NUTRITION AND DIETETICS

Job opportunities in nutrition and dietetics will continue to grow due to increasing emphasis on disease prevention through improved health habits. Also, the continued aging of the American population means more elderly, the age group most likely to need medical service. While for many people, eating right to live better is a high priority, other studies show that America has become a nation of the obese and that extra fat is a health hazard that is significantly impacting not only quality of life but also healthcare costs.

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REGISTERED DIETITIAN NUTRITIONIST (RDN)

Registered dietitian nutritionists are experts in the science of nutrition and its application to health, disease prevention, and management. They promote healthy eating habits and suggest diet modification to combat and/or prevent diseases. Responsibilities for the dietitian vary according to the job setting and the area of responsibility.

Business Dietitians: The focus for business dietitians may include product development, sales, marketing, advertising, public relations, purchasing, and any other area that enables food and nutrition-related companies to satisfy consumer interests.

Clinical Dietitians: Vital members of the healthcare team in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities, clinical dietitian nutritionists provide nutrition therapy both to assist in speeding patient recovery and to inform patients of how they can achieve a healthier life in the long-term by eating better. RDNs may specialize in specific areas of medical nutrition therapy such as diabetes, oncology or nutrition support.

Community Dietitians: Dietitians in this area serve public needs in home health agencies, daycare centers, health and recreation clubs, and in government-funded programs where they teach, monitor, and advise regarding nutrition and health with a goal of improving quality of life.

Consultant Dietitians: Working independently or under contract to a healthcare facility or other agency, consultant dietitians assess nutrition habits and advise on such areas as weight loss, cholesterol reduction, and other diet issues. They also may offer advice on sanitation and safety procedures on budgeting and portion control for business and industry.

Educator Dietitians: Educating others about the sophisticated science of food and nutrition is the role of dietitians employed in colleges and universities.

Management Dietitians: These dietitians usually work in healthcare institutions, schools, cafeterias, and restaurants, and have responsibility for personnel management, menu planning, budgeting, and purchasing.

Research Dietitians: Experimentation directed to answering critical nutrition questions and finding alternative food or dietary recommendations is the focus of research dietitians who usually work in government agencies, food and pharmaceutical companies, and major universities and medical centers.


DIETETIC TECHNICIAN, REGISTERED (DTR)

Dietetic technicians work under the supervision of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists. Like dietitians, their responsibilities vary according to the job setting. Duties may include the following:

  1. Assisting with planning, implementing, and evaluating food service management programs
  2. Supervising food preparation and service
  3. Assisting a clinical or community dietitian in interviewing patients and taking patient histories
  4. Choosing menus based on established guidelines
  5. Providing routine dietary counseling
  6. Educating patients regarding their specific nutritional requirements

Dietetic technicians are employed in hospitals, public health nutritional programs, long-term care facilities, school lunch and other child nutrition programs, community wellness centers, health clubs, nutrition programs for the elderly, food companies, and food service settings. Computer skills are needed since they are an integral part of everyday tasks such as inputting inventory and payroll, and charting patient progress.



CAREER OUTLOOK

Increasing emphasis on disease prevention through improved health habits and the aging of the American population resulting in more elderly, the age group must likely to need medical services, will continue to spur job growth in nutrition and dietetics. The demand for dietetic technicians is expected to grow much faster than the average expected growth in other occupations.