A dietitian/nutritionist is a person who is expert in food and nutrition. He/she will be planning a food and nutrition program. The dietitian/nutritionist would also supervise the preparation as well as the serving of meals. Thus, he/she would help preventing and treating various illnesses by promoting healthy habits in eating and suggesting any modifications in diet. It is to be noted that there is a difference between these two healthcare professionals. This can be understood by the saying, ‘All dietitians are nutritionists but all nutritionists are not dietitians’.
A dietitian/nutritionist will have to perform the following roles:
Must assess the health needs and diet of patients.
Must be able to counsel the patients on nutrition issues as well as healthy eating habits.
Must be capable of developing meal plans based on cost and patient’s preference.
Must be able to evaluate the effects of meal plans and change them as and when required.
Must be capable of promoting the better nutrition.
Must be able to keep up with latest researches in nutritional science.
Must write down the reports for documenting the patient’s progress.
How to become a Dietitian/Nutritionist?
Educational Requirements and Training:
In order to become a dietitian/nutritionist, you must require a minimum of bachelor’s degree in one of the following fields: dietetics, food and nutrition, food science, clinical nutrition or food service systems management. As such, the coursework you are undertaking must be approved by ‘Accreditation Counsel for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics’. The curriculum will be varying between schools with most of them covering the following subjects:
Food and Nutrition Sciences
Foodservice Systems Management
Almost all the dietitians/nutritionists would receive several hundred hours of training in the form of an internship that will be followed by the graduation from college. Some of the schools would offer coordinated programs in dietetics which would allow the candidates to complete the training as part of their coursework. These internship programs should also be accredited by ‘Accreditation Counsel for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics’.
Certification and Licensing:
Most of the states in the United States would require a dietitian/nutritionist to be licensed. Some other states would require either state registration or certification while the other few other states do not have any regulations for this occupation. The basic requirements for state licensure and certification are a bachelor’s degree in the aforementioned subjects, an internship and passing an examination. It is advisable to pass the examination that is given by ‘Commission on Dietetic Registration’.
Job Outlook and Opportunities:
The job market for this occupation is projected to grow by 21% from the year 2012 to 2022 which is quite faster than the average of all the other occupations. This is due to the fact that during recent times the interest in the role of foods in promoting health has been increased especially in the field of preventative healthcare.
As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for a dietitian/nutritionist is $55,240 which equals to $26.56 per hour.