How to become a Dietitian

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Dietitian? What Dietitians do? Degrees for Dietitians, Steps to become Dietitian and much more.

What does a dietitian do?

A dietitian plans and regulates your food intake according to your health issues. A diet is a balanced consumption of food that includes all the necessary nutrition required for your body. He is responsible to oversee the preparation of food according to your concern, educate about what food to eat and what to avoid.

They are licensed professionals to treat medical conditions and the health problems of the patients by assessing, altering and correcting the diet with solid guidance.

A registered dietitian works on nutrition research, counselling and diet therapy.

he scope to work in various fields such as treating patients in hospitals, food industry, sports nutrition, corporate wellness programs to help people recover through their food habits.

Steps to become a dietitian

A registered dietitian is a highly educated and experienced professional to solve the health problems of patients, and for this they are required to have completed a set of academic requirements, Here are some steps to follow to become a registered dietitian,

Step 1- Earn a Bachelor's degree

The first step you must follow is to earn a Bachelor's degree in dietetics, clinical nutrition. This gives you the minimum education to pursue your career as a dietitian. In this four years program, students get to educate themselves with the accredited coursework of applied food nutrition, food service system, and other nutrition-related courses to give you the basic understanding about how nutrition in food plays an important role in making or breaking your health. 

Step 2- Choose courses required by the ACEND

An accredited-Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics(ACEND) program is a part of your four years Bachelor’s degree that includes the course of 120 credits in the first two years.

Choose theses accredited courses to support your career, some are Nutrition metabolism, Genetics, Microbiology, Organic chemistry and others.

Step 3- Complete a dietetic internship

After graduating you must get a dietetic internship at a healthcare company to gain practical knowledge and hands on experience by treating patients. Getting an internship under the accredited program of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics(ACEND) you complete 1200 hours under the supervision of a licensed dietitian which gives you a wide understanding on the clinical concepts and practices. 

A Dietetic Internship(DI) is essential for you to become a registered professional and there are four common internships, i.e: Traditional DI program, Distance DI program, Dual M.S. degree/DI program and Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP).

Step 4- Clear the Registered dietitian examination

You are required to take up the registered dietitian exam to earn the state license or certify as a dietitian. After completing the ACEND accredited program and the internship, you are eligible to take up the exam. This exam takes about two and half hours to answer 125- 145 questions that cover the courses you covered and you are required to get a minimum of 25 scaled score to pass this exam and get the state license.

Step 5- Get the state license

To pursue your career as a dietitian, you are required to get the state license for that job. The requirements and criterias to earn this license differs from every state according to the state regulations on food,nutrition and health. The commision on Dietetic registrations outlines all necessary requirements to work as a licensed dietitian. To keep the license active, you must complete the 75 hours credits of continued education every five years to maintain the credentials.

Step 6- Earn and maintain the certification

After obtaining the license, some states may also require you to earn a Certified Nutrition specialist (CNS) by the Board of Certification of Nutrition Specialist. This certification adds up value by entailing the completion of 1,000 hours of clinical practice and experience under a licensed dietitian.

Types of degrees to become a Dietitian

The skills sets and academic excellence in nutrition is high for a dietitian, they gains a lot of experience and knowledge on the path towards professionalism, degree programs for a dietitian are, 

Bachelor's degree in Dietetics- A bachelor's degree in nutrition is a four years program that focuses on both general education and also hands-on experience under a senior dietitian. The program focuses on wellness, culinary arts or nutrition science. The first two years of the program, the RD courses are approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetic(ACEND). The degree program also included the internship opportunities to gain clinical experience while working with patients.

Masters degree in Dietetics- A masters degree in dietetics is a two years program that gives you in-depth information about the nutrition concepts and also the freedom to intern at a healthcare facility. This degree offers advanced knowledge on medical science and biology with the development of thinking and researching skills on the subject of your interest.  Registering yourself for the Didactic Program in dietetics prepares you for the internship you take up and earn the master's degree. 

The Bachelor’s and the Master’s degree program could be combined and taken for a 5 year program, which includes both learning theoretical knowledge with practical experience.

Online nutrition degree- This degree is for students who want to obtain a degree off campus, this accelerates the period you take to earn the degree. The online program also gives you more options on the courses such as electives you choose however you would be offered similar courses in any college program you attend.

Concentrations to be considered for a Dietitian

Academic concentrations: A dietitian studies diverse courses related to his profession which are accredited by the ACEND to expand their knowledge on those subjects. Here are some educational concentrations to be considered by a dietitian,

Introduction to food science and nutrition

This course deals with the introduction to consumption of nutrition and food safety, study of physical, biological, chemical aspects of food and its processing also gives you a wide understanding about how the food gets processed, preservation, packing and other concepts

Skills acquired:

  • Innovation of new food technologies

  • Nutrition in food

  • Relationship of food and health

Introduction to Dietetics

This course gives you an entry level introduction for the nutrition assistant program, scope and nature of nutrition in a balanced diet. And how the nutrition in a diet can maintain a person's health.

Skills acquired:

  • Learn to manage the nutrition in food habits 

  • Nutrition assessment

  • Scope of nutrition in diet

Community nutrition

Give you an idea about the various community-based nutrition research and how it is implemented in  various settings. Lets students be creative and innovative about community nutrition.

Skills acquired:

  • Learn the importance of public health

  • Innovative Ideas on community nutrition,

  • Explore more about the nutrition research

Human nutrition and life cycle

Course to provide an understanding on the importance of nutrition throughout the life cycle of the human, how the human health depends on his food habits. It gives an idea on how the nutrition intake varies at stages of life such as, Pregnancy, orlage, children at pre-school, adolescence or infantry nutrition. 

Skills acquired:

  • Planning a healthy diet

  • Nutrition management

  • Nutrition required according to the health condition and age 

Nutrition counselling and education

A dietitian always interacts with his patients to assess the nutrition intake to educate them and plan their nutritions in their diet to improve their health condition and recover from their health issues.

  • Educate clients about the importance of a healthy diet

  • Guide the patients to improve nutrition intake

  • Effective interaction with the clients

Food safety management

It is important to consume safe food to maintain good health, this course lets you understand the harmful food habits and what to avoid to improve health issues.

Skills acquired:

  • Understand the safe food habits

  • Learn about food processing

  • Analyse what to avoid eating and manage the nutrition intake

Accredited courses offered will be based on the degree programs for a graduate and undergraduate, courses are also offered based on your interest in online programs. Some are nutrition composition of food, food science, other management of food includes courses  such as the quality management, human resources and food service system includes safety and sanitation, menu development and other.

Job concentrations

A dietetics degree can open a doorway of opportunities to diverse courses and the skills possessed by the dietitian can fetch you alternate career concentrations, they are,

Nutrition educator

A dietitian not only assists his patient but also understands the psychology of his patients, he teaches them about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. He understands about his patients by asking them questions and on their reactions and educates him about how he can improve with few changes in his lifestyle. Many dietitians while working at health care, they educate their patients to improve their health by planning and altering their diets. The dietitian could work in various other fields such as a sports nutrition, public health nutrition, pediatric nutrition to help people.

Media tutor

Dietitians could also work with the media to provide knowledge to viewers and readers about the importance of maintaining a healthy diet. You could find dietitians tips in the column of the newspaper , educating people on television, cooking shows to add all the nutrients into their food. This could be useful to audience while the dietitians could get various opportunity outside their clinic

Menu development

Involving the dietitian to prepare the menu for a restaurant,to provide all the nutrition required in the recipient could attract customers and make the dish healthier. This lets the customers have various diet styles such as organic, gluten free, vegan . This may even help chefs to discover new recipes.

Food safety manager

In a food organization the dietitian could play an important role to make sure the food being prepared is safe for consumption and requires certain helpful nutrients. Over processed food, added preservatives, adulteration can harm the food safety, due to the courses studied by the dietitian during his coursework lets him manage food safety in that industry.

Pediatric nutritionist

Your Bachelor’s degree in dietetics could fetch you this job to treat the health of the children with health issues such as obesity or diabetes. Pediatrics nutritionists plan balanced diets for children to get healthy nourishment. They educate parents and counsel children to eat healthy and well to get all required nutritions.Other career opportunities for a certified dietitian are health coach,Oncology nutritionist, Nutrition therapist, Exercise senior job, Corporate wellness consultant and others.

Stand out skills required for a Dietitian

A registered dietitian get number of opportunities and growth in various field, this is due to their technical skills and soft skills required for that job, here are some skills a dietitian must have to stand out, 

Good decision making: A dietitian must have good thinking skills and decide about how to treat the person, he assesses the patient's health and decides upon what to alter to help recovery. The decision must be precise enough and the judgement capabilities must be firm.

Ability to instruct others: A dietitian must be able to convey and educate his patients with clarity and easy language. While instructing the patients to follow the diet plan he prepared, he must make the patient understand the importance. His empathy toward patients gives them the confidence to follow his instructions.

Effective thinking skills:  As an RD, he treats diverse patients with different health related issues. He must be creative and have effective thinking skills to plan their diets according to different problems. He must be efficient to think about the treatment process with respect to the patient's condition.

Be socially perceptive: He must be able to analyse and understand the mental state and psychology with the reaction given by the patients. When an RD counsels his patient he must ask open ended questions to his patient so that he gets a comprehensive answer to analyse well. He must be prepared for the reactions he receives to have a good hold on the conversation with his patient.

Motivating patients: Patients coming to the RD seek motivation from him, hence the dietitian must have good communication and interpersonal skills to motivate his patients and make them believe in recovery through adding nutrition in their diets.