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How to become a dietitian

How to become a dietitian
Photo: How to become a dietitian
If You're Interested In Food A Career As A Dietitian Could Be For You

If you enjoy working with people and have an interest in the science of food and eating as part of a healthy lifestyle, then you might want to consider a career as a dietitian. The DAA or Dietitians Association of Australia is the highest nutritional and dietetic professional body in Australia. As an APD (Accredited Practising Technician) you would be working with people to improve their health by providing them with accurate nutritional information.

Who is suited to becoming a dietitian?

Generally speaking you need to have a keen interest in science, possess an enquiring mind, and be able to work on your own initiative. It also helps if you're a good communicator, both verbally and in writing, and if you're able to work alongside others.
What do dietitians do?

Dietitians enjoy a full and varied role. They interpret the science of food and nutrition to provide everyday information about food which helps people to make informed and practical food choices keeping them healthy and protected against disease and illness. Their every day responsibilities can include:
  • Informing the general public about nutrition
  • Advising people with special dietary needs
  • Appraising and improving treatments
  • Offering unbiased advice
  • Educating patients/clients and other healthcare professionals
How to become a dietitian?

In order to become a dietitian and join the DAA and the APD program, you'll need to first undergo and complete a dietetic program which is accredited by the Association. A list is maintained by the DAA and can be found here . You will need to speak to individual universities regarding tertiary study. All accredited dietetic programs are regarded as 'entry-level' to the profession but your actual academic qualification will vary according to your chosen university.

Examples of accredited under-graduate programs include:
  • a combined undergraduate/masters degree
  • a dietetics/other subject double degree
  • an integrated dietetics undergraduate degree
Examples of post graduate accredited programs include:
  • a masters degree in dietetics and nutrition or dietetics
  • a postgraduate diploma in dietetics
Entry into any of these programs is very competitive and for the under-graduate programs a very high tertiary score is usually required. Often as few as 10% of applicants are offered places on post graduate programs.

Some post graduate accredited programs may require you to hold a Human Nutrition undergraduate degree. All post graduate accredited programs will require you to have completed an undergraduate program with 50% of the first and second years composed of chemistry, bioscience, physiology and biochemistry, including a minimum of  15% each spent on biochemistry and and physiology.

Understanding the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist

It's important to understand the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian in Australia and the different career options that are offered. The main difference between the two is that as well as, or as a part of their qualification in human nutrition, a dietitian will have undertaken more intense theory, supervised and assessed professional practice in medical nutritional therapy, clinical nutrition and food management. It's a good idea to spend time researching the job market to make sure you have a clear understanding of the relevant training needed and to ensure you have the appropriate background in science to pursue a career in dietetics.

Where to dietitians work?

Dietitians work in a wide field of areas including:
  • Patient Care
  • Sports
  • Food service and management
  • Food industry
  • Community nutrition and public health
  • Research and teaching
  • Private practice/consultancy
  • Other fields such as media health promotion, management, marketing, public relations, policy development, information technology, and media.

What about salaries?

The average salary for a dietitian in Australia can range between $40,111 and $87,767 depending on the state you are working in and the amount of years you have been working in the profession.

Conclusion

Dietitians are very much in demand and unemployment is low since nutritional knowledge is needed across a wide range of industries, both in the public and private sectors. In addition, a career as a dietitian gives you the opportunity of becoming your own boss, either working on a small scale out of home or employing others as part of a much larger concern. With levels of obesity becoming a global problem, you're unlikely to be out of work for any great period of time.

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