Clinical Dietician Education Requirements and Career Info

Sep 09, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a clinical dietician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Students interested in becoming clinical dieticians are required to pursue a bachelor's degree in food service management, dietetics or nutrition. Licensing is dependent on state requirements. Employment opportunities can be found through self-employment, outpatient facilities, prisons and educational institutions.

Essential Information

Clinical dieticians monitor and prescribe nutritional and dietary plans for patients in 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 clinical dietician might also manage the food service department. A bachelor's degree is necessary to enter this career field, and most states require dieticians to be licensed. Many employers prefer dieticians who hold the Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN) credential.

Required Education Bachelor's degree
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required in most states; RDN credential may also be required or preferred
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% (for all dieticians and nutritionists)
Average Salary (2018)* $61,210 (for all dieticians and nutritionists)

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Clinical Dietician Education Requirements

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that clinical dieticians need at least a bachelor's degree to practice, and most states also require licensure. 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 the voluntary Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN or RD) 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 dieticians and nutritionists as a whole may face faster than normal job growth between 2018 and 2028. 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.

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 2018, the BLS reported that dieticians and nutritionists made an average of about $61,210 per year. Clinical dietician salaries vary by experience, education and location.

While a degree and licensure is required, dieticians can voluntarily pursue the Registered Dietician Nutrition (RDN) certification through the American Dietetic Association to advance to management positions. Graduates may expect a faster than average job growth for clinical dieticians and may expect to earn about $58,000 annually.

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