Dietetics Specialization

Challenging courses and hands-on learning experiences prepare students for entry into a dietetic internship, graduate school or immediate employment as a nutritionist.
You will experience:

  • Quality education in dietetics/nutrition with a strong science foundation.
  • Individualized attention in dietetics classes with a low student to faculty ratio.
  • Real-world learning experiences in local community nutrition programs and health care facilities.
  • High-tech classrooms and a dietetic computer laboratory with specialized nutrient analysis software.
  • Academic and career advisement by licensed, experienced faculty who hold the registered dietitian (RD) credential

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As a member of the Wolf Pack family and a nutrition major, you'll receive hands-on lab experiences, real-world community engagement opportunities and a science-based education that will set you up for success.

Nature of the Program

Dietitians and nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs and supervise the preparation and serving of meals. They help to prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and recommending dietary modifications, such as the use of less salt for those with high blood pressure or the reduction of fat and sugar intake for those who are overweight.

Dietitians manage food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools, promote sound eating habits through education, and conduct research. Major areas of practice include clinical, community, management, and consultant dietetics.

Clinical dietitians provide nutritional services for patients in institutions such as hospitals and nursing care facilities. They assess patients' nutritional needs, develop and implement nutrition programs, and evaluate and report the results. They also confer with doctors and other healthcare professionals in order to coordinate medical and nutritional needs. Some clinical dietitians specialize in the management of overweight patients or the care of critically ill or renal (kidney) and diabetic patients. In addition, clinical dietitians in nursing care facilities, small hospitals, or correctional facilities may manage the food service department.

Community dietitians counsel individuals and groups on nutritional practices designed to prevent disease and promote health. Working in places such as public health clinics, home health agencies, and health maintenance organizations, community dietitians evaluate individual needs, develop nutritional care plans, and instruct individuals and their families. Dietitians working in home health agencies provide instruction on grocery shopping and food preparation to the elderly, individuals with special needs, and children.

Increased public interest in nutrition has led to job opportunities in food manufacturing, advertising, and marketing. In these areas, dietitians analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, or report on issues such as the nutritional content of recipes, dietary fiber, or vitamin supplements.

Management dietitians oversee large-scale meal planning and preparation in healthcare facilities, company cafeterias, prisons, and schools. They hire, train, and direct other dietitians and food service workers; budget for and purchase food, equipment, and supplies; enforce sanitary and safety regulations; and prepare records and reports.

Consultant dietitians work under contract with healthcare facilities or in their own private practice. They perform nutrition screenings for their clients and offer advice on diet-related concerns such as weight loss or cholesterol reduction. Some work for wellness programs, sports teams, supermarkets, and other nutrition-related businesses. They may consult with food service managers, providing expertise in sanitation, safety procedures, menu development, budgeting, and planning.

Working Conditions

Most full-time dietitians and nutritionists work a regular 40-hour week, although some work weekends. About 1 in 4 work part time.

Dietitians and nutritionists usually work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated areas. However, some dietitians work in warm, congested kitchens. Many dietitians and nutritionists are on their feet for much of the workday.

Careers

Dietitians and nutritionists held about 67,400 jobs in 2012 (U.S. Dept. of Labor Statistics). More than half of all jobs were in hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, or offices of physicians and other health practitioners. State and local government agencies provided about 1 job in 5-mostly in correctional facilities, health departments, and other public health-related areas. Some dietitians and nutritionists were employed in special food services, an industry which includes firms that provide food services on contract to facilities such as colleges and universities, airlines, correctional facilities, and company cafeterias. Other jobs were in public and private educational services, community care facilities for the elderly (which includes assisted-living facilities), individual and family services, home healthcare services, and the Federal Government-mostly in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Many work environments, particularly those in medical and health care settings, require that an individual be credentialed as an RD.

Registered dietitians work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, public health, education, research, and private practice.

RDs work in:

  • Hospitals, HMOs, or other health care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. They may also manage the foodservice operations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers, and correctional facilities, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.
  • Sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness, and health.
  • Food and nutrition-related businesses and industries, working in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing, or product development.
  • Private practice, working under contract with health care or food companies, or in their own business. RDs may provide services to food service or restaurant managers, food vendors, and distributors, or athletes, nursing home residents, or company employees.
  • Community and public health settings teaching, monitoring, and advising the public, and helping to improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.
  • Universities and medical centers, teaching physicians, nurses, dietetics students, and others the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition.
  • Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies, universities, and hospitals, directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition recommendations for the public.

FAQs

What kind of salary do dietetic grads earn?
In 2012, the median annual income nationwide for registered dietitians varied by practice area: the median was $55,240 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

The Dietetic Program in Dietetics (DPD) is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), the accrediting agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic Association, ADA)., and graduates are prepared to enter an accredited internship prior to taking the Registered Dietitian Examination. The DPD Student Handbook contains more detailed information about this accredited program.

What can I do with my degree in Nutrition (Dietetics)?

Several career options are available to those with this degree, including

  • Registered Dietitian (RD). This career requires that you complete additional training and passing a national registration examination. Registered Dietitians have the broadest career options.
  • Dietetic Technician Registered (DTR). This work requires passing the national registration examination.
  • Pursue nutrition-related jobs that do not require the RD or DTR credential.

What are some examples of jobs for RDs and Non-RDs?

Clinical dietitians assess patients’ nutritional needs, may manage food service department, and provide medical nutrition therapy (MNT) to treat and prevent diseases. Common work settings include hospitals and nursing care facilities. Annual salary range $46,000 to $69,000. (ADA Compensation and Benefits Survey of the Dietetic Profession, 2011).

Community dietitians provide nutrition education and counseling to groups and individuals. Typical work settings include state and local health departments, home health agencies, WIC and other grant - funded programs. They often work with special populations such as people with low incomes, elderly, children, and individuals with special needs. Annual salary range: $43,000 to $62,000.

NON - RD required jobs involve a variety of management, health, community, education, and industry fields. Some examples include the media (writer, health speaker, food critic), hospital setting (nutrition assistant, dietary aide), counseling (community nutritionist (WIC), wellness coach), community (government - based programs (Cooperative Extension), grant - funded programs), food service management (restaurants, health inspector), sales representative (food company, medical supplies, pharmaceutical company), education (research assistant, grant writer), industry (food stylist, marketing food specialist), government positions (Health and Human Services).

What are examples of specialty certifications for Registered Dietitians?

The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) currently offers the board - certified specialist designations.

  • Gerontological Nutrition(CSG)
  • Sports Dietetics (CSSD)
  • Pediatric Nutrition (CSP)
  • Renal Nutrition (CSR)
  • Oncology Nutrition(CSO)

What if I am unsure if I want to become a Registered Dietitian?

There are a number of career options for those who complete the program and are not certain that they want to become a Registered Dietitian. Job shadowing is a good way to identify career paths you like and those that you do not like. Gaining experiences through volunteer or paid job experiences are important in making you more marketable, which will be valuable in getting a job after graduation. Gaining experience also enables you to make contacts with other professionals already in the work field.

What are examples of certifications that do not require an RD?

  • Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES): National Center on Health Education Credentialing
  • Certified Personal Trainer: American Council on Exercise, American College of Sports Medicine
  • Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)
  • CPR and First Aid: American Red Cross
  • Certified Dietary Manage, Certified Food Protection Professional Association of Nutrition and Food Service Professionals (ANFP)

Will I be a Registered Dietitian after finishing my B.S. degree at UNR with a major in Nutrition (Dietetics)?

No. To become an RD you must earn a DPD Verification statement and apply for and be accepted into a dietetic internship. After completing the dietetic internship, you then must pass the Registration Examination for Dietitians.

What is a dietetic internship?

The dietetic internship is a post-baccalaureate program that provides a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised practice in dietetics. The cost of these programs varies but the student can expect to spend the equivalent of up to a year of college on program fees, tuition and living expenses. The training includes rotations in food service management, clinical, and community nutrition. A dietetic internship must be successfully completed to qualify to take the Registration Examination for dietitians.

Dietetic internships are also accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

What is the national Registration Examination for Dietitians?

This is the final step to becoming a Registered Dietitian (RD). The commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) administers the national examination and credentials dietitians. Only students who have successfully completed both the DPD coursework and the dietetic internship component are eligible to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians.

What is the Dietetic Technician Registered?

Dietetic Technicians (DTR) are food and nutrition professionals that have either completed an accredited DTR program and passed the national Registration Examination for Dietetic Technicians, or have a four-year degree from an accredited DPD (UNR Nutrition (Dietetic) option) program and have passed the national Registration Examination for Dietetic Technicians.

DTRs typically work alongside Registered Dietitians in a variety of settings including hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and other health care facilities. Other career opportunities for DTRs include food service management and community nutrition programs.

What is the difference between a nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian?

Nutrition professionals who have completed all of the required coursework and successfully passed the Registration Examination for Dietitians may use the legal credential RD. Only professionals who have passed the examination can call themselves RDs. The education and training of professionals calling themselves nutritionists varies widely.

Additional Resources

Dietetics Quicklinks

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