Registered dietitians (RD) or medical nutrition therapists are food and nutrition experts who work in a variety of employment settings, including healthcare facilities, public health, education, research and private practice. In healthcare, RDs or medical nutrition therapists educate patients about nutrition and administer medical nutrition therapy as part of the healthcare team. They may also teach nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals and students about nutrition and its role in patient care. Some clinical dietitians specialize in managing the weight of overweight patients, or in the care of renal (kidney), diabetic, or critically ill patients. In addition, RDs working in a hospital or long-term care setting may also manage the food service operation in those settings.
RDs working in the community, public health, home health, or HMOs, counsel individuals and groups on nutritional practices designed to prevent disease and promote health. Those working in home health may also provide instruction on grocery shopping and food preparation to the elderly, children, and individuals with special needs.
Long-term care facilities
Outpatient care centers
Offices of physicians or other healthcare practitioners
State and local government
Food services that contract with colleges, universities, company cafeterias, airlines, etc.
More than half of all jobs reported in 2008 were in hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, or offices of physicians or other healthcare practitioners. Most full-time dietitians work a standard 40-hours week, although some work weekends.
Employment of dietitians is expected to increase 9 percent from 2008 to 2018, average for all occupations. Job growth will result from an increasing emphasis on disease prevention through improved dietary habits, and the growing elderly population who will boost demand for nutritional counseling and treatment in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare-related services.
Ability to learn the principles of nutritional science and dietetics
Strong verbal abilities for reading, writing and communicating
Ability to keep records, visualize space and form relations, and work with scientific data
Planning and organizing skills, resourcefulness, and ability to work under pressure
Ability to supervise and train others
Ability to get along with a variety of people.
For registered dietitians, the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree and a dietetic internship (900 hours minimum), followed by passing a national exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Graduate degrees are also available. College students take courses in foods, nutrition, institution management, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and physiology. Other recommended courses include ones in business, mathematics, statistics, computer science, psychology, sociology and economics.
To become a registered dietitian, an applicant must complete a baccalaureate degree program and a supervised practice/dietetic internship program, both of which must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education of the American Dietetic Association. Typically, the supervised practice program/dietetic internship follows the baccalaureate degree program and is 6-12 months in length. Then the applicant must pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. To provide medical nutrition therapy in Nebraska, the registered dietitian must become licensed by the Nebraska Board of Examiners in Medical Nutrition Therapy.
Programs in Nebraska
University of Nebraska – Lincoln (Bachelor’s, Master’s)
University of Nebraska Medical Center – Omaha (Post-baccalaureate certificate)
Related / Links
Other careers that involve the principles of dietetics:
Community health educator (Health promotion specialist)
American Dietetic Association
Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, Dietitians and Nutritionists, on the Internet at www.bls.gov