The job of the dietician is to promote good health through healthy eating. The duties of the dietician are varied and can include the supervision and preparation of food, as well as the development of diets. The dietician often instructs people on good nutritional health. They are particularly useful to persons who are unable to consume regular diets.
- Dieticians may be referred to as nutritionists, but there is a difference. Nutritionists are not generally regulated as are dieticians. Dieticians are accredited and are registered by a national board. Nutritionists are neither accredited nor registered.
- Although regulations vary from state to state, dieticians generally must possess at least a bachelor’s degree in a food related area such as: dietetics, food and nutrition, and food system services management. A number of graduate degree programs in dietetics are available. College students preparing for a dietician degree should expect to complete coursework in nutrition, institution management, foods, and science courses including chemistry, physiology, and microbiology.
- While the primary responsibility of the dietician may be to plan healthy, nutritious meals, they are also charged with preventing and treating illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and recommending dietary modifications. Most dieticians work in hospitals or health care facilities, but employment is also available in the public health sector, schools, and in the food service industry. Dieticians oversee large-scale meal preparation and planning for institutions, including schools and penal facilities. Food manufacturers hire dieticians to analyze foods and to prepare reports and literature pertaining to nutritional content of products.
- Most dieticians work in clean, well-ventilated environments, but some work is performed in hot, close kitchens. The planning portion of the work may be performed at a desk, on a computer, but dieticians can expect to perform some of their duties in a kitchen, with the dietician standing for extended periods of time.
- The candidate for a dietician degree has several viable options. As of 2008, the American Dietetic Association’s Commission reported that there were 279 approved bachelor’s degree programs and 18 approved master’s degree programs. Every state has at least one dietician degree program offered through a state college or university. Additionally, several private institutions offer a bachelor’s degree program. A number of online colleges also offer coursework leading to a dietician degree.
- While the number of dieticians has markedly increased over the past decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that number is expected to increase at a rate of about 9% annually through the decade beginning in 2008. Approximately 60,000 dietitians were reportedly employed during the past year. The demand for dietitians in nursing and long-term care facilities is expected to rise as the population ages. Dietitians may specialize in one or more medical fields. Those with special knowledge and training in renal and diabetic nutrition will likely benefit from the steadily increasing number of diabetics and the aging of the population.