What Does a Registered Dietitian Do?
Healthy food can be life-changing. What if you could help people understand and embrace that choice? Then this job could be for you. Registered Dietitians (RD) design nutrition programs to improve patient well-being or to boost disease recovery. These food and nutrition experts may also advise someone who wants to embrace a healthier lifestyle. A dietitian explains how smart food choices help the body function better, including what foods to eat and what to avoid.
Clinical dietitians work in a traditional medical setting like a hospital or nursing home while community dietitians work with corporations or communities to teach better eating habits. Food service dietitians, sometimes called management dietitians, oversee food planning for a cafeteria, food company or school. Many dietitians also work in private practice.
- Assess nutritional needs
- Consult with doctors and other healthcare personnel
- Explain the principles of healthy eating and nutrition and counsel patients to follow them
- Create customized meal plans and adjust them as needed
- Keep up with the latest nutrition research
A registered dietitian (RD) must earn a bachelor’s degree in an accredited program, complete several hundred hours of supervised practice and take an exam to become credentialed through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Many states require a license to practice. Some employers look for the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credential.
In general there are two program approaches. A coordinated program in dietetics provides classroom and supervised practical experience at the same time. In a didactic program, classes are followed by a dietetic internship or supervised experience, which can last eight to 24 months.
Many hold advanced degrees and some hold additional certifications in areas of specialization, like pediatric or sports nutrition. The requirements for licensure and certification vary by state, but continued professional education is required to maintain certification.
- Communicate and listen well
- Understand complicated research and are able to translate it for everyday use
- Enjoy working with people and helping solve problems
- Have strong organization skills