Dietitian / Nutritionist
Dietitian / Nutritionist
Dietitians apply the science of dietetics and nutrition to the planning and preparation of foods and dietary regulation in connection with health and disease.
Dietitians and nutritionists study food and nutrition, provide medical information and counseling regarding nutrition, plan nutrition programs and oversee the process of food preparation. They prevent unhealthy eating patterns and work with people with dietary concerns. Dietitians and nutritionists can work with cancer patients to help minimize symptoms and promote a healthier lifestyle. For example, a dietitian might create a diet reduced in fat and calories for an overweight patient. Or they may help ensure diet selection to meet nutrition requirements or minimize weight loss in those with poor appetites or dietary restrictions. Most jobs are in hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and offices of physicians or other health practitioners.
As a dietitian, you apply your food and nutrition expertise to provide medical information and counseling on patient nutrition, nutrition program planning and the process of food preparation. Your recommendations help prevent unhealthy eating patterns and promote a healthier lifestyle to help patients minimize symptoms. For example, you might compile a diet low in fat and calories for an overweight patient. You may also help ensure diet selection to meet nutrition requirements or minimize weight loss in those with poor appetites or dietary restrictions. A dietitian has a different legal status from a nutritionist. A nutritionist must be registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration to work legally as a registered dietitian (RD).
Where You Work
You’d typically work in a hospital, nursing care facility, outpatient care center, or with physicians or other health practitioners. Other options include public health clinics, home health agencies and health maintenance organizations. Management dietitians work with larger scale meal planning and preparation in health care facilities, company cafeterias, prisons, and schools. Consultant dietitians work in private practice or under contract in health care facilities. Community dietitians work with individuals or groups to promote better health in the community.
How You Help
In your role as a dietitian, you help people with dietary concerns and patients whose condition may be influenced by diet. You help cancer patients deal with diet-related symptoms and ensure appropriate weight. Nutrition is an important factor in cancer prevention, treatment and helping to maintain a good quality of life and function for cancer patients. You work on weight loss plans and menus to promote a healthier lifestyle. You may also go out into the community and teach the importance of eating healthy to prevent disease. Depending on the disease, you’d work alongside surgeons, oncologists and other doctors to review patient records and progress.
Helpful High School Courses
- Home Economics
- Psychology and/or Sociology
Skills to Build
- Ability to empathize and listen
- Strong background in nutrition, science and psychology
- Time management and organization skills
- Different work settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools and in the community
- Hours can flexible (possible part-time or full time options)
- Dietitians may get less respect than a physician or doctor
- Lay people may confuse the role of dietitian with nutritionist
- Dietitians make significantly less than other health care workers
Education You Need
Bachelor’s degree in nutrition science, food and nutrition, foodservice systems management, or a related area. Most states requires licensure and/or certification.
A Day in the Life
A Day in the Life
8:00Meet with breast cancer patient who is overweight and has diabetes
9:00Review patient symptoms and reaction to chemotherapy
10:00Devise a healthy diet plan for patient
1:00Present at high school about unhealthy eating habits
2:00Meet with gastrointestinal study group
4:00Attend seminar about the benefits of antioxidants in reducing cancer
Average Annual Salary Range
- Health Educator
* Actual salary dependent on education, experience, location, and other variables