Are you passionate about people living a healthy lifestyle? Are you dedicated to eating right and choosing the right foods to maintain optimal health and appearance?
If the answer to these questions is yes, pursuing a career in nutrition and dietetics could be something you should consider. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two, as well as the job outlook in the nutrition science industry.
What Is a Dietician?
When looking at things from a legal perspective, you will notice that there are laws that strictly regulate the role of dieticians. This means you have fewer institutions where you can get adequate certificates and licenses to be able to do this work.
You should start with an accredited and reputable university, but you should also apply for a practice program or internship at a relevant organization. That might be a hospital, food service, healthcare facility, etc.
In the US, laws require you to take a national examination after you have fulfilled all necessary requirements. If you prepare yourself well and pass, you will have an official Registered Dietician qualification.
As an R.D., you can design nutrition schedules that assist in treating and preventing illnesses, as well as achieving healthy food habits. A dietician can work in healthcare facilities, such as clinics and hospitals, but also at companies related to foodservice. You can also consider teaching other people how to become dietician and nutrition experts.
If you prefer, you can establish a business to help other individuals with their nutrition plans. However, if you plan to succeed, you’ll also need to expand your knowledge on starting a small business, including how to attract clients and focus on providing exceptional service.
What Is a Nutritionist?
From a legal perspective, being a nutritionist has a broader meaning than being a dietician. It is not necessary to have a specific degree or specific professional training to become a nutritionist. This means there are more institutions that offer programs or courses to become a nutritionist.
However, those who want to become nutritionists usually at least complete a nutrition science short course to obtain some basic knowledge on the topic initially to help guide their decision to go into nutrition and dietetics.
The major difference between a nutritionist and dietician is that as a nutritionist you cannot participate in treating or diagnosing any illnesses.
You can also choose to take a test that makes you a Certified Nutrition Specialist. That is a title protected by the law, and it is held in higher value.
Those who are already medical doctors, chiropractors, physician assistants, and others who have a suitable degree, can consider attending a course that will allow them to work as clinical nutritionists.
What Skills Should Nutritionists and Dieticians Have?
Apart from the necessary licenses, you also need suitable skills to work in nutrition and dietetics. Those include:
- Listening – if you are working with individual clients, you need to listen to them. That includes learning more about their concerns and goals, as well as their current situation. If you work with other experts on designing a nutrition and health plan for a patient, cooperating with them can also be crucial.
- Analytical – you should keep up with the latest industry standards. Dietetics and nutrition are ever changing industries, which is why you should follow all the latest news and studies that you can apply in practice.
- Problem-solving – coming up with a suitable food plan for a client is problem-solving. You need to assess the problem, which is the patient’s current health and any food preferences. Based on that, you can come up with a solution in the form of suitable food choices to help improve their situation.
- Compassion – some individuals who hire a dietitian or nutritionist can have certain mental or health related issues which can be of a sensitive nature. Thus it is important to show compassion and empathy when interacting with these individuals.
- Communication – you are the expert in the room, which means the clients don’t need to have advanced knowledge in dietetics and nutrition. That is why you need to find the right way to communicate this knowledge with them. When using professional terms, make sure to simplify them when needed to ensure clients fully understand what you are saying.
How Much Do Nutritionists and Dietitians Earn?
According to statistics, the average annual salary in this industry is over $60,000. The biggest earners went over $84,000 (the top 10% on average), and the lowest earners made about $38,000 per year (the lowest 10% on average). The highest salary was in outpatient care centers, although government facilities and hospitals are also a good choice.
As long as you have the necessary qualifications, you shouldn’t have a problem landing a job as a nutritionist or dietitian. The experts indicate that the number of employees in the industry will grow over the next decade. That is understandable because more people care about health and well-being every day. Thanks to this overall interest in preventative healthcare, there is more demand for nutritionists and dietitians than ever.
It is vital to note that those who have advanced qualifications might have more job opportunities. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean those job prospects will turn out to be better. If you don’t find yourself in nutrition and dietetics, these skills also allow you to explore other fields to find your passion. For example, you could potentially work as a registered nurse, community health worker, or health educator. Many dietitians have also become rehabilitation counselors that help clients through rough patches of their lives, focusing on implementing a manageable healthy lifestyle.
Ultimately, the choice of your career depends on your preference. The good news is that nutrition and dietetics offer many job opportunities if you are interested in joining this industry.