Dietitian and Nutritionist Career Overview
Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. They help to prevent and treat illnesses by promoting good eating habits and recommending dietary modifications that can improve health. Dietitians manage food service for institutions such as hospitals and schools, promote sound eating habits through education, and conduct research. Major areas of practice include clinical, community, management and consultant dietetics.
Clinical dietitians provide nutritional services for patients in institutions such as hospitals and nursing care facilities. They assess patients’ nutritional needs, develop and implement nutrition programs, and evaluate and report results. They also confer with doctors and other health care professionals to coordinate medical and nutritional needs.
Community dietitians counsel individuals and groups on nutritional practices designed to prevent disease and promote health. Working in places such as public health clinics, home health agencies, and health maintenance organizations, community dietitians evaluate individual needs, develop nutritional care plans, and instruct individuals and their families.
Management dietitians oversee large-scale meal planning and preparation in health care facilities, company cafeterias, prisons and schools. They hire, train and direct other dietitians and food service workers; budget for and purchase food, equipment and supplies; enforce sanitary and safety regulations; and prepare records and reports.
Consultant dietitians work under contract with health care facilities or in their own private practice. They perform nutrition screenings for their clients and offer advice on diet-related concerns such as weight loss and cholesterol reduction. Some work for wellness programs, sports teams, supermarkets and other nutrition-related businesses. They may consult with food service managers, providing expertise in sanitation, safety procedures, menu development, budgeting and planning. Increased public interest in nutrition also has led to job opportunities in food manufacturing, advertising and marketing. In these areas, dietitians analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, or report on nutritional issues.
Experienced dietitians may advance to management positions or choose to be self-employed. Some dietitians specialize in areas such as renal, diabetic, cardiovascular or pediatric dietetics. Others become sales representatives for equipment, pharmaceutical or food manufacturers.
Employment of dietitians is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the current year as a result of increasing emphasis on disease prevention through improved dietary habits. A growing and aging population will boost the demand for meals and nutritional counseling in hospitals, residential care facilities, schools, prisons, community health programs, and home health care agencies. Employment also is expected to grow rapidly in contract providers of food services, in outpatient care centers, and in offices of physicians and other health practitioners.
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The Internship Program in Nutrition and Dietetics is currently granted accredited status by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2190, Chicago, IL 60606 | (800) 877-1600, ext. 5400