How to Become a Dietician
A dietician works with dietetics, a type of science that focuses on the role of nutrition in our health. It’s an exciting and fulfilling career, and you can use your skills to help people make positive changes to their diet that could be life-changing in the long run.
Diagnosing and targeting nutritional problems is a crucial part of a dietician’s job, but what else makes a good dietician, and how does one start down the dietician career path?
What Does a Dietician Do?
Dieticians play a crucial role in healthcare, especially within our modern societies. The overabundance of processed foods and rise in unhealthy eating behaviours mean that their advice is more necessary than ever.
Dieticians specialise in human nutrition and generally offer one-on-one consultations with patients to give dietary advice. This advice can range from helping to navigate eating disorders to simply adapting a diet that best suits the patient’s needs.
Some dieticians also weigh in on public health matters or work within hospitals to address specific health concerns like diabetes or allergies. Many work specifically within mental health settings to help tackle behavioural problems like disordered eating.
The science of nutrition is just that. It’s a science. That means that no matter what area they end up in, a good portion of a dietician’s job will involve explaining potentially complicated scientific evidence to those who might not have a scientific background.
How Much Does a Dietician Earn?
A dietician could work in many different places, so the salaries can vary. Those that work full-time for the NHS generally start at Band 5, which starts at £25,655 per year. Part-time roles are paid pro-rata.
From there, you can progress at a steady rate through the Agenda for Change pay scale, assuming you take on more responsibilities and potentially step into a management role.
Of course, working within the NHS isn’t the only option, and you may find that you can have higher earning potential in the private sector.
What Qualifications are Needed to Become a Dietician?
If you’re looking to step into the world of diet and nutrition consultation, having a background as a nutritionist can be an excellent place to start and courses in Nutrition can help you start your journey.
To become a professional dietician in the United Kingdom, you may need an undergraduate degree, usually a BSc Hons in Dietetics, or a related science undergraduate degree with a postgraduate course in Dietetics. This is because dieticians are regulated in the UK and need to have a specified level of knowledge in order to practice professionally.
More recently, apprenticeship degrees in Dietetics have been created with accreditation from the British Dietetic Association (BDA). These provide another route into the profession. Both avenues still typically involve gaining at least 3 A-Levels, usually with a requirement for one to be biology.
Several undergraduate and postgraduate diploma providers even let you complete the course part-time, so you can continue earning in your current role until you qualify.
Once qualified, registered dieticians must be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and participate in continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their career.
What Skills are Needed to Become a Dietician?
Understandably, you’ll need a decent understanding of nutrition science. That said, all courses in dietetics will cover both biochemistry and physiology and topics like behavioural science.
Dieticians also need to have strong research skills, as part of their job is to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in nutrition. And once you’ve done the research? Communication skills will certainly come in handy, as dieticians work with a wide range of people and situations.
Does Becoming a Dietician Need any Work Experience?
A bachelor’s degree in Dietetics will teach you the ins and outs of human physiology, but it’ll also cover the physical aspects of the job, with a supervised period in an NHS setting. In fact, any degree in the subject must do the same, making extra work experience unnecessary.
That said, it can be good to show an overarching enthusiasm for nutrition and science if you want to land top job roles. Prior experience in nutrition-related roles can be helpful as well.
Career Prospects for a Dietician
Because of the requirement from the HCPC for continuing professional development, many dieticians specialise throughout their careers. It’s a field that’s not just limited to encouraging healthy eating: health science applies to a wide range of topics.
Though many dieticians work within the national health service, being self-employed is also an option and allows for greater control over your work-life balance.
You don’t even have to stay within healthcare as a dietician might work with food manufacturers to develop products and effectively market them.
This is particularly interesting for those with marketing or communications backgrounds who might feel they need to specialise and really step up their industry knowledge.
There are also opportunities within the sports industry, and those analytical skills could be put through their paces in a research-based role.
Dieticians are driven by science and the latest developments and are constantly learning. They’re always up-to-date on the latest breakthroughs in nutrition and willing to explain their findings to the rest of us.
It can be a hugely fulfilling career, whether you choose to work in a more health-specialised arena like a diabetes clinic or carve out a different niche that plays to your strengths.
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