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Field description

Dietitians promote health, prevent disease, and shape the food choices and dietary habits of patients and the public. They combine extensive scientific knowledge of food, nutrition, biochemistry, physiology and management with the behavioral and social sciences to perform their work.

Dietitians work in clinical and community settings, performing nutrition screenings and assessing patients' needs. They also provide counseling and regular follow-up to patients to reinforce behavioral changes. Dietitians have a high level of contact with patients and interact closely with physicians, residents, nurses and allied health care staff.

Dietitians also work in food service management, coordinating all aspects of food service in both hospital and industry settings with people of all ages, cultures and economic status. Those who enjoy being with people and want to assist them in leading healthier lives will find satisfaction in this field.

Career opportunities

Dietitians are employed in health care, education, research, business and industry, and private practice settings.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dietitians and nutritionists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all professions through the year 2014. Employment in hospitals is expected to show little change. Faster growth is anticipated in nursing homes, residential care facilities and physician clinics.

Clinical dietitians are a vital part of the medical team in hospitals, nursing homes, health maintenance organizations and other health care facilities. They work with doctors, nurses and therapists to help speed patients' recovery and lay the groundwork for long-term health. Opportunities for advancement are available by specializing in a particular area of nutrition, such as diabetes or pediatrics.

Earnings potential

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' 2013 Compensation and Benefits Survey, half of all registered dietitians who had been working in the field for five years or less earned $53,900 to $65,000 annually.

Salary levels vary with geographical location, scope of responsibility, employment settings and supply of registered dietitians. Salary also increases as experience increases, and many registered dietitians — particularly those in management, business and consulting — earn incomes of $75,000 to $92,700.

Professional organizations

Sept. 16, 2017