With the emphasis today on healthy eating – in schools, at home and even in the workplace – more people are seeing nutritionists, and companies are choosing dietetic specialists to educate the public on healthy eating. Dietetics is a field of science that determines how nutrition and good eating affect our overall health. While this field offers a strong focus on public health, its main purpose is to educate everyone on the importance of making proper and smart dietary choices.
What Does a Dietician Do?
The professional who chooses to work in the dietetic field is often called a dietician or nutritionist. They're nationally certified professionals who provide general nutrition education. A dietician may work in an office setting, in a public health department, or may work independently in schools or with a specific population.
In a school setting, the dietician might travel to a school and provide students with information and training on healthy eating. When they work in an office setting, they see clients who come to them for assistance in meeting their dietary needs or for help with dieting. They also may focus their education on certain health and dietary issues like diabetes, unhealthy weight or hypertension and work specifically with those groups in community or healthcare settings. Dieticians and nutritionists are an important part of our food service management and health care teams. Other duties of a dietetic specialist might include:
- Collaborating with food manufacturers to improve the nutritional quality of prepared meals
- Researching how dietary changes affect health
- Improving the understanding and accuracy of food labels
- Increasing public awareness of nutritional habits and standards
- Creating facility-wide nutritional programs for correctional, educational and healthcare institutions
How to Become a Dietician
To become a dietician, an individual must have at least a bachelor's degree in dietetics. Some students choose to major in public health nutrition; foods and nutrition; clinical nutrition or a similar field. Aspiring dieticians complete courses in nutrition, chemistry, food service systems management, biology and psychology. Internships are an important part of dietician training programs, and students are generally required to complete a few hundred hours of supervised training both during the program and after graduation.
Many states require dieticians to be licensed, but this varies from state to state. The licensing requirements vary from one state to another as well. In most cases, the candidate must complete a bachelor's degree program, complete on-the-job training and pass a certification exam. In order to earn the credential of Registered Dietician Nutritionist, the applicant must be certified and licensed. Certification can be obtained through the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
Dieticians and nutritionists are projected to see an employment growth of 15% during the 2016-2026 decade as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The country's interest in improving eating and promoting good health keeps dieticians in demand. As of May 2017, dieticians earned an average annual wage of $60,150 with wages ranging from about $36,910 to $83,070 or more.
From the time we were little, we've been told how important it is to eat healthily. Our busy lives and the number of fast-food establishments available today often make this difficult. Many people today are choosing to see a dietetic specialist for extra guidance, which is why working in dietetics can be a rewarding and satisfying career.