What is a Dietitian
Dietitians are nutrition specialists who help clients to make changes in their diets to meet their goals and objectives. Whether a person is looking to lose weight, build muscle mass, or manage health conditions, a dietitian will be tasked to provide all the information they need to help them achieve their goals. If you want to follow this career continue reading and discover how to become a dietitian.
Dietitians typically either work with patients in hospitals and medical centers, or with athletes and sports professionals. In a hospital setting a dietitian will advise patients on how to eat better to maintain a better standard of health. As well as what changes to make to their diets if they have been diagnosed with a health condition.
Athletes and sports professionals enlist the help of dietitians to help get the most from their diet to maximize their performance. Through the right diet plan an athlete can maintain their optimal weight, become stronger, faster, and achieve better results.
What Does a Dietitian Do?
Dietitians educate, help, and plan what patients and clients will be eating for a period of time. This may be helping patients with medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, or other conditions that require special nutritional requirements. Or it may mean working with athletes to help them achieve a higher level of athletic performance.
Everyone eats a range of different foods each day. So there is a really broad scope of the kinds of people that may need help from a dietitian. Sometimes food companies hire help to advise them how healthy they food products are. Or supplement companies will seek advice how to change their products to achieve certain results, like more muscle mass, or safer weight loss.
A lot of dietitians work one-on-one with patients and clients to help them improve their well-being and health. This can be either though freelance employment, or as a referral from a medical professional. Being able to communicate and educate the patient on what kind of diet they need to eat, and why they need to eat it is important.
The average salary of a dietitian is $60,370.
Desirable Skills of a Dietitian:
There are a few different types of dietitians working in different sectors. Such as healthcare, food industry, sports, and freelance working with individual clients. There are some general skills that translate well across all fields, these are as follows:
Great People Skills
As a dietitian you will be working with people directly, and will often have to motivate and encourage people to follow your advice. Sticking to a diet plan is difficult for most people, so being able to connect with patients and build trust is very important. Having great people skills will help you bridge that gap and can be the difference between success and failure.
Good Planning and Attention to Detail
You will often be responsible for managing the calorie intake of patients and clients for days and weeks at a time. Being able to plan ahead without making errors is an important skill-set. Planning nutritional intake for people carries potential health risks. So attention to detail is a must. Noticing any changes in health, being aware of any allergies and needs of the individual is very important.
Depending on the sector you’re working in, being reliable can be a huge factor. If you are working with individuals on a day-to-day basis they will build up trust in you and expect you to be with for as long as needed. It can cause disruption if you take days or weeks out. This is where it ties in to be able to plan ahead as mentioned above, so another dietitian can fill in if necessary.
Becoming a Dietitian
Step 1: High School Requirements
High School Courses for Dietitians
As a dietitian you will need to know the chemistry of foods, how they react with your body and with each other. You should learn basic chemistry in high school, in order to understand more complex food chemistry theories.
Biology classes will help you understand how human body functions, what ingredients it needs in order to function properly and which ones might harm it. Getting a solid foundation in high school will help you with your coursework later.
Nutrition are science based classes that study in depth the relationship between bodily function and nutrition. Students research theories of nutrition, study techniques and evidence based practices. Nutrition classes are the classes that will put you in front of the competition when you are applying for a training program.
Step 2: Get an Undergraduate Degree
Dietetic Technician Associate Degree Program 2 years
These programs consist of five semesters (2 years) with total semester credits being 60 -70. The admission requirements are a GED or high school diploma.
General Education Courses (24 credits)
- Communication Skills 1
- Communication Skills 2
- Introduction to College Math
- Basic Nutritional Science
- Psychology of Human Relations
- Contemporary American Society
- Nutrition for Living
- Conversational Spanish for Service Occupations 1
- Death and Dying
Core Courses (46 credits)
- Food Service Sanitation
- Food Science
- Dietetic Technician Orientation
- Nutrition for Dietetics
- Medical Terminology for the Dietetic Technician
- Food Service Management 1
- Food Service Management 1: Coordinated Practice
- Medical Nutrition Therapy 1
- Medical Nutrition Therapy 1: Coordinated Practice
- Physiology for Dietetics
- Nutrition in the Life Cycle
- Nutrition in the Life Cycle: Coordinated Practice
- Medical Nutrition Therapy 2
- Medical Nutrition Therapy 2: Coordinated Practice
- Food Service Management 2
- Food Service Management 2: Coordinated Practice
- Community Nutrition
- Medical Nutrition Therapy Field Experience
- Food and Nutrition Management Field Experience
- Nutritional Counseling Skills
The cost of a dietetic technician associate degree program is $26,352 – $38,247.
Dietitian Bachelor Degree Program 4 years
The Admission requirements for these programs are:
- A high school diploma with a GPA over 3.0
- Have completed some college credits
They are 4 year programs consisted of 120 to 135 credit hours
General Education Requirements (55 credits)
- Expository Writing I
- Expository Writing II
- Public Speaking IA
- Public Speaking I
- General Psychology
- Introduction to Sociology
- Principles of Macroeconomics
- Principles of Biology
- Structure & Function of Human Body
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Environmental Issues in Hospitality
- General Microbiology
- Chemistry I
- Chemistry II
- Intro Organic & Biochemistry
- General Organic Chemistry
- General Biochemistry
- College Algebra
- Introduction to Statistics
- Biometrics I
- Business and Economic Statistics I
Core Courses (48 credits)
- Accounting for Business Operations
- Basic Nutrition
- Human Nutrition
- Science of Food
- Nutritional Assessment
- Life Span Nutrition
- Public Health Nutrition
- Nutrient Metabolism
- Clinical Nutrition
- Clinical Nutrition II
- Careers in Nutrition and Dietetics
- Principles of Food Production Management
- Food Production Management
- Financial Management in Dietetics
- Counseling Strategies in Dietetic Practice
- Management in Dietetics
- Intro Research in Dietetics Practice
The cost of a dietitian bachelor degree program is $40,680 – $115,960.
Step 3: Get a Graduate Degree (Optional)
Master of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition Degree Program 2 years
These are 2 years programs that consist of 30 to 50 semester credit hours. You can complete them either online or offline. The admission requirements are:
- A bachelor’s degree
- A cumulative undergraduate grade-point average of at least 3.0
Core Courses (9 credits)
- Research Methods
- Current Trends in Dietetics
Electives (20 credits)
- Advanced Nutrition: Nutrigenomics, Nutrigenetics & Advanced Lipid Metabolism in Human Nutrition
- Accounting Concepts & Analysis
- Nutrition and Physical Activity in Aging
- Maternal and Child Nutrition
- Nutrition and Human Performance
- Nutritional Counseling & Educational Methods
- Advanced Medical Nutrition Therapy
- Nutrition Education and the Community
- Obesity Across the Lifespan
- Pediatric Clinical Nutrition
- Functional Foods
Thesis or Paper Project 6 credits
The cost of a master of science in dietetics and nutrition degree program is $19,080 – $34,320.
Step 4: Get Licensed
While the licensing requirements vary across the state the most common way to get licensed is to get either the Registered Dietitian (RD) or the Dietetic Technician Registered (DTR) credentials issued by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.There is a difference on these two types of credentials as a DTR is more likely to work as a part of a team under the supervision of an RD. There are also differences in the requirements for these two credentials but let’s take a closer look.
Dietetic Technician Registered (DTR)
- Have at least an Associate’s degree from an accredited university
- Have at least 450 supervised practice hours as a Dietetic Technician accredited by the ACEND
Cost: $60 (Annual fee)
Registered Dietitian (RD)
- Have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
- Completed a supervised practice program accredited by the ACEND as a Dietetic Technician
Cost: $60 (Annual fee)
How Long Does it Take to Become a Dietitian and How Much Does it Cost?
Option 1 : Associate’s Degree
|Associates Degree||2 years||$26,352 – $38,247|
|Total||2 years||$26,412 – $38,307|
Option 2 : Bachelor’s Degree
|Bachelor’s||4 years||$40,680 – $115,960|
|Total||4 years||$40,740 – $116.020|
Option 3: Master’s Degree
|Bachelor’s||4 years||$40,680 – $115,960|
|Master’s||2 years||$19,080 – $34,320|
|Total||6 years||$59,820- $150,340|