A dietitian is a health professional who assists people of any age to attain optimal nutrition. Dietitians are trained not only in foods and nutrition, but also in the areas of social sciences, education and management. This background prepares the dietitian to translate the science and art of human nutrition to individuals and groups from diverse cultures with different concerns. The Registered Dietitian (R.D.) is the nationally recognized credential in nutrition. An R.D. credential is typically required for employment in the health care field and preferred for many other employment opportunities in foods and nutrition. There are many different specialties within the field of dietetics, and dietitians often pursue more than one. Some of the major areas include:
Business and Industry: Dietitians may be employed to work in a variety of settings, including sales and promotion, employee fitness and wellness programs, marketing, product development and on the Internet. Supermarkets hire dietitians to work in areas of consumer education and food safety.
Clinical Dietetics: As a member of a health care team, a Clinical Dietitian assesses nutritional needs, determines nutritional diagnoses, develops individual nutritional care plans, counsels patients and evaluates clinical therapeutic outcomes. Clinical dietitians may work in hospitals, nursing homes or outpatient settings.
Community Nutrition: As a member of the community public health team, the dietitian assesses nutrition needs of population groups. These dietitians plan and coordinate nutritional aspects of programs aimed at improving health and preventing disease at the community level. Community dietitians may work in a variety of community settings and clinics, with diverse groups of individuals.
Education: Dietitians in this field plan, implement, and evaluate educational experiences for dietetic, medical, dental, nursing or other allied health students. They are employed by universities and health care facilities. Advanced education is generally required.
Food Service Management: As part of the management team, these dietitians plan, organize, direct and evaluate food service systems. They are actively involved in budgeting, employee training, personnel management, and establishing and maintaining policies and standards. They may work in schools, senior centers, healthcare facilities, hotels or restaurants.
Private Practice/Consultation: Previous experience in dietetic practice is a necessity. These entrepreneurial dietitians provide advice on services in nutritional care and therapeutics, sports nutrition or food service management. These dietitians are generally self-employed.
Research: This requires advanced preparation in research techniques and often an advanced degree. Typically a research dietitian works closely with other investigators in planning and implementing projects that examine nutrient needs, functions, and interactions in humans or animals. This dietitian may work in a clinical research center in hospitals or academic centers. Research activities may be incorporated into all areas of dietetic practice.
Jobs for Those without R.D. Certification: Although most positions in the health and wellness fields require the R.D. credential, there are opportunities for students who earn their Bachelor's degree but do not complete the R.D. requirements. Positions include Diet Clerk or Assistant, Food Service Supervisor or Manager, Community Nutritionist, jobs in the hospitality industry, and Sales and Marketing in the health, pharmaceutical and food industries.
Dietetics is a rewarding profession with an encouraging future. The current emphasis on nutrition and health in this country enhances the marketability of the dietitian. Employment opportunities nationwide are excellent. The Registered Dietitian is the only health professional whose primary expertise is nutrition. For more information, consult the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. A listing of jobs held by UC Davis Alumni with degrees in Clinical Nutrition is available.