Dietitians & Nutritionists
What you need to know
Dietitians and nutritionists are experts in the use of food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease. They advise people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or achieve a specific health-related goal.
Dietitians and nutritionists work in many settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, cafeterias, and for state and local governments. They may work evenings and weekends to meet with clients who are unavailable at other times.
Some of the things dietitians and nutritionists might do:
- Assess patients’ and clients’ nutritional and health needs
- Counsel patients on nutrition issues and healthy eating habits
- Develop meal and nutrition plans, taking both clients’ preferences and budgets into account
- Evaluate the effects of meal plans and change the plans as needed
- Promote better health by speaking to groups about diet, nutrition, and the relationship between good eating habits and preventing or managing specific diseases
- Create educational materials about healthy food choices
- Keep up with or contribute to the latest food and nutritional science research
- Document patients’ progress
- Analytical skills. Dietitians and nutritionists must keep up to date with the latest food and nutrition research. They should interpret scientific studies and translate nutrition science into practical eating advice.
- Compassion. Dietitians and nutritionists must be caring and empathetic when helping clients address health and dietary issues and any related emotions.
- Listening skills. Dietitians and nutritionists must listen carefully to understand clients’ goals and concerns. They may work with other healthcare workers as part of a team to improve the health of a patient, and they need to listen to team members when constructing eating plans.
- Organizational skills. Because there are many aspects to the work of dietitians and nutritionists, they should stay organized. Management dietitians, for example, must consider the nutritional needs of their clients, the costs of meals, and access to food. Self-employed dietitians and nutritionists may need to schedule appointments, manage employees, bill insurance companies, and maintain patient files.
- Problem-solving skills. Dietitians and nutritionists must evaluate the health status of patients and determine the most appropriate food choices for a client to improve his or her overall health or manage a disease.
- Speaking skills. Dietitians and nutritionists must explain complicated topics in a way that people with less technical knowledge can understand. They must clearly explain eating plans to clients and to other healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care.
The average pay for dietitians and nutritionists in the United States ranges from $38,460 to $84,610 as of May 2018.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.
The role of food in preventing and treating diseases, such as diabetes, is now well known. More dietitians and nutritionists will be needed to provide care for patients with various medical conditions and to advise people who want to improve their overall health.
Dietitians and nutritionists typically need a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, clinical nutrition, public health nutrition, or a related area. Dietitians also may study food service systems management. Programs include courses in nutrition, psychology, chemistry, and biology.
Many dietitians and nutritionists have advanced degrees.
Discover some of the courses you will take pursuing a degree in Food, Nutrition and Health.