Become a Pediatric Dietitian
Pediatric dietitians are licensed professionals who assist, consult, and participate in providing proper nutrition or health information to children or their parents. They develop meal plans and evaluate the effectiveness of current diets to help children maintain healthy weights and lifestyles. Some of these professionals are self-employed and provide diet consulting services on a freelance basis. They may have considerable flexibility in their schedules and sometimes meet with clients during evenings or on weekends.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Pediatric dietetics|
|Experience||1,200 hours of supervised experience is required to become an RD, an additional 2,000 hours of practical experience in pediatric nutrition is required for board certification|
|Licensure and Certification||A state-issued license or certification is required in most states, board certification is voluntary but may improve career outlook|
|Key Skills||Analytical skills, organizational skills, people skills, speaking skills, knowledge of biology, knowledge of conditions related to nutrition, and familiarity with various diets|
|Salary (2015)||$57,910 (median annual salary for dietitians)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The Commission on Dietetic Registration, O*Net OnLine
Now let's check out the career steps for pediatric dieticians.
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree
Becoming a pediatric dietitian requires enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics program that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). These undergraduate programs cover topics such as anatomy, physiology, food systems, nutrition, and food production. Some programs have early childhood development and nutrition courses within the core curriculum. Dietetics degree programs might also offer elective courses in childhood and pediatric nutrition.
It can be helpful to learn a foreign language. Dietitians may frequently work with children and families who do not speak English, so learning a foreign language can make communicating at work easier and expand career opportunities. Students can learn a foreign language by taking electives in a language such as Spanish or French.
Step 2: Fulfill Practice Requirements
Typically, accredited dietetics programs offer one of two options to fulfill hands-on practice requirements. This can be either a coordinated program or an internship program. Internship programs last 9-12 months and provide a minimum of 1,200 hours of supervised practice. Coordinated programs take place in the last years of a degree program and provide a minimum of 1,200 hours of practicum or clinical experience. These minimum practicum hours fulfill requirements for becoming an RD.
Step 3: Become Registered and Licensed
Eligibility for taking the registration exam requires completing an accredited degree program and fulfilling practice requirements. The exam consists of five parts that test on food and nutrition, counseling and communication, nutrition care, food service systems, and management. Certification renewal is annually and RDs must complete professional education courses.
Most states require some form of licensure. State requirements vary, but obtaining licensure requires completing and passing the RD exam. Some states might also require an additional exam to test on state rules and regulations.
Step 4: Gain Work Experience
To build skills as a pediatric dietitian, an RD can obtain work experience in a setting that provides dietetic and nutritional counseling and services for children. Common work environments include hospitals, clinics, or educational programs. It's important for candidates to maintain RD status while focusing on pediatrics.
Step 5: Become Board Certified
The Commission on Dietetic Registration offers specialty certification in pediatric nutrition. It's intended for RDs who have completed 2,000 hours of practical experience in pediatric nutrition and dietetics. The examination tests on a number of topics related to pediatric nutrition, including diabetes, premature infants, food allergies, and oral feeding issues.
Step 6: Continue Education
Pediatric dietitians must continue their educations throughout their careers in order to maintain licensure, RD status and board certification. Pediatric dietitians can satisfy continuing education requirements by taking advanced childhood nutrition classes in person or online, completing quizzes, and attending events and seminars hosted by approved organizations.
Consider joining a professional organization. Joining a professional organization, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, can provide pediatric dietitians with a variety of resources to help them further their careers. These include free continuing education opportunities, access to an online library, and networking opportunities.
To recap, with a postsecondary education, practical experience, and licensure, a pediatric dietician can earn about $58,000 a year to develop meal plans and evaluate the effectiveness of current diets to help children maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.