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Clinical Dietitian: Job Outlook & Career Info

Mar 14, 2019

Learn about the career of a clinical dietitian. See the education requirements, income potential and employment outlook. Read about two alternative careers that may be of interest.

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Career Definition for a Clinical Dietician

Clinical dietitians design and supervise custom nutritional programs for health care patients after conducting assessments of the patients' individual needs. Some clinical dietitians specialize in a particular area, such as children's diabetic dietetics or nutrition for people with high blood pressure. Many types of health care facilities, including hospitals, outpatient centers and nursing homes, employ clinical dietitians.

Required Education Bachelor's degree; optional advanced courses and internships
Job Duties Assessing patients' individual needs, designing and supervising custom nutritional programs, providing specialist care where qualified
Median Salary (2017) $59,410 for dietitians and nutritionists*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% growth for dietitians and nutritionists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Students interested in becoming clinical dietitians should take courses such as nutrition, physiology, chemistry, biology and biochemistry. Advanced courses may cover metabolism, antioxidants, proteins and biometrics. During or after their degree programs, they usually complete an internship.

In addition to a bachelor's or master's degree, most states require clinical dietitians to obtain a state license or certification. The criteria for obtaining certification varies by state, but typically involves attaining formal education, including hands-on clinical training, and passing a written test. Registered Dietitian (RD) is a popular professional credential.

Required Job Skills

Clinical dietitians need to be detail-oriented, should have excellent communication skills and should be able to work on their feet most of the day. They must also be sensitive to their patients' needs and should be able to operate medical testing equipment.

Career and Economic Outlook

There is expected to be above-average job growth for dietitians and nutritionists over the 2016-2026 decade of 15%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Growth was largely attributed to an increased awareness on the effects that healthy eating has on overall wellness. The median annual salary among dietitians and nutritionists was reported as $59,410 in May 2017 by the BLS.

Alternative Career Options

If you're looking for an alternative career, here are some options:

Health Educator

This profession may be employed at an organization, school or medical facility where they teach individuals about ways to establish healthy lifestyles. Depending upon the employer, a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field may be required. In 2017, the median salary for health educators was $53,940, while the number of jobs was estimated to increase by 14% from 2016 to 2026, based on BLS data.

Food Service Manager

Food service managers may enter the field with a high school diploma, obtain on-the-job training or have postsecondary education. Managers oversee kitchen operations, including the presentation and portion sizes of food. The BLS predicted an employment increase of 9% in this field from 2016 to 2026. In 2017, food service managers earned a median income of $52,030 per year.

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