What does a dietitian do?
The role of a dietitian can vary depending on the environment in which they work, but generally dietitians will evaluate patients’ needs and provide them with advice and diet plans to address their health issues. This can be with individual clients, families or groups and can involve teaching and public education. Many dietitians will also undertake research on food and illness, and will often contribute to public policy development. Some dietitians, such as rest home providers, also work alongside the food service industry to ensure they are meeting particular nutritional targets for their food.
- Assess client needs and prepare diet plans
- Educate people on the relationship between food and health
- Undertake research on links between food, health and disease
- Contribute to policy development
- Work with food industry providers on food preparation policies
What skills do I need to be a dietitian?
Dietitians have a considerable amount of contact with patients, the general public, other health professionals and academics. In order to fulfil this aspect of the role, you must have great interpersonal and communication skills. Dietitians must also have a comprehensive understanding of the science related to food, nutrition and illness, insight into public health policy and research skkills. Being organised and efficient is also an advantage in this field.
- Able to work well with a variety of people
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
- Comprehensive understanding of dietetics, nutrition and food science
- Research and evaluation skills
- Understanding of the public policy environment
- Organisational abilities
A dietitian is already a very specialised position and therefore, there are only limited opportunities for further specialisation after qualification. Many dietitians will move into management positions, others into health promotion roles and some also move into public policy positions. The combination of direct client contact, interaction with other health professionals and public policy involvement that dietitians may experience over the course of their careers makes for a varied professional life.
After gaining experience, some dietitians opt to move into management roles, either by setting up a private practice or by leading a team in a larger organisation. These management roles include a range of tasks over and above those routinely performed by dietitians including staff training, recruitment and management, budget and financial oversight, property leases and maintenance, as well as advertising.
A large part of the role of a dietitian is to educate others on how nutrition can help them maintain their health and treat illness. For those dietitians who particularly enjoy this outreach aspect of the role, they may decide to move into the health promotion field on a full time basis. These roles include public education, preparation and delivery of presentations, designing and marketing public health campaigns, as well as evaluating the success of public health programmes.
Food, nutrition and health are all issues that many government and non-government organisations need firm policy on and, as such, dietitians with an interest in policy development are a great asset to these organisations. Policy roles involve research, consultation and writing up proposals and policy documents.
Study pathways for dietitians
To become a professional dietitian, you must complete a postgraduate dietetics qualification in addition to qualifications in health and nutrition science.
Gain a basic understanding of nutritional fundamentals and build your knowledge base.
Improve your professional prospects with accredited training in human nutrition and health science.
Expand your horizon with a range of specialised study options to suit your career goals.
You will need to submit a registration application with the Dietitians Association of Australia in order to work as an Accredited Practicing Dietitian. Accreditation by the DAA will improve your professional prospects.
Getting a job after graduation
Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your nutrition career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.
Job Prospects and Salaries
Demand for dietitians throughout the country has been growing in recent years and is predicted to keep growing strongly.