Dieticians plan food and nutrition programs. They make dietary recommendations to improve health and treat illness. A dietician can teach a patient how to adhere to a recommended diet related to a specific health condition. Dieticians can teach patients what foods are beneficial and which foods they should avoid. Dieticians often oversee food service menu plans for institutions such as schools and hospitals.
A registered dietician is a health professional that receives formal training that is approved by the American Dietetic Association. A registered dietician must pass a national examination. The educational requirements for a dietician include a Bachelor’s degree in dietetics, food service management, food and nutrition or other related field. Those interested in becoming a registered dietician should have a strong interest and /or background in health.
Requirements for licensure, certification and registration vary from state to state. The interested candidate will need to check on the requirements of his/her state. The title of registered dietician holds the least restrictions for being a practicing dietician in most states. The Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association bestows the credentials of Registered Dietician on dieticians who obtain a passing score on an examination given after the completion of academic coursework and served an internship. A registered dietician must complete 75 hours of coursework in continuing education every 5 years to retain the registered status.
The job outlook for dieticians is good and growth of opportunities in the field are expected to continue. Emphasis on improved health through regulation of dietary habits has contributed to the increase of jobs in this and other health related fields. Dieticians are employed in several institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, prisons and other health care facilities. Dieticians may also work independently as consultants or in the offices of physicians. Dieticians with advanced degrees and those with certifications beyond the minimum state requirement may find more available opportunities along with increased earnings potential.
According to a 2006 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual earnings of dieticians and nutritionists were $46,980. Salaries can vary due to several factors such as education level, geographic location, type of employment institution and years of experience.
It is important to distinguish the difference between dieticians and nutritionists since the two are quite often confused. Although the lines often blur, a dietician is mostly involved with dietary solutions to health conditions whereas a nutritionist consults on dietary problems. A dietician is considered an expert in nutrition. A nutritionist may have varying levels of education whereas a dietician must have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree.