Dietitians advise individuals on good eating habits to help them maintain optimal health. They work in health care, business and industry, community, public health, education, research, government agencies and private practice. In patient care settings, clinical dietitians consult with physicians and health care personnel to determine nutritional needs and diet restrictions for patients. In community settings, dietitians might develop a curriculum designed to teach individuals how to prepare balanced meals. Dietitians working in institutional settings may monitor food service operations to ensure that they adhere to nutritional, safety, sanitation and quality standards.
Half of all registered dietitians in the country who have been working in the field for up to five years earn $51,100 to $62,200 per year, according to the American Dietetic Association, or ADA, 2009 Dietetics Compensation and Benefits survey. Research reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, in May 2010 report an average salary of $54,340 for the 53,510 people working as dietitians and nutritionists across the country. The lowest 10 percent of salaries for this profession averaged $33,330 a year, according to the BLS.
Salary, Location and Industry
Salaries vary based on geographic location. Top-paying states for dietitians include Maryland, where BLS research reports an average salary of $77,010. Earnings also vary by work setting. Dietitians working in business settings as consultants earn more than those working in community settings. According to the ADA, registered dietitians at management and business firms can earn incomes of $85,000 to $88,000 a year. BLS reports an average salary of $75,450 for dietitians working for management, scientific and technical consulting firms.
Education and Training
Preparing for a career as a dietitian generally requires earning a bachelor's or graduate degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, or food service systems management. In addition to the degree, states often require dietitians to receive either licensure or certification to qualify to work in the field. To earn certification, a student must complete a supervised internship that could last between 6 to 12 months. To become a registered dietitian, a student must pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the ADA.
The BLS projects hiring in the field to increase 9 percent between 2008 and 2018. More opportunities will result from increased emphasis on disease prevention through improved dietary habits. The growing number of people reaching retirement age during these years also will increase demand for nutritional counseling. The BLS projects a demand for dietitians specializing in providing medical nutrition therapy for kidney and diabetic patients.