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Clinical Dietician Education Requirements and Career Info

Clinical dieticians monitor and prescribe nutritional and dietary plans for patients via private practices, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and prisons. They use diet to prevent or treat health ailments like obesity and high blood pressure in a residential, clinical setting. Depending on the employer, a clinicial dietician might also manage the food service department.

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Clinical Dietician Education Requirements

Although licensure and certification requirements vary by state, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that clinical dieticians need at least a bachelor's degree to practice. However, clinical dieticians who exceed their state's requirements are expected to have the best job prospects.

Colleges and universities around the U.S. offer undergraduate and graduate programs in dietetics, nutrition and food service management. Students in these programs learn about nutrition, food science and food service management. Some of the courses offered include nutrition science, menu planning, specialized diets, medical nutrition and medical terminology. Many clinical dietician educational programs include an internship.

For those seeking additional credentials, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) offers a voluntary Registered Dietician designation for clinical dieticians. Requirements include satisfying approved educational and experiential units and then passing an exam. Continuing education is also needed to sustain the title of Registered Dietician.

Career Info

The BLS says that clinical dieticians might face slow growth, or even a downturn in employment between 2008 and 2018. Although hospitals and nursing homes are expected to continue employing clinical dieticians, many will outsource food service and management. Clinical dieticians might find work with those contractors or with outpatient facilities, though much of their work depends on patients' ability to pay; those specializing in diabetes or renal disease may find a better job market (www.bls.gov).

Advancement opportunities for clinical dieticians include management positions, self-employment, research positions, government employment and academia. Another option is progressing to jobs in specialized nutrition services. The growing incidences of obesity, diabetes, renal disease, high blood pressure and other diet-related ailments require clinical dieticians who have advanced knowledge of these areas.

In 2007, the ADA reported that clinical dieticians in ambulatory care made an average of about $52,000 per year. Those working in long-term care earned $54,000 and clinical dieticians in acute care made approximately $49,000 annually. Clinical dietician salaries vary by experience, education and location.

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