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Registered Dietitian: Career Info & Requirements

Learn about what a registered dietitian does. Find out the education requirements and needed skills, in addition to the salary and employment outlook, to decide if this is the right career for you.

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Career Definition

Registered dietitians design meal plans for patients in medical settings such as hospitals and nursing homes to make sure they consume healthy meals. They often customize the diet for each individual to take unique medical conditions into account and sometimes supervise food preparation and service for all patients at a facility to ensure that they receive nutritious meals. Some registered dietitians work with private clients to help them achieve health and fitness goals through a healthy diet.

How to Become a Registered Dietitian

Education Needed

Registered dietitians need at least a 4-year bachelor's degree and are often required to possess a license, depending on their state of residence. Registered dietitians are usually required to hold a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics, food service management or a related field. Most states have unique qualification standards that registered dietitians must meet before they can work.

Required Skills

Registered dietitians need to have excellent communication skills and should be organized. Additionally, they will need to be sympathetic to their patients' needs and should be able to monitor and note their patients' progress and change their meal plans as needed.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) predicts a job growth rate of 20% for registered dietitians from 2010-2020, which is higher than average. According to the BLS, the median salary for a registered dietitian in 2012 was $55,240 a year, depending on employer, education and experience.

Alternate Career Options

Health Educator

At least a bachelor's degree is required to enter this profession, and some positions may require the credential of Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). These educators teach people about healthy lifestyles, through hospitals, government agencies, private businesses and colleges. They could expect high demand, with much faster than average employment growth of 37%, from 2010-2020, per the BLS. The median annual wage for health educators, according to the BLS in 2012, was $48,790.

Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Other professionals who guide people in living healthier lives are these counselors who work with alcoholics and other types of addicts, or those with other types of behavioral problems. Education requirements vary widely, from no postsecondary education to master's degrees, depending on the work setting, job responsibilities and state laws. Faster than average job growth of 27% was predicted by the BLS, from 2010-2020. These counselors earned a median salary of $38,520 per year, the BLS reported in 2012.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics