How to Pursue a Career as a Dietitian
To become a dietitian, you need to have a passion for helping people improve their quality of life by using acquired knowledge in food, health, and science. In meeting people with different disorders, you will help to diagnose and treat diet-related conditions. You’ll also be responsible for raising awareness among patients about the important link between diet and good health.
What Types of Dietitian Can I Become?
There are different types of dietitians. Most work for the National Health System in hospitals or community health centers. However, as a dietitian, you may choose to work in education and research, food technology, the pharmaceutical industry, or different sports disciplines. Several dietitians work in the private healthcare sector.
What do I do if I want to become a dietitian?
After school, you must complete a programme in dietetics approved by the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). You will do an undergraduate degree. If you already hold a relevant undergraduate degree, you can do an approved post-graduate course.
To obtain entry to an undergraduate degree, you need at least two science A-levels (including chemistry or biology), and at least 5 GCSE passes at grade C or higher (including English and Mathematics). The course will take 3-4 years to complete. If you hold a life science undergraduate degree with study in human physiology and biochemistry, you can apply for the postgraduate course which takes two years to complete.
What does a dietitian do?
To decide if you want to be a dietitian you need to know what the day-to-day responsibilities are for most dietitians. For a dietitian working in a hospital or community health center, these are the types of things you will be doing:
- Form part of a multi-disciplinary team to treat patients who are being treated for serious illnesses, with your focus being on making sure that dietary recommendations are implemented.
- Give advice and guidance to the catering department within a hospital to make sure patients are fed healthy meals.
- Give patients education and practical guidance around their diet-related conditions and how to adopt more healthy eating habits.
- Speak in group settings about the importance of dietary health.
- Manage outpatient clinics.
- Provide information on diet-related matters to other healthcare professionals
- Write reports and keep detailed records of those treated.
Typically, a dietitian works 37.5 to 40 hours a week. Some weekend shifts will also be required.
How can I be sure this is what I want to do?
It is recommended that you visit your local hospital and ask to go to the dietetic unit. There you should be able to get literature on dietetics, and you may be able to meet with the dietitian to discuss their job with them. Contact the administration of your local hospital to find out if there are work or volunteer opportunities at the hospital that you can take advantage of to see if dietetics is for you.