Online dietary management educational programs are relatively easy to find, according to the Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals (ANFP). These programs are available at community colleges and technical schools. Certificate programs can be completed in a year or less, while associate's degree programs take about two years. Although classes can be completed fully online, students must participate in fieldwork experiences at a healthcare facility local to the student. Online certificate programs are designed to prepare individuals for the national Dietary Manager Association (DMA) certification.
Dietary Manager Certificate
Online dietary manager certificate programs provide students with specialized knowledge and experience in nutrition therapy, food production, human resource management and sanitation. Students learn to provide quality nutritional services and gain an understanding for food procurement, personal management and food safety. Upon completion of a dietary manager certificate program, individuals are eligible to take the national credentialing exam administered by the Dietary Managers Association (DMA). Students considering this type of online program may look for programs that are approved by the DMA.
An online certificate program for dietary manager typically takes 8-12 months to complete. The program consists of traditional online coursework accompanied by approximately 150-200 hours of field experience. Students are required to arrange and complete the field experience component in a local hospital or healthcare facility under the supervision of a registered dietitian mentor. Lesson modules are conducted online through reading assignments, self-study and competency exams. Courses are usually self-paced and can be completed at a time that is convenient for the student.
An online dietary manager program is typically offered as a single course that focuses on five main areas of study and is then broken down into separate content modules. Areas of study usually include sanitation and safety, foodservice management, human resource management and nutrition.
Students learn proper purchasing, storage, handling and preparation practices in this online class. Factors which cause food borne illnesses are also discussed.
Food Service Management
This course covers the contemporary management theories related to meal planning, institutional food service, recipe development, staffing and food production. Quality improvement and evaluation of service are emphasized.
Basic nutrition principles are covered, including techniques for achieving the optimal diet for health and fitness. Distance learning students also become familiar with the changing nutritional needs that occur throughout the life cycle.
Dietary Manager Associate Degree
An online dietary manager associate degree program prepares individuals to find employment within a variety of food service management settings. This type of program can also provide advanced education for Certified Dietary Managers (CDMs) who have previously completed an online certificate program. This associate degree program also provides the knowledge base needed to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree within the field. The online curriculum includes courses in nutrition therapy, sanitation, human resources management and food services management. Professionals who have received dietary management training through another program, such as a certificate program from another education institution, can often submit documentation and receive transcript credits towards associate degree requirements.
Online dietary manager associate degree programs require approximately 72 credits hours and incorporate courses in general education topics while focusing on dietary management content areas. Although most of the coursework can be completed online, the dietary manager degree program typically requires a number of field experiences in sanitation, food systems management, nutrition and human resource management. Students are typically responsible for arranging their own field experiences at approved facilities; these are conducted under the supervision of a CDM or registered dietitian. A dietary manager associate degree program usually takes at least two years to complete.
Common coursework for an online dietary management associate degree program incorporates basic sciences, such as biology, chemistry and general psychology, with course content that provides in-depth knowledge in key areas relevant to performing the main duties of a dietary manager. In addition to the courses outlined below, course topics include sanitation, management of food systems and basic nutrition.
This online course provides an in-depth overview of nutrition therapy concepts, procedures and principals. Topics include basic nutritional guidelines, modified diets, nutrient intake calculation, physicians' orders and nutrition screening. State and federal regulations are also covered.
Human Resources Management
Students learn to manage employee schedules, conduct interviews, complete performance appraisals and provide professional development opportunities. Other topics include discipline actions, federal regulations, human resource policy and ethics.
Anatomy and Physiology
Online instruction covers the organization of the body and its major systems, including the muscular, sensory, nervous and cardiovascular systems. Other areas of study include electrolyte and acid-base balance, metabolism and the digestive system.
Dietary managers work closely with registered dietitians to meet the nutritional needs of patients and residents in healthcare settings. Most dietary managers can find employment as managers of food services and operations in a variety of facilities, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, assisted-living institutions and food service contract companies. Dietary managers are also needed in correctional facilities, military bases, schools and corporate food service.
Payscale.com reported that as of October 2016, the median salary for dietary managers was $39,079, with those who have earned the Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) and Certified Food Protection Professional (CFPP) credential earning more than those professionals who have not (www.dmaonline.org). The BLS projected that food service managers in general could expect a 5% increase in employment from 2014-2024, and the bureau expects competition for these jobs to be strong.
Although the CDM and CFPP credentials are voluntary, the DMA reports that most employers prefer to hire individuals with certification. Certification is achieved by earning a passing score on the national credentialing exam that covers ten key areas of dietary operations, including sanitation and safety, nutritional education, nutrition data, food services and staff supervision. In order to maintain the CDM and CFPP credential, individuals must complete 45 hours of continuing education every three years.
There are many programs available online for those seeking a certificate or associate's degree program in dietary management. Dietary managers learn the basics of food safety, food service management and human nutrition.