How to become a dietitian
Wondering how to become a dietitian? Here’s what you need to know about having a career in nutrition.
If you have a passion for food, nutrition, and helping people live their best life, a dietetics career might be the right fit for you. While the path to becoming a dietitian is different for everyone, and it can be challenging at times, it’s worth it in the end.
In this article, we’re talking about how to become a dietitian and what dietitian jobs are available. Keep reading to learn more!
Nutritionist vs Dietitian: what is the difference?
The terms dietitian and nutritionist are frequently used interchangeably, but there are some distinct differences between the two. As the saying goes, every Registered Dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a Registered Dietitian.
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Registered dietitians are nutrition experts who must first obtain a college degree in a nutrition-related field from an accredited program. For those who have a degree in a non-nutrition field, it is possible to complete the necessary coursework without completing another degree. Upon completion, they will receive a verification statement that indicates they have met the educational requirements.
Prospective dietitians must pass a national board examination before they can use the official title of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN). RDNs must also complete annual continuing professional education courses to maintain their licenses, and some states require additional licensing requirements.
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Nutritionists may or may not have some nutritional education. While there are several companies that sell courses to become a certified nutritionist, there are no guidelines or educational requirements, and the certification is not universal or valid everywhere. Additionally, there can be legal consequences if a nutritionist is caught treating medical conditions without holding an RDN credential.
What does a dietitian do?
RDNs work in a variety of fields and industries, but the most common place for a dietitian to work is in the healthcare industry.
- In a hospital setting, they provide nutritional therapy to manage or treat diseases, counsel patients to prevent chronic illness, offer diabetes education, or provide nutritional support to those in the hospital.
- The food service dietitian will be responsible for creating a menu that fits within the organization’s needs as well as the nutritional considerations of their clients.
- Those who work in research or food science-related areas may be identifying specific nutrient profiles or creating new food products.
- RDNs can provide nutrition counseling and support through community organizations such as WIC.
- Community dietitians may work alongside policymakers to promote public health and ensure policies are in the best interests of the nation.
- Lastly, RDNs can work for themselves. Some examples might include establishing a private practice, starting a blog, or becoming a freelance consultant.
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How to become a registered dietitian or nutritionist
The path to a career in dietetics can vary depending on where you live.
In the United States, you must have a degree from a university that has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). After completing a Didactic Program in Dietetics, a future dietitian must also complete a supervised internship before being eligible to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam.
The Coordinated Program and Future Education Model both include the experiential learning component that is necessary to meet the requirements of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Beginning in 2024, a Master’s Degree will also be required to sit for the RD exam.
Many other countries have similar frameworks and requirements for becoming a dietitian including a college degree as well as experiential learning opportunities. Once completed, most countries require a license in order to practice. If you live and work abroad, be sure to check with the specific country and place of employment to better understand how this process works.
The first steps to starting a nutrition career
A dietetic career has numerous paths and potential job opportunities. The first step is to take that leap and be prepared to learn lots of new skills. Even if your first (or second) position is not the perfect fit, use it as a learning experience and grow as a nutrition professional. However, keep your future goals in mind and always be on the lookout for opportunities to help you reach those goals. A strong work ethic can also lead you to the job of your dreams.
For example: if you want to work in PR, but are in a clinical setting, start by learning marketing techniques. Get connected with other RDs, and take side jobs when possible. After all, this field is smaller than you would imagine, and the network of dietitians is close.
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What are the career prospects and how to find dietitian jobs?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 7% growth in the field of dietetics in the next 10 years. However, based on the incidence of chronic illnesses and the aging population, the increase may be even higher.
When searching for a job as a registered dietitian, it is best to determine your professional goals and preferred area of practice. This will help narrow your search and find the best position for you. If you are looking for a new place to explore, look into becoming a traveling RDN!
The field of dietetics is more diverse than ever, and job prospects are growing. Because of their extensive scientific background and education, dietitians are able to offer more services and nutritional education compared to those who are nutritionists. While it takes commitment to pursue a career in dietetics, the end result is worth it.
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What’s the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist? Retrieved September 19, 2022, from http://www.healthline.com
RDN Credential: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from http://www.eatrightpro.org
5 Steps to Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from http://www.eatrightpro.org
Dietitians in Europe: Definition, Profession, and Education. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from http://www.efad.org
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Dietitians and Nutritionists. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from http://www.bls.gov