Nutrition and Dietetics is a broad field that provides a lot of different areas of practice. There are clinical dietitians, community dietitians, management dietitians, consultant dietitians, and dietitians who may specialize in an area of advanced practice.
Clinical Dietitians assess a patient’s nutritional needs, develop and implement nutrition therapy programs, and work with physicians, among other members of the patient care team, to coordinate medical and nutritional needs. Clinical dietitians are most often found in community hospitals, acute care hospitals, outpatient clinics, and extended care and rehabilitation facilities. Clinical dietitians, interested in care of the critically ill, pediatrics nutrition, diabetics and chronic kidney diseases, all areas of advanced practice, may earn a master’s degree and/or work toward a certification in a specific area of practice such as a Certified Diabetes Educator or Certified Nutrition Support Dietitian.
Community Dietitians counsel individuals and groups on nutrition practices designed to prevent disease and promote health. They work in schools, public health clinics, home health agencies, health maintenance organizations, and the food industry. Community dietitians evaluate individual needs as they help clients develop improved nutrition plans and work with clients and their families. They may provide instruction on grocery shopping and food preparation for individuals with special needs such as the aged and children. They may analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, develop recipes, and report on issues such as dietary fiber, vitamin supplements, and herbal formulas.
Management Dietitians manage large-scale food production such as menu planning, purchasing, and preparation of foods for health care facilities—hospitals, nursing homes, company cafeterias, prisons, and schools. They hire, train, and direct other dietitians and food service workers while budgeting for and purchasing food, equipment, and supplies. They also prepare the records and reports required.
Consultant Dietitians work in their own private practice or under contract for health care facilities, physician practices/clinics, or food companies. They may provide nutrition screenings for their clients and offer advice on diet-related concerns, such as weight loss and other health-related issues. They may work for wellness programs, sports teams, supermarkets, and other nutrition-related businesses. They could also consult with extended care facilities and small hospitals, where they provide expertise in issues regarding sanitation, safety procedures, menu development, budgeting, planning, and clinical care for special populations, such as the aged or developmentally delayed.
How Much Are Dietitians Paid?
According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics 2013 Dietetics Compensation and Benefits Survey, the annual salary for RDs working in the field for five years or less, earn between $46,197 and $65,000 per year with a median salary of $53,893. Individual salaries vary depending on the area of practice and location in the US. Salaries increase with years of experience. Many registered dietitians, particularly those with master’s degrees or those working in management, business, and consulting, earn incomes ranging from $92,000 to $105,000 per year.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for dietitians is expected to grow about 16% (compared to 7% average for all professions) through the year 2024. The need for dietitians is expected to grow in response to an aging population and the increased incidence of diseases like diabetes.