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Career Profile: Dietitian

What does a Dietitian do?
Dietitians plan food and nutrition programs, and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. Many advise individual clients, help prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and suggesting diet modifications. Dietitians can also run food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools, promote sound eating habits through education and conduct research. Major areas of practice include clinical, community, management and consultant dietetics.

What kind of schooling is required to become a Dietitian?
Most dietitians have a bachelor’s degree and most typically receive several hundred hours of supervised training, usually in the form of an internship following graduation from college. Many dietitians also have advanced degrees, such as a Masters of Public Health. Many states require dietitians to be licensed through taking an exam. Many dieticians choose to earn a credential as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Although it is not required, it makes dieticians more competitive for jobs.

What kinds of skills are required to be a Dietitian?
Most importantly, dietitians must have good people skills. Because a dietitian must be able to effectively convey information to clients both one-one-one or to a larger audience, good speaking skills are necessary. Because nutrition science is a constantly evolving field, dietitians must keep up with the most current research. Strong analytical skills are needed to effectively interpret scientific studies. Organization skills are important because it can be a multi-faceted job. Dietitians who are self-employed must also have knowledge of marketing and other business-related tasks. Problem-solving is an important skill to have as a dietitian. Listening to a client and then choosing the best plan to improve their health can be like solving a puzzle.

What is the career outlook for Dietitians?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for dietitians was $55,240 in May 2012. Because the role of food in preventing and treating illness is now well known, this sector of the health field is growing. Employment of dietitians is projected to increase 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.

Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and careerplanning.com