Nutrition is a key element of good health. Registered dietitian nutritionists are the experts on good nutrition and the food choices that can make us healthy, whether it’s a proper diet or eating to manage the symptoms of a disease or chronic condition. Registered dietitian nutritionists design nutrition programs to protect health, prevent allergic reactions and alleviate the symptoms of many types of disease.
Clinical dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy 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 the results. They confer with doctors and other health care professionals in order to coordinate medical and dietary needs. Some clinical dietitians specialize in the management of overweight and critically ill patients, such as those with renal (kidney) disease and diabetes. In addition, clinical dietitians in nursing care facilities, small hospitals, or correctional facilities may manage the food service department.
Community dietitians develop nutrition programs designed to prevent disease and promote health, targeting particular groups of people. Dietitians in this practice area may work in settings such as public health clinics, fitness centers, corporate wellness programs or home health agencies.
Corporate dietitians work in food manufacturing, advertising and marketing. In these areas, dietitians analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, or report on issues such as the nutritional content of recipes, dietary fiber or vitamin supplements.
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 assessments for their clients and advise them about diet-related concerns, such as weight loss or cholesterol reduction. Some work for wellness programs, sports teams, supermarkets and other nutrition-related businesses. They consult with food service managers, providing expertise in sanitation, safety procedures, menu development, budgeting and planning.
Registered dietitian nutritionists work in a variety of settings, overseeing food planning and preparation. While some may spend time in a commercial or facility kitchen, most work in an office setting, managing nutrition programs, seeing clients and/or working on policy issues related to nutrition. Most work a typical 40-hour week.
Salary and Outlook
The average salary for a registered dietitian nutritionist, as of 2015, is $63,700, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Salaries may be higher or lower depending on a registered dietitian nutritionist's experience, the job location and the position’s responsibilities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment will grow 16% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. It notes that the role of food in good health is well known, leading to a larger role for dietitians in patient care and to advise people who want to improve their health.
About a Career as a Dietitian Nutritionist
About Health Care Careers
Note: The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviewed this career profile.
Part 4: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Part 2: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Part 1: How to Attend College Without Going into Too Much Debt
Part 1: Accreditation Matters
Interprofessional Health Care Education Means Better Patient Care
Applying for Financial Aid (Part II)
Why Diversity Matters in the Health Professions
Start Preparing for Your Health Care Career in High School
The Power of Prevention
Reconciliation Act of 2010 Includes Significant Student Aid Provisions
Better Understanding of Heart Disease Can Help Reduce the Number of Deaths
Summer 2010 Opportunities to Give Back to Medically Underserved Communities
Healthcare Reform 101
Keep Past Mistakes from Limiting Your Future Health Care Career
Making a Major Decision
Top 10 Reasons to Pursue a Health Career Now
There are two pathways to becoming a dietitian nutritionist:
Search for funding opportunities related to this career
Search for enrichment programs related to this career
Search for academic degree and certificate programs related to this career
Last updated: August 24, 2016
©2012 American Dental Education Association