Although dietitians and nutritionists have similar jobs, those wanting
to call themselves a dietitian must be certified. On the other hand, anyone
who works in a food-related industry may refer to themselves as a nutritionist.
Education-wise, that's an important distinction.
To become a dietitian, you must attend a four-year degree program
that is recognized by the American Dietetic Association.
Where it gets confusing is that some of the accredited programs call themselves
"nutrition" rather than "dietetics." But not all nutrition programs are accredited. If
you're thinking of enrolling in a nutrition program, but you want to become
a dietitian, make sure it's accredited.
You'll find two types of education in dietetics and nutrition -- coordinated
and didactic. Coordinated programs include an internship or supervised
practice element. That means grads will be able to write their certification
exam right after graduation.
Didactic programs just focus on coursework. To be certified as a dietitian,
you'll still have to do a supervised practice component after graduation before
you can write the certification exam.
Students in dietetic and nutrition programs take classes in health,
physical education, sciences and math.
Steven Zeisel is the associate dean of the department of nutrition at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He says his program combines
everything from behavior classes to science classes.
"Our programs integrate many aspects of science, from molecular biology
to behavior. We look for students interested in working in multiple disciplines
who like crossing these fields," he says.
There are a wide range of internship options: in hospitals, nursing
homes, government agencies, diet clinics, wellness centers or doctors' offices.
In high school, concentrate on classes such as biology, chemistry, math
and health. Communication and analytical classes will also help you develop
problem-solving skills that are essential in this type of career.
You can get experience by volunteering or working in hospitals,
nursing homes and food service companies.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Dietitians
American Dietetic Association
Check out their Careers section for information on credentialing
Food and Nutrition Information Center
An online library of food-related info
Find out more about eating healthy