers
  • Familiarity with technical topics in biology, science, and medicine
  • Nutrition-related programs like Axxya Systems Nutritionist Pro and Compu-Cal
  • Database user interfaces/query software 
  • Medical software such as BioEx Systems Nutrition Maker Plus and Lifestyles Technologies DietMaster Pro
  • Network conferencing software
  • Standard office suite applications 
  • Graphic design apps
Different Types of Organizations
  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient care centers    
  • Nursing homes/residential care facilities
  • Government agencies    
Expectations and Sacrifices

The roles of proper diet and nutrition are often overlooked or even intentionally ignored by vast numbers of citizens today, which has led to a health crisis in America. Dieticians and Nutritionists are expected to come up with feasible solutions for the people they provide services to. They’re responsible for helping patients, clients, and in some cases large groups with staying healthy and avoiding health issues or managing existing ones. 
 
It’s incumbent upon Dieticians and Nutritionists to bring all their skills to bear in the battles against obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. They stay busy with research and writing when they aren’t doing other duties. For those in private practice, a lot of unpaid time is spent looking for customers through advertising efforts, while managing relations with existing clients. 

Current Trends

Obesity in America has skyrocketed to unprecedented proportions. The CDC notes the “prevalence of obesity was 42.4% in 2017~2018,” going on to point out that “obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death.” The fact is, every year thousands of people die early from issues that could be prevented through better diet and nutrition. In addition, studies have indicated that these problems disproportionately affect minority groups and those facing socioeconomic problems, which is a trend that must be tackled head-on. Meanwhile, baby-boomers are living longer but not necessarily healthier lives. As their demands on the healthcare system increase, it’s critical for them to have access to professional dietary and nutrition services that can help them stay healthy. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...

Dieticians and Nutritionists enjoy working with others and helping them, so chances are this is something they’ve always taken pleasure in. They might have been into sports and exercise as kids and in school. Perhaps they were also great in the kitchen, whipping up a wide range of tasty yet nutritious delights for family and friends. Because their jobs require a good working knowledge of biology and health, they likely excelled in classes related to these topics. They often have an independent streak and are confident enough to work on their own and perhaps manage their own business. This suggests they developed some business mindset in their youth, and were probably very responsible and good with money!

Education and Training Needed
  • A bachelor’s degree plus a lengthy, supervised internship 
    • The arduous, competitive Dietetic Internship requires ~1,200 hours to complete
  • Bachelor’s degrees can be in a range of majors and areas of study, typically Dietetics, Food Service Systems, Foods and Nutrition, or Clinical/Public Health Nutrition
  • Programs should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics, which falls under the purview of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Licensure and certification are required in some states
  • Holding a renewable Registered Dietitian Nutritionist credential from the Commission on Dietetic Registration is helpful and in some cases necessary
  • The Certified Nutrition Specialist is an advanced credential requiring a graduate degree plus 1,000 hours of supervised work
  • There are also specialized certifications available, such as in oncology, pediatrics, and sports  
  • Approximately 24% of workers also complete a graduate degree
Things to look for in a program
  • Programs should ideally be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition, which is required for some certifications
  • Check out online, on-campus, and hybrid options to find one that’s right for your schedule and location
  • See if the university or program offers scholarships or any tuition discounts
  • Look at the school’s overall national rankings as well as the ranking of the specific program
  • Carefully review enrollment, graduation, and diversity statistics, as well as job placement rates for grads! Many schools have strong partnerships with local recruiters
  • Check out student organizations and clubs that can benefit your learning and growth
  • See if your program allows for simultaneous completion of any internship requirements
Things to do in High School and College
  • Study hard in courses related to nutrition, chemistry, psychology, biology, and business if you’re going into private practice
  • Start thinking early on about where you want to work, and plan out the necessary work and academic experiences you’ll need to compete for those jobs
  • Volunteer at local agencies that support nutrition education or other wellness topics
  • Keep track of your accomplishments on a draft resume, so you don’t forget anything when the time comes to start applying
  • Remember that in addition to a bachelor’s, a 1,200-hour Dietetic Internship is typically needed as well
  • Get to know your community to learn what factors impact access to quality, healthy food
  • Learn about the various governmental agencies you might work for or with, as well as opportunities within local schools, prison systems, clinics, and nonprofits
  • If you plan to work for yourself, start writing articles and get your name out there to establish your reputation as a subject matter expert
  • Expand your professional network; stay in contact with persons who can benefit your future career goals!
Typical Roadmap
Dietician and Nutritionist Gladeo Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Complete all necessary education to include certification or licensure requirements based on your state and the job duties
  • Carefully read all job ads and ensure you meet the listed qualifications before applying
  • Take note of keywords and use them in your resume to help get by Applicant Tracking Software filters!
  • Add sufficient details to support statements about your educational and work experiences
  • Set up accounts with employment portals like Indeed, Monster, and Glassdoor, as well as multipurpose sites like LinkedIn
  • Ask potential reference providers in advance about their willingness to write letters of recommendation or to answer calls or emails from hiring managers
  • Get ready by conducting mock interviews and looking up potential questions and answers you might be asked
  • Check out Indeed’s guide on What to Wear for job interviews
How to Climb the Ladder
  • It might not seem like it, but the world of food and nutrition is constantly changing as research continues into what is good for us and what helps prevent diseases
  • Keep up with current news and trends that affect your role and responsibilities
  • Get proof of your continued education and training by seeking out specialty and advanced certifications such as Certified Nutrition Specialist  
  • Be a vocal advocate for the people you serve, especially if you’re responsible for groups of underserved, underrepresented, or at-risk populations 
  • Cultivate partnerships with local agencies that tie into your goals
  • Get out from behind the desk to learn about community needs and barriers to access
  • Volunteer to give lectures or teach classes whenever you can. If you don’t see opportunities, create them yourself by reaching out and offering your services
  • Treat patients and clients with respect and understanding. Many people have struggled their whole lives with food issues, so change can take time and perseverance
  • Get known and promote your work! Draft grant proposals and ask for funding for large-scale projects that get attention
  • Participate in professional organizations. Attend conferences and give keynote speeches. Write articles, get in the news, and spread the word about healthy living
  • Get that Master’s or Ph.D.! Nearly a quarter of all Dieticians and Nutritionists have a graduate degree
Recommended Resources

Websites

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics
  • American Association of Diabetes Educators
  • American College of Nutrition 
  • American Diabetes Association 
  • American Society for Nutrition 
  • American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition
  • Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals 
  • Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists
  • Commission on Dietetic Registration
  • Dietetics in Health Care Communities 

Books

  • Launching Your Career in Nutrition and Dietetics: How to Thrive in the Classroom, the Internship, and Your First Job, by Kyle Shadix
  • Making Nutrition Your Business: Building a Successful Private Practice, by Ann Silver and Lisa Stollman 
  • The Essential Pocket Guide for Clinical Nutrition, by Mary Width and Tonia Reinhard (Author)
  • Registered Dietitian Exam Secrets Study Guide: Dietitian Test Review for the Registered Dietitian Exam, by Dietitian Exam Secrets Test Prep Team 
Plan B

It takes a lot to become a Dietician or Nutritionist, and sometimes the education requirements are overwhelming. If you’re not passionate about this line of work, it might be better to invest your time and energy into an alternative career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the following similar occupations to consider: 

  • Health Educators and Community Health Workers
  • Registered Nurses
  • Rehabilitation Counselors
  • You can also visit O*Net Online to find out about jobs in:
  • Medical and Health Services Management
  • Medical Science
  • Health Specialties Teaching 
  • Family and Consumer Sciences Teaching
  • Farm and Home Management Education

Newsfeed

Jobs by
Source: Interview, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Online Courses and Tools