Healthcare & Medical
Dietitian or Nutritionist
Dieticians or nutritionists provide advice about the relationship between food and health, and encourage healthy dietary habits.
What does a Dietitian or Nutritionist do?
Dieticians or nutritionists provide advice about the relationship between food and health, and encourage dietary habits which achieve a healthy lifestyle and prevent and treat illness and disease.
As a nutritionist, you would:
- consult with individuals and groups about their dietary habits and assess potential nutritional deficiencies
- prescribe plans based upon the assessment of nutritional needs
- monitor clients' progress and quality of food to provide ongoing nutritional care
- collect, organise and analyse data relating to the health and nutrition behaviours of specific groups and the population as a whole
- plan, conduct and evaluate nutrition intervention programmes and compile educational material.
Dietitians may have more of a research or scientific focus to their work, and additionally, may perform the following tasks:
- interpret and communicate scientific information, advice, education and professional opinion to individuals, groups and communities
- conduct food-related and nutrition-related research and evaluate practice.
Key skills and interests
To become a dietitian or nutritionist, you would need:
- an interest in food, nutrition and health
- good communication skills
- a non-judgmental attitude about clients' lifestyle choices
- good analytical skills
- patience and tact
- an aptitude for science.
Working hours and conditions
You would normally work standard hours, Monday to Friday. Part-time and flexible work should be readily available.
Nutritionists and dietitians work in a diverse range of food and health areas, including public nutrition and health education, government nutrition policy, private practice and consultancy, food industries, and health promotion. There may also be opportunities for some nutritionists to specialise in the provision of dietary and nutrition advice for animals.
How to become an Dietitian or Nutritionist?
Entry Level Education
To become a dietitian you usually have to study a degree in dietetics accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA). To become a nutritionist you usually have to study nutrition, science, health science or applied science at university with a major in nutrition. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent. English, mathematics, chemistry and biology would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.
Some qualified dietitians may choose to refer to themselves as nutritionists, although not all nutritionists are dietitians. Only a practitioner who has completed a university course accredited by the DAA is eligible to apply to be an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).
Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, students may need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate, and a Working with Children Check or equivalent.
Employment of dietitians and nutritionists is projected to grow faster than the average for all occupations.
In recent years, interest in the role of food in promoting health and wellness has increased, particularly as a part of preventative healthcare in medical settings.
As the baby-boom generation grows older and looks for ways to stay healthy, there will be more demand for dietetic services. An ageing population also will increase the need for dietitians and nutritionists in nursing homes and in home healthcare.