How to Become a Dietitian: If you have a strong desire to help different types of people have better health through eating then you may want to become a Dietitian.
As the aging American population becomes more conscious of what they’re eating, and must watch what they eat for medical reasons, the role of a Dietitian becomes more important. By establishing yourself as a nutrition professional you are increasing your chances of a successful career.
Step 1 – Education
Getting the right education from an accredited school is important when becoming a Dietitian. If you haven’t started college yet you should look for a program that specifically prepares you to be a Dietitian. Some students take a hodge-podge assortment of classes related to health and wellness and think that they are ready to take the Dietitian licensing exams.
If you have yet to get your bachelor’s degree you can get one in Dietetics and no further study is needed. If you’ve already completed your undergraduate work, hopefully you got a Bachelor of Science. If you did you have a few options, either a post-grad diploma or a Master’s degree in Dietetics. Our recommendation is that you go for a masters because it is a competitive job market and any edge is helpful.
Step 2 – Training
Once you have completed the program you’ll want to gain some hands-on training in a real-world setting. This can usually be done in conjunction with your academics, and most quality schools will include an externship or put you in a position where you can observe licensed Dietitians in the field, and have you try out what you are learning.
You’ll need a total of 1200 hours completed before you’ll be able to sit for the exam so this is not an optional step. Figure out early on in your program when and where you’ll complete your training so you can get a good start on it.
Beware of a school that does not include training in the Dietitian program or offers it entirely online. This is a sign that they don’t truly know how the process works and are just looking to make a quick buck.
Become a Dietitian: Step 3
Certification and Licensing
If you want to call yourself a Dietitian you must take the certification exams and get licensed. Only then will you be able to provide service and have clients of your own. You must complete steps one and two in order to be able to take the tests.
Step 4 – Decide Where to Work
The great part about becoming a Dietitian is you can work in many diverse areas of health, fitness, and nutrition. Everyone is different when it comes to their goals in regards to eating and dieting. Some people want to lose weight, others want to gain muscle, and others want to reduce inflammation. Then there are those that are put on special diets because they just had surgery or are fighting a disease.
This may be the hardest step of all and it is recommended that you try several different areas and patients so you can get a feel for the types of people you can help. From there you can decide which type of patients gives you the most joy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a Dietitian do?
A Dietitian can take on several different types of jobs, each with their own specific requirements and specialization. Some Dietitians work in food preparation, while others do more planning and work with those that have special dietary restrictions. They are mostly involved with helping thier patients and clients have better health by eating properly according to their condition.
For instance, an obese person might follow a specific diet to lose weight quickly and then change to a more reasonable diet to maintain the weight loss. A person recovering from heart surgery will follow a recovery diet that restricts certain foods and promotes others that can speed the healing process. Each of these examples would required the guidance of a Dietitian that can tailor an eating program for each individual.
How much do Dietitians make?
The average annual salary for a Dietitian is $64,000. This is based on thousands of Dietitians and represents those that have several years of experience as well as those just starting out. It also factors in demographics from across the United States so the numbers you see during the negotiation process will differ greatly from this average. Use this only as a guide to know the ballpark estimate.
Are Dietitians and Nutritionists the same thing?
A Dietitian receives more formal training and has specific certification to earn their title. Anyone can rightly deem themselves to be a Nutritionist if they feel they have the necessary expertise to advise others on proper eating. However, only those that have passed an accredited Dietitian program and gone on to pass the certification examination may call themselves a Dietitian.
Positive Side Benefits
One of the great by-products of being a Dietitian is that you yourself get to enjoy good health. By knowing how the body and its organs respond to different types of foods and beverages you can set the example for health eating and nutritious choices. This is just another reason why it may be the right choice to become a Dietitian.
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