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Dietitians and nutritionists develop food and nutrition programs, but their responsibilities can differ based on their place of employment, which may include a hospital, a doctor's office or other health care facility. Their responsibilities range from preparing menus to supervising food preparation and providing counseling. They also help to prevent and treat illnesses and may advocate for healthier eating plans in specific settings.

Dietitians can either be employed by an organization or work independently for themselves. While self-employment often allows for a more flexible schedule, those who work for themselves may need to be available on evenings and weekends to better accommodate the needs of clients.

Responsibilities of Dietitians

Other job titles associated with the dietitian occupation include clinical dietitian, registered dietitian, outpatient dietitian and pediatric clinical dietitian. No matter what the specialization, a dietitian may need to:

  • Evaluate a client's nutritional needs, current health plans and diet restrictions to create an individualized dietary care plan
  • Provide counseling to groups and individuals about food nutrition and healthy eating habits
  • Collaborate with doctors and healthcare personnel to determine diet restrictions and nutritional needs of patients
  • Oversee food operation to ensure conformance to nutritional, sanitation, safety and quality standards
  • Develop special meals
  • Make recommendations about public policy including food fortification, nutrition labeling and nutrition standards for schools

Community dietitians instruct at-risk groups such as diabetics, pregnant women and senior citizens about the types of food to include in their diet and which foods to avoid.

Clinical dietitians plan menus and oversee the preparation of meals in hospitals, nursing homes and other institutions.

Management dietitians direct large-scale meal planning and preparation in company cafeterias, health care facilities, schools and prisons.

Research dietitians are involved with nutrition research for commercial food companies.

Dietitian Job Characteristics

Many dietitians work in clean, well-ventilated settings. However, some may work in hot, busy kitchens or similar areas overseeing the preparation of meals and food. Here's what to expect:

  • Full-time dietitians and nutritionists usually work 40 hours a week
  • Approximately one in five are self-employed
  • Those that are self-employed may have more flexibility on the job
  • Evening or weekend hours may be required
  • Some may work on their feet while others may spend more time at a desk

Qualities that are preferred in a good dietitian include:

  • Analytical skills
  • Clear, concise speaking abilities
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Good organization skills
  • Problem-solving capabilities

Dietitian Salary and Career Information

  • Total Employed: 59,490 as of 2014
  • Job Growth: 21% growth from 2012 to 2022
  • Average Salary: $57,440 as of 2014

According to the BLS, dietitians who have advanced degrees or specialty certifications could find some of the best job opportunities. Those working in California, Maryland, Nevada, Connecticut and New Jersey had the highest mean annual wages, all above $64,000.

Education, Certification and Licensing

A bachelor's degree in dietetics, food service systems management, food and nutrition, or in a related area is typically needed to enter the field, but students also can pursue graduate degrees in the subject. Students in a degree program typically take courses such as:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Institution management
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Physiology

Certification is available though the Commission on Dietetic Registration and the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) are among the credentialing options.

Licensing is required in most states, although the requirements can vary. In some states, CNS credentialing is part of the licensing process. To obtain this credential, applicants need to have at least 1,000 hours of experience and a graduate-level degree. However, applicants typically must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, a certain amount of time on the job and be able to pass an exam to become licensed.

Major Employers

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Home health care services and government agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Offices of doctors and other health practitioners
  • Outpatient care centers

Resources

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists
  • The American Dietetic Association
  • The Commission on Dietetic Registration

Sources:

  1. Dietitians and Nutritionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Jan. 8, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm
  2. Dietitians and Nutritionists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291031.htm

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Dietitians and Nutritionists

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Dietitians and Nutritionists jobs , as of 2016

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

     
Metro Area Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anaheim 2770 $73,140
Los Angeles 2770 $73,140
Long Beach 2770 $73,140
Houston 1260 $59,450
Sugar Land 1260 $59,450
The Woodlands 1260 $59,450
Fort Worth 1090 $57,610
Arlington 1090 $57,610
Dallas 1090 $57,610
Hayward 1070 $81,610
Total Employment for Dietitians And Nutritionists - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
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Salaries for Dietitians And Nutritionists - Top 5 Cities Nationwide
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Total Employment and Salary for Professions Similar to Dietitians And Nutritionists

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Dietitians and Nutritionists

To find out more about building a career as Dietitians And Nutritionists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Dietitians and Nutritionists

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; 2014-24 State Occupational Projections, Projections Central, projectionscentral.com

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Hospital 20,210 37% $51,500
Medical Office 8,660 16% $53,210
Government 8,360 15% $51,660
Nursing And Residential Care 6,030 11% $50,240
Restaurant 3,750 7% $46,280
Social Service 1,800 3% $43,430
Education 1,770 3% $41,170
Personal Services 880 1% $35,780
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