Dietitians have a good career outlook, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the need for nutritional and health care services expected to be on the rise in coming years, there will be an increased need for dietitians. But what does it take to survive -- and thrive -- in this professional field? It takes a unique combination of personal qualities and book knowledge; see that you have them before embarking on this career journey.
The ideal dietitian is fit and healthy; he maintains an appropriate weight for his height, and eats nutritious, well-balanced meals. This is so that the dietitian can set a good example for potential patients. When such patients see the results of constructive dietary regimens, they are more likely to follow these regimens themselves. Plus, it's always nice to know that your dietitians practice what they preach.
Although it may not occur to most people, dietitians must be good with numbers. While you don't need to be a superior mathematician, you will inevitably be asked to keep track of calorie counts, body fat percentages and other numerical items to help your clients make the right food choices. These numbers change as the needs of your clients change -- and you must be able to keep up with these numbers.
Dietitians must be flexible -- with schedules and ideas, for example. Many dietary positions require at least occasional night or weekend work, so a willingness to alter work hours is a must. Flexibility is closely related to creativity -- another quality that comes in handy when crafting individualized nutrition plans and changes for clients. It is especially important for dietitians to create acceptable food substitutions for those with whom they work, who may quickly grow bored of the eating the same foods days after day.
A qualified dietitian is knowledgeable -- and continues acquiring knowledge even after his formal education has ended. Whether the dietitian is required to have a certain number of continuing education credits or not, he should keep up to date on changes in the food industry and related matters.
A good dietitian is good with people. Not only do dietitians work with a varied client population, but they must also know how to get along on an interdisciplinary team for work in health care organizations. This includes understanding how to function effectively alongside doctors, nurses, therapists and certified aides. They must know how to compromise, as well as explain complicated nutritional concepts quickly and easily.
- Creating Your Career Portfolio: At-A-Glance Guide for Dietitians; Kyle W. Shadix, D. Milton Stokes and Anna Graf Williams; 2004
- "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition"; Bureau of Labor Statistics; 2010
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