Professionals in nutrition have the opportunity to help people maintain a healthier lifestyle and reach health-related goals by educating them about good eating habits and disease management. The food you put into your body has a significant impact on your overall health, and nutrition professionals work to inform individual patients and the public about this relationship.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in nutrition, working as a clinical dietitian might be the ideal professional route for you. These professionals provide nutritional care based on a patient’s specific medical needs. Below, we’ll outline what a job as a clinical dietitian entails and how you can get your start in the field.
Clinical dietitians assist patients in a variety of settings such as hospitals, private practices, prisons, nursing homes and schools. They prescribe and monitor dietary and nutritional plans based on a patient’s specific circumstances and needs. For example, they may implement a diet to help treat health issues like obesity or high blood pressure. Other times, dietary plans are put in place to prevent the onset of disease.
Additionally, clinical dietitians educate and guide newly hired staff, interns, nutrition assistants and dietetic technicians. They develop standards for medical nutrition therapy so that others can properly administer care to patients.
In general, clinical dietitians should have strong communication skills, a positive, self-motivated personality, the ability to multitask and the ability to work both independently and on a team.
How to Become a Clinical Dietitian
To become a clinical dietitian, you will first need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field such as dietetics or food service management. Most states also require licensure, but you should check your area’s specific requirements.
Licensure typically requires the completion of an American Dietetic Association accredited internship or another approved training program. You must also pass a national examination administered by the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board.
To maintain certification, you will need to complete continuing education coursework periodically. Passage of a recertification test is also required every five years. This helps clinical dietitians keep up with the latest developments and trends in the field.
Job Outlook for Clinical Dietitians
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in nutrition will likely experience job growth at an above average rate over the next several years. In fact, the employment of nutritionists and dietitians is projected to grow up to 16 percent until 2024. On average, these professionals make $58,410 each year, according to 2015 data.
Clinical dietitians can expect to find work in the normal facilities we’ve already mentioned, as well as in outpatient facilities. Those with specialties in diabetes or renal disease may have an even greater chance of success in the current job market.
For those interested in further advancement within the field, there are opportunities to work in management, research, government and academia. Clinical dietitians may also choose to be self-employed.
As issues related to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, renal disease and other nutrition-related ailments continue to grow, so does the need for qualified clinical dietitians.