What is a Dietitian?

Ken Black

A dietitian is a person who handles all aspects, or at least advises all aspects, of food and nutrition preparation and consumption. While the most common place to find a such a person is in a hospital or long-term care facility, there are plenty of other opportunities for those who choose this as a career opportunity. Other opportunities include school systems, prisons, doctor's offices, and even some grocery stores hire dietitians in order to advise their customers of healthy eating.

A dietitian works with clients to develop a healthy diet.
A dietitian works with clients to develop a healthy diet.

For those who want to become a dietitian, an interest in food and biology, and how those two courses of study interact, is a requirement. There are a number of degree paths that could lead to a career as dietitian. These may be food systems service management, dietetics, or any number of other degrees. Advanced degrees can also be earned, which will help increase the dietitian's depth of knowledge on the subject matter.

A geriatric dietitian works with elderly people to help them meet their dietary needs.
A geriatric dietitian works with elderly people to help them meet their dietary needs.

As mentioned previously, there are many different types of dietitian roles. These roles help determine what type of dietitian one is. It should be noted that the training and educational requirements are nearly the same, no matter what specific career path one chooses. Clinical dietitians provide services to hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other institutions. Community dietitians are those hired by places like grocery stores. In this case, the primary job is simply to advise people on how to eat healthy and other issues related to nutrition. In such cases, a dietitian may also be called a nutritionist.

Though technically, management dietitians may be considered clinical dietitians, often they are simply referred to by their specific location. For example, those working in schools are often called school dietitians. The only difference between a school and clinical dietitian is the setting. The only other thing the school employee may need to consider is tailoring meals toward those who are a little younger, rather than making meals for a general or elderly population.

In most cases, it should be noted the goal of a dietitian is not necessarily to help an individual lose weight. Rather, this job is all about people eat healthier. While that is a part of losing weight, it is not the only part. Those who depend on the advice of a dietitian solely for weight loss are missing a number of other different aspects, which may make the focus on food less effective than it otherwise would be. Therefore, it is necessary to put together a comprehensive plan for such issues.

Dietitians can help individuals to know what foods to purchase and how to prepare them for optimum health benefit.
Dietitians can help individuals to know what foods to purchase and how to prepare them for optimum health benefit.

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Discussion Comments


@honeybees - It depends on geographic location and years of experience, but many dieticians who are registered can earn a good salary.

My sister has been a dietician for about 10 years, and she makes around $60,000 a year. She loves her job and is always learning and educating people about nutrition.

I also have some friends who have both lost over 100 pounds. They joined a program that is done through a dietician. This dietician also works closely with a doctor, but she has helped a lot of people lose weight and keep it off.

They are eating grocery store food and do not have to purchase special food plans. She teaches them what foods to eat, how often and how to incorporate the right nutrition in their lives.

This way of life has become a lifestyle for them, and both of their teenage sons have also lost a lot of weight because of the changes they made.


What is the average dietitian salary? This sounds like something that would be perfect for my niece.

She has always been interested in nutrition and eating healthy. She also does a lot of the cooking for her family and all of them have lost some weight because of this.

We have a large local chain of grocery stores that employs a dietician in each one of their stores. The only way I know this is because they have ads on TV talking about their services.

They also plan events at each of these stores that show people how to choose and prepare healthy food.

All of the dieticians I have seen on these commercials have been women that look to be in their 20's and 30's. I could very easily see my niece doing something like this.


@jonrss - If you are interested in becoming a dietician, I think becoming registered is the best way to go. This will not only give you the chance to have a greater salary, but also more interesting job opportunities.

I went to college for four years to get my nutrition degree and than did a one year internship. I currently work as a registered dietician at a local hospital.

This is an area that is really growing as more people are becoming interested in how to eat healthy. In my area, there seems to be several openings for dietician jobs on a regular basis.

Dietician careers are also very rewarding because you feel like you are really making a difference in the lives of people.


I am interested in dietician jobs but I'm not quite sure what kind of training I need. It seems like there are several levels of dietician and they probably all require a different amount of training.

Lets say that I wanted to get a basic job as a dietician, maybe in a hospital or with a health department. Would I have to get some kind of dietician degree or is it just a certification? Thanks for any info you guys can provide!


I started consulting with a dietician after I was diagnosed with diabetes about 5 years ago. The diagnosis came as a big shock and it really shook up myself and my family. As soon as I heard the news I committed myself to doing whatever it would take to to live the longest, healthiest life I possibly could.

After several long and frank meetings with my dietician I realized that the biggest thing I could do to help myself was to improve my diet. In all honesty, I ate like a pig. All bad foods and lots and lots of them.

With my dietician I was able to work out a diet plan that was sustainable and with her help I have been able to loose almost 100 pounds and the symptoms of my diabetes are almost gone. I really owe her everything. The doctors were great, but without the help of my dietician I probably would have lost a foot by now.


I have never heard of a grocery store dietitian before. My grocery store has nothing like that available. It is just a basic place to shop for food.

How does this setup work? Does the dietitian stand near the healthy food, like in the produce department, and offer free advice, or do you have to go to an office and request a meeting with her?

It would be nice to have a service like this around here. Is it usually free inside a store, or do you have to pay a fee for advice? If it were free, I would definitely take advantage of it!


My aunt and uncle have always been pretty well off, but their eating habits were horrid. After they both developed high blood pressure and put on too much weight, they decided to hire a registered dietitian to help them change their ways.

This dietitian also worked as a personal chef. So, rather than just tell them what they should be eating, she prepared their meals. She also made healthy snacks for them whenever they got hungry.

There was no food that came out of that kitchen that she did not bring to them herself. She kept watch over everything they ate, and she did not allow them to sneak food.

They both lost weight and brought their blood pressure down considerably. They intend to keep their dietitian as long as she will agree to work for them.


@cloudel – That is right. My university has a sports dietitian who lectures the football team on the fuel they need to be putting into their bodies, but this doesn't mean that they adhere to her advice.

Any catered lunches provided by the school to the team will be filled with food that the dietitian has approved, but this has no bearing on what they eat in their dorm rooms. I know for a fact that the team gets together after a game and orders pizzas, and these are not the low-fat vegetarian kind, either.

It's not the dietitian's fault that they put junk in their bodies. She can only do what they pay her to do, and that is give great advice that may or may not be heeded.


I remember being upset with the school dietitian when I was in elementary school. Most of us kids were not happy when she started taking some of our favorite foods away.

She was responsible for the removal of soda machines from the cafeteria. She worked with the school board to make a rule that even students who brought their lunches could not bring soda to drink. I felt like this was just wrong, because I should be able to bring whatever I wanted from home to drink.

Also, the cafeteria stopped serving donuts for breakfast. We had looked forward to these donuts every Tuesday for years, and suddenly, they were no longer available.

I now understand that the dietitian was doing us a favor, but the fact is that we all ate food like this at home, anyway. True, she might have influence over one or two meals during the week, but our parents let us eat whatever we wanted at home.

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