If you’re dreaming of becoming a dietitian, we’ve got great news! It’s a wonderful career that will allow you to positively impact many lives and best of all, it has great long-term prospects.
Let’s look at what exactly a dietitian does and the education required for this amazing career.
A dietitian is a healthcare professional who provides individualized nutrition care specifically tailored to a person’s needs. They promote healthy eating habits to prevent illness or disease. Dietitians can and do work in a wide variety of settings, including schools, universities, nonprofits, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Some even work for themselves in private practice.
But you can’t just read up on healthy eating and declare yourself a dietitian. Dietitians must devote themselves to a rigorous educational program so they are well-prepared when you to begin working with clients and give them the best possible guidance.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Dietitian?
The time commitment you’ll have to make to become a dietitian will depend on how long it takes you to complete the required education and training.
First, you’ll have to complete a bachelor’s degree with a focus in nutrition. The program you choose must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). You can find a list of programs by state on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
After you graduate with your degree, you’ll need to complete an internship. This includes a year-long supervised clinical training program where you’ll get 1,200 hours of real-life experience to help you prepare for a long, rewarding career. ACEND has accredited more than 250 dietetic internship programs across the United States, so you have plenty of options to choose from.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree but still need to complete the coursework required by ACEND, there is an alternative route. You can apply to a program to earn a certificate in nutrition and dietetics. Once you receive the certificate, you’ll be eligible to apply for a dietetic internship program.
Upon completion of the internship, you are eligible to take a licensing exam. Once you pass the exam, you’ll officially be registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Then you can proudly declare that you are a registered dietitian!
How to Become a Registered Dietitian Online
If you’re juggling a family or working another job, an online program could be the perfect path for you. A growing number of colleges and universities are now offering online education programs for dietitians. Search the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ online database for programs offering distance education.
With most of these programs, you can complete all–or at least the vast majority–of your coursework online. This gives you the flexibility to study on your own time without having to physically go to a classroom at a set time each day or week.
There is one caveat to consider as you make your decision about which online program to choose. You’ll want to make sure the chosen program is accredited before you enroll.
How Much Does a Dietitian Make?
With the demand for dietitians predicted to grow over the next few years, a career in dietetics is a great option for people who are passionate about health and nutrition. It’s perfectly reasonable to want to know how much dietitians actually make before you commit to the education required.
In 2017, the median pay for dietitians and nutritionists was $59,410, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means you could make less than that…but it also means you could make more! Some dietitians were making close to $80,000 in 2017. There’s a lot of potential if you’re eager and willing to work hard!
Another thing to consider is where you live, specifically the cost of living and average salary in that location, and how it might affect your earning potential. You can identify the areas of the U.S. where the best-paying jobs are. California is nicknamed the Golden State for a good reason; the state, where the highest mean annual salary exceeds $72,000, tends to top the list of highest-paid dietitians, according to the U.S. News and World Report. California is followed by Alaska and Oregon. But easterners, take heart: New Jersey and Connecticut round out the top five.
What’s next for a future dietitian?
Now that you have a better sense of the journey required to become a dietitian and the kind of salary you can expect to make, you can take the next step. Start exploring educational programs in your area (or online, if that works better for you). You may also want to consider talking to other people about their careers in dietetics and nutrition.
If you’re interested in blending your professional interest in nutrition and dietetics with the chance to work one-on-one with people aspiring to improve their health, consider pursuing certification as a Health Coach. You can teach your clients about good nutrition while helping them set achievable goals for themselves. Click the button below to learn more about Health Coach Institute and what our program offers future Health Coaches!