The importance of nutrition in overall health and quality of life is a hot topic in today’s world. It figures in everything from successful pregnancies and infants thriving, to how well kids do in school, to disease prevention throughout life, and to continued vitality in old age.
If you’re already a registered dietitian or are interested in pursuing a career in the field, you’ll be happy to know that demand is growing and employment opportunities are expected to expand by 16 percent through the next eight years, much faster than the average.
With the added boost of a master’s in nutrition, you can plan a career that involves working one-on-one with individuals in private practice, becoming a clinical manager, a corporate wellness program director, a research coordinator, or a health educator.
Career paths in the professional fields of nutrition and wellness include:
Registered dietitians counsel and educate others on food and nutrition to promote health and manage disease. Specific jobs vary depending upon the setting. These are some of the specialties in the field:
Clinical dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and similar institutions. Some clinical dietitians may specialize even further, for example, by working only with patients who have diabetes or kidney disease.
Community dietitians are primarily educators, providing food, nutrition, and health information to the public via positions with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, public health clinics, and HMOs. Some community dietitians specialize in working with children and families, seniors, or other specific populations.
Management dietitians plan meal programs for large-scale food services in such places as hospitals, schools, prisons, and cafeterias that serve corporate or industrial employees. They may oversee other dietitians or kitchen staff, and be responsible for the overall budgeting and other business tasks of managing a food service program.
Registered Dietetic Technician
Registered dietetic technicians generally work under the supervision of registered dietitians, performing hands-on services in a variety of settings including:
Hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and research facilities. In these settings, a dietetic technician often focuses on the aspects of nutrition that prevent disease, by screening and gathering information from patients and providing medical nutrition therapy services.
Public and community wellness and health agencies. A dietetic technician in one of these settings might develop and teach nutrition classes to the public at large or work with individuals to help them meet specific needs.
Private health clubs and spas. Many private facilities employ experts in diet and nutrition to counsel clients and enhance programs in weight control and general health and fitness.
Food services in schools, hospitals, corporate and other cafeterias. Dietetic technicians in these facilities generally manage employees and may also be involved in budgeting and other business responsibilities as well as purchasing food and helping to prepare it.
Food companies. In these settings, a dietetic technician may oversee sanitation and food safety practices, help to develop menus, and work on devising nutrition analyses and food labels.
Depending upon a state’s licensing requirements, registered dietitians may be considered licensed nutritionists, although not all licensed nutritionists are registered dietitians. Specializations for licensed nutritionists are similar in some ways to those of registered dietitians, including:
- Clinical nutritionists who work in medical and long-term care facilities.
- Public health nutritionists who work in community-based and government organizations.
- Management nutritionists who address dietary needs and plan meals for large-scale food service operations in places like hospitals, schools, and prisons.
- Nutrition consultants who work in private practice with individuals or in corporate human resources departments.
- Sports nutritionists who work with clients at fitness centers, gyms, athletic programs, and sports medicine facilities.
- Animal nutritionists (are you surprised?) who work in veterinary research and for zoos and pet food companies.
What the Future Holds
The demand for dietitians and nutritionists is growing. An additional 12,300 jobs will likely be created by 2018. Achieving a master’s in nutrition will put you in the running for the best of those jobs among the 49 percent of registered dietitians with post-graduate degrees.
More information that might help you decide about pursuing a career in the field — as well as licensing requirements — can be found at the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in its section devoted to professionals.
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