The ability to interact well with people from a wide range of backgrounds is essential.
Dietitians work on a group and an individual basis with people of all ages. They work both with people who are sick and people who are well. Responsibilities include:
- providing health advice and promoting healthy eating
- advising about special diets
- making presentations
- writing reports
- educating health professionals and the public about nutrition
- establishing and addressing key health needs
- helping to facilitate dietary changes
- working as part of a multidisciplinary team
- supporting the work of other healthcare professionals
Dieticians may work with people who have been diagnosed with medical conditions such as diabetes or coeliac disease, or provide practical advice to carers.
The NHS employs the majority of dietitians within hospitals, community health organisations and outpatient clinics. Some dietitians are self-employed, while others work for private healthcare sector employers or food, drink and pharmaceutical companies. Dieticians may also work in sport or the media, or in public health policy roles within the government or non-governmental organisations.
Jobs are advertised by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers, in publications such as Network Health Digest and in vacancy lists produced by the British Dietetic Association. Work experience and hospital visits can provide a useful insight into the profession.
All dieticians are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). In order to register you'll need to complete an approved degree in dietetics, which will take three to four years. The minimum qualification requirement is usually a BSc Hons in dietetics. Alternatively, if you have a relevant science degree (such as a life sciences degree that incorporates human physiology and biochemistry) you may be able to take a postgraduate diploma or masters in dietetics.
For an undergraduate degree, you will usually need two or three A levels, including chemistry, maths or biology, or equivalent, along with five GCSE passes or equivalent, including English language and maths.
Dietitians need to possess a mature, confident and caring manner. The ability to interact well with people from a wide range of backgrounds, together with good interpersonal and communication skills are essential – as is an understanding nature.