Dietitian Job Description

Dietician holding an apple. Dietician's promote healthy eating and prevent illnesses through the use of good nutrition habits.

Dietician holding an apple. Dietician's promote healthy eating and prevent illnesses through the use of good nutrition habits.

The dietician job description includes planning food and nutrition programs and supervising the preparation and serving of meals. They help to prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and recommending dietary modifications, such as the use of less salt for those with high blood pressure or the reduction of fat and sugar intake for those who are overweight.

As part of the dietitian job description they also manage food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools, promote sound eating habits through education, and conduct research. Major areas of practice include clinical, community, management, and consultant dietetics.

Increased public interest in nutrition has led to job opportunities in food manufacturing, advertising, and marketing. In these areas, dietitians analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, or report on issues such as the nutritional content of recipes, dietary fiber, or vitamin supplements

Working Environment

Most full-time dietitians and nutritionists work a regular 40-hour week, although some work weekends. About 1 in 4 work part time. The average dietician salary is $55,240 per year.  Dietitians and nutritionists usually work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated areas. However, some dietitians work in warm, congested kitchens. Many dietitians and nutritionists are on their feet for much of the workday.

Education and Training

Dietitians and nutritionists need at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area. College students in these majors take courses in foods, nutrition, institution management, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and physiology.

Other suggested courses include business, mathematics, statistics, computer science, psychology, sociology, and economics. Students interested in research, advanced clinical positions, or public health may need an advanced degree. Usually an advanced degree will be a Master's but often is a PhD.

Licensing and Credentialing

Of the 46 States and jurisdictions with laws governing dietetics, 31 require licensure, 14 require certification, and 1 requires registration. Requirements vary by state. As a result, interested candidates should determine the requirements of the state in which they want to work before sitting for any exam.

Although not required, the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) awards the Registered Dietitian credential to those who pass an exam after completing their academic coursework and supervised experience.

Points to consider

  • Most jobs are in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and offices of physicians or other health practitioners.
  • Dietitians and nutritionists need at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area.
  • Faster than average employment growth is expected; however, growth may be constrained if employers substitute other workers for dietitians and if limitations are placed on insurance reimbursement for dietetic services.
  • Those who have specialized training in renal or diabetic diets or have a master’s degree should experience good employment opportunities.
  • The dietician job description can be quite diverse depending on the setting they work in.

Career Progression

Experienced dietitians may advance to management positions, such as assistant director, associate director, or director of a dietetic department, or may become self-employed. Some dietitians specialize in areas such as renal, diabetic, cardiovascular, or pediatric dietetics. Others may leave the occupation to become sales representatives for equipment, pharmaceutical, or food manufacturers. Those looking to assume more managerial roles or CEO responsibilities usually acquire additional education in allied health, human resources or healthcare administration. 

Resources for Dietetic Technician Job Description

Dietetic Technicians Job Description Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000 Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995 Phone: 800/877-1600 Phone: 312/899/0040

› Dietician