What Does a Dietetic Technician Do?
Embracing healthy food can be life-changing. A dietetic technician is part of the team that makes this change possible.
Dietetic technicians work under the supervision of a registered dietitian to help clients understand how food can improve well-being or boost recovery.
This role has several names, including dietary aide, dietetic assistant, diet technician, nutrition technician or nutrition and dietetic technician.
Technicians work in many settings, including hospitals, school and corporate cafeterias, research facilities, long-term care facilities, retirement homes, community centers, food vending companies and health clubs. Their duties vary by setting.
In a community setting, these food and nutrition experts help make healthy eating a way of life. They create nutrition education curriculums and meal plans, explaining how smart food choices can help the body function better. That includes what foods to eat and what to avoid. They do screenings and lifestyle assessments to understand a client’s starting point.
In a medical setting, dietetic technicians focus on disease prevention and how to use food as a healing tool. They do initial nutrition screenings for patients and monitor patients’ eating habits, including a patient’s willingness or ability to stick to an approved meal plan. The data the dietetic tech collects from patients drives the direction of the menu. This technician also coordinates with the kitchen to make sure all menus reflect the latest information.
In a food company setting, technicians help create menus, ensure food safety and conduct nutrition analysis.
In any setting, dietetic technicians play a hands-on role. They help clients understand and follow a dietician’s directives through repeated interactions and support.
If you’re looking for a career that can change a client’s quality of life, keep reading to learn more about this satisfying job.
$ 44,600 - $ 91,800
- Work with dietician to assess clients' nutritional needs
- Conduct limited health screenings (i.e.: cholesterol checks)
- Follow customized meal plans
- Work with clients to make meal plan adjustments
- Counsel clients on the principles of healthy eating and nutrition
- Consult with other healthcare personnel, including kitchen staff
- May also prepare meals, depending on setting
- Collect client data
- Adhere to food safety rules and instruct others to do the same
How To Become a Registered Dietetic Technician: FAQs
Dietetic technician requirements: What steps do I need to take?
First, earn your high school diploma or pass the equivalency exam. If you’re still in high school, taking classes in biology, chemistry, sociology and English will provide good preparation.
Then choose your training. The most common path is to earn an associate degree in nutrition or dietetics from an accredited program, such as those recommended by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). It's less common to earn a post-secondary certificate.
You may get the choice to focus your studies on the food service route, the community route or the clinical route, if you only want to work in a healthcare setting.
All programs will include courses in nutrition, food preparation, food management, food sanitation and diet and nutrition therapy.
On-the-job training is essential for this career. Most associate degree programs require 450 hours of supervised, hands-on experience in a healthcare facility, community program or food service facility.
Credentials are not always required but they are important for dietetic and nutrition technicians. For example, many job listings seek candidates with the dietetic technician, registered (DTR) credential. Earning that credential requires completing all courses, gaining 450 hours of experience and passing an exam given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), which is part of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).
Are there any other qualifications to consider?
The requirements for licensing and certification vary by state. A good starting point is AND’s list of state rules for dietetic technicians. It’s smart to know this information before you begin classes so your education and training line up with the job you want.
How long does it take to become a dietetic technician?
Certificate programs typically last 12 months. An associate degree takes two years. Continuing education is ongoing and is required to maintain some certifications. For example, maintaining the DTR credential requires 50-75 hours of education every five years.
Being a technician is an excellent career, and it can also be a starting point. It’s common for dietetic techs to continue their education and earn a bachelor’s degree to become a registered dietician.
What’s the dietetic technician job outlook?
Steady, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which predicts employment growth of about 4.7%. That works out to 2,500 job openings each year from 2021 to 2031.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful dietetic techs tend to share several traits. They:
- Communicate and listen well
- Understand nutrition and the principles of healthy eating and are able to translate that knowledge in simple language
- Enjoy working with people
- Are patient and tactful
- Are good problem-solvers and collaborators
- Have good organization skills