Nutrition and Dietetics Careers

A combined MD/PhD clinical nutritionist sitting in her office.If you are intrigued by how specific foods, intake amounts of macronutrients/micronutrients and eating habits effect the human body in both the short- and long-term, you may want to consider going into the dietetics or nutrition field.

Foreseeable job outlook for certain occupations within this field will be supported by continued emphasis on the application of nutrition science to help prevent and treat disease as well as the increased life expectancy of our nation.

Several nutrition and dietetics careers are possible:

Registered Dietitian

A registered dietitian (RD) can work in sectors such as health care, food services, and research. RDs play a primary role in medical nutrition therapy, which involves the use of proper nutrition and therapeutic diets to assist in the prevention and management of health conditions such as obesity, coronary artery disease, diabetes and cancer.

With the growing interest in the utilization of dietary supplements and nutrition to improve the way people feel, how they look, and overall well-being, opportunities for RDs in consultant and entrepreneurial roles are a possibility as well.

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The following is more information on RD job duties based on work setting. As a registered dietitian, your responsibilities can vary widely depending on where you’re employed.

Health Care Facilities

  • Assessing the nutritional status of clients.
  • Developing specialized nutrition care plans for clients; communicating these plans to other health care professionals.
  • Educating clients and staff about nutrition and therapeutic diets.
  • Managing food service operations (may include managing staff, food and equipment purchasing, and food preparation).

Food and Nutrition Corporations/Businesses

  • Developing communication, marketing, and public relations plans.
  • Developing new products or recipes.
  • Consulting with chefs in restaurants and culinary schools.

Private Practice

  • Counseling clients on special diets for preventing or treating disease, optimizing health or performance, or managing weight.
  • Providing consulting services to food service or restaurant managers, food vendors, or distributors.

Academia

  • Teaching physicians, physician assistants, nurses, dietetic students, dentists, and others about the science of foods and nutrition.
  • Directing or conducting research to answer critical nutrition questions.
  • Developing food and nutrition recommendations based on research results.

Registered Dietetic Technician

Registered dietetic technicians (DTRs) work under the supervision or in teams with registered dietitians. They work in a range of settings, but most often, DTRs work in hospitals or nursing homes. DTRs assist RDs in collecting patient information, creating nutrtional care plans, teaching classes and are able to conduct basic dietary counseling.

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Certified Dietary Manager

Certified dietary managers (CDMs) work with RDs and DTRs and take on a more administrative role in overseeing the food preparation process. They are specifically trained to manage food service functions. Most CDMs work in food service management, but some may also provide basic nutritional services.

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Nutritionist (Non-RD/DTR)

Nutritionists can come from a wide range of academic and training experience backgrounds due to lack of regulation, which in some cases allows anyone to call his- or herself a “nutritionist”.

According to the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND):

Some RDs (registered dietitians) or DTRs (registered dietetic technicians) call themselves nutritionists. However, the definition and requirements for the term “nutritionist” vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice for someone using the designation nutritionist.

However, this is not to say all nutritionists aren’t highly qualified and capable nutrition experts.

Nutritionists that aren’t registered as an RD or DTR usually provide teaching and consultation services, independently or as part of fitness training or health coaching, to an otherwise healthy population, including athletes and the recreationally active. They can also be found in a clinical setting, although most non-dietitians that take on the role of nutritionist at medical facilities already hold a formal healthcare professional designation, such as nurse or physician.

Degree Requirements

To work in the field of fitness as a nutritionist, a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science or related major is recommended. To work in a clinical or hospital setting, then a master’s in nutrition or a health professional degree will most likely be required.

Certification/Licensure

“Fitness Nutrition” certifications are offered by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and require a background in health care, exercise science or fitness training to be eligible to sit for these exams.

Regarding the practice of “Clinical Nutrition”, the U.S. Dept. of Labor recognizes the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialist’s CNS credential as a possible requirement. Eligibility for this certification requires a master’s degree in nutrition or a clinical doctoral degree, such as in allopathic/osteopathic medicine, nurse practitioning, dentistry or naturopathic medicine.


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