Dietitians provide nutritional information and services for individuals and institutions. They promote healthy living by educating people about good eating habits and designing specific diet plans. Professionals may work in a number of different settings, such as hospitals, schools, prisons, research institutions, or private offices. In addition, many dietitians choose to specialize, focusing on populations with specific health needs, such as children or elderly citizens. Since specialization is so common, there are many different dietitian jobs available.
Most dietitian jobs are found in clinical settings, including hospitals, private doctors' offices, and nursing homes. A clinical dietitian will typically work with individual patients, assessing their overall health and dietary needs. He or she often works with physicians and nurses to determine an appropriate diet plan and exercise regimen for each patient. The dietitian may take detailed notes and create a portfolio for a patient, which can be referenced and updated as a diet plan is carried out.
Management dietitians generally work in cafeterias at large institutions, such as prisons, schools, hospitals, and corporations. They supervise all aspects of meal planning and preparation to ensure people consistently receive quality, healthy food. Management dietitians ensure that food safety and occupational health standards are met at all times, and that food handlers are following sanitation guidelines.
Consultant and community dietitians often work in private practices or health management organizations, where they provide diet and nutrition information to a vast range of clients. They may consult patients on weight loss strategies, proper exercise routines, meal planning, and grocery shopping. Many consultant and community dietitians engage in public awareness programs and participate in health fairs and seminars.
Many dietitian jobs entail catering to specific populations or conditions. Pediatric dietitians, for example, focus on the dietary needs of children in order to promote proper growth and development. Geriatric dietitians work with elderly citizens to improve their bone health and activity levels. Other specialists might concentrate on patients who suffer from obesity, diabetes, renal deficiencies, or heart health problems.
A bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics, or health science is usually the minimum requirement to obtain most dietitian jobs, though some employers require advanced degrees. Most states require a person to pass a written licensing exam before he or she can become a practicing dietitian. Additional certification is not generally needed, though a professional may choose to obtain a Registered Dietitian certificate from the American Dietetic Association to improve his or her chances of finding employment. People living outside of the United States must usually meet similar licensing and certification requirements before entering dietitian jobs.