Sunday, October 31, 2010

Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most trained, experienced and qualified to help people make healthy food choices. To become a registered dietitian, you have to undergo rigorous training in the biological, chemical and physical sciences, math, business management, education, psychology, food, and culture. That's the short list. You will also have to take a series of courses in food composition, food preparation, human nutrition and related subjects.

If you plan to enter the field of nutrition and dietetics, be prepared to tackle the tough courses in order to receive your bachelor's degree. Upon completion of the bachelor's program, you will have to complete a dietetic internship at a hospital. This may include rounds in public health. schools, and the food industry. Some programs allow you to complete your degree program and dietetic internship at the same time (concurrently).

After you've completed your studies and the dietetic internship, you can now be called a dietitian. However, more and more institutions, especially hospitals, are requiring you to go one step further in order to be employed as a dietitian. They are looking for RD's. What's an RD, you might ask.

RD stands for registered dietitian. That's one who has taken a comprehensive, qualifying exam and passed it. In addition to having the credential as a registered dietitian, most states now regulate the practice of dietetics by requiring anyone practicing as a dietitian to be licensed with the appropriate state licensing board. 

The Commission on Dietetic Registration is the agency of the American Dietetic Registration that handles credentialing.

Jobs in Dietetics
Most registered dietitians work in hospitals, but the field of opportunities is wide open. To become a public health nutritionist, a master’s degree in public health or nutrition is generally required. Public health nutritionists work in clinics with patients who have diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other chronic diseases. 

Many public health nutritionists work with WIC (Women, Infants and Children) programs across the country.  School lunch is another area where you would find opportunities to work in the field of nutrition and dietetics.

More and more dietitians are choosing to become entrepreneurs, setting up their own practice in whatever area of emphasis they have a passion for. Others are creating and working for nonprofit organizations. These organizations serve children in Head Start, after school programs, parent organizations and other groups. Consulting for major food and pharmaceutical corporations, college teaching are yet other areas where you might work as a registered dietitian.

Next: Compensation and other things you should know about being a registered dietitian