Dietary Service Manager: Job Description and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a dietary service manager. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

Job opportunities are growing for people interested in the dietary and nutritional industry. Information concerning job duties and salary are important to review before pursuing this career. You will need a qualifying certificate or degree if you decide this is the career path for you.

Essential Information

Dietary service managers, more commonly called dietary managers, oversee meal planning, budgeting, purchasing and hiring for a variety of organizations. Whether in a prison or a nursing home, a dietary service manager ensures that meals are being planned and prepared in the most cost efficient and nutritious manner possible. Post-secondary education is required to enter this field. Certification is also available through a professional organization.

Required Education Post-secondary education, most often through a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree program
Certification Optional through a professional organization
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 16% for dietitians and nutritionists, in general
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $57,910 for dietitians and nutritionists, in general

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Working in such locations as schools, healthcare facilities and workplace cafeterias, service managers supervise all of the behind-the-scenes work it takes to feed employees, patients and other diners. They will often work with a nutrition specialist to make sure that all of their patrons' nutritional and dietary needs are being met.

Dietary service managers have a variety of administrative duties in addition to food and nutrition planning. Most dietary managers are required to hire and train workers, create budgets and ensure that their facility meets health and safety code requirements. At the same time, they must determine whether meal plans are meeting nutritional guidelines without going over budget.

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Education Requirements

Most aspiring dietary service managers complete a certificate program which includes 120 hours of classroom study along with 150 hours of field work. Some students earn this certificate in a classroom setting at a community or technical college, while others may choose to earn their certificate online or through a correspondence course. It is also possible to find a job as a dietary service manager after earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in nutrition or food service management.

Students who wish to take their education one step further may choose to complete a certification exam and become a Certified Dietary Manager, Certified Food Protection Professional (CDM, CFPP). This certification is offered by the Dietary Managers Association (DMA). Those interested can complete a DMA-approved training program (

Completion of an exam is required to earn the designation. The certification exam is made up of 100 multiple choice questions that tests an aspiring CDM's response to a variety of professional situations. Some topics covered by the exam include:

  • Application of nutritional information
  • Professional communication and interaction
  • Workplace sanitation and safety
  • Employee hiring and supervision

Every three years, those with the CDM, CFPP designation must earn 45 continuing education credits in order to maintain their certification. Continuing education credits can be earned by completing relevant college courses, viewing approved video and audio educational materials, attending conferences and workshops, writing journal articles and more.

Salary and Job Outlook

Job growth for the occupation group of dietitians and nutritionists, which includes dietary service managers, is projected to be 16% from 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that the median salary for dietitians and nutritionists was $57,910 in May 2015.

A dietary service manager is usually certified in the nutritional and food service field - though a college degree is just as useful to acquire the same credentials. For the most part, the median salary never changes for all professions in the industry, but you may want to consider pay rates for job duties related to hospital facilities, schools, and workplace cafeterias. The job growth rate is increasing much quicker than all occupations.

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