Job descriptions and industry overviews

Dietitian: job description

19 Jul 2023, 08:55

Dietitians diagnose and treat dietary problems, and provide science-based advice on nutrition.

A bowl of fruit.

Dietitian : Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Dietitians work on a group and an individual basis with people of all ages. Unlike nutritionists, they work with people who are sick as well as those who are well.

Registered dietitians’ job title is protected by law: only those registered with the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC) can call themselves dietitians.

Typical duties include:

  • assessing patients’ needs.
  • providing dietary advice and therapy to people with a range of conditions that relate to nutrition, such as diabetes or coeliac disease, eating disorders and allergies.
  • advising patients’ carers on nutrition.
  • offering specialist advice to patients with specific needs, such as professional sportspeople.
  • devising nutrition plans.
  • giving talks and presentations.
  • carrying out research.
  • educating health professionals and the public about nutrition.
  • supervising dietetic assistants and supporting the work of other healthcare professionals.

As a dietitian, you’re likely to work as part of a multidisciplinary team, as nutrition could be just one part of a patient’s treatment. You’re unlikely to work shifts or unsociable hours unless you’re self-employed and choose to work evenings or weekends. You may have to travel to visit patients in their homes.

Graduate salaries

If you work as a dietitian in the NHS, your starting salary as a dietician with less than two years’ experience will typically be around £28,000 (band 5 of the agenda for change pay scale).

NHS salaries are set at a national level so you won’t be able to negotiate your pay, but your earnings will rise as you gain experience. You will also become eligible for higher-level roles as you progress.

NHS staff in London are entitled to an allowance to cover the higher costs of living in the capital. Outside the NHS, salaries tend to be higher, although there are fewer graduate-level roles.

Typical employers of dietitians

  • The NHS (within hospitals, community health organisations and outpatient clinics).
  • Private healthcare sector providers.
  • Food and drink manufacturers.
  • Pharmaceutical companies.
  • Private and/or specialist clinics.
  • Government and non-governmental organisations.

With experience, you could become self-employed and choose your own clients and hours.

Jobs are advertised by careers services and university departments. You’ll also find them advertised on specialist jobs boards and specialist recruitment agencies.

Qualifications and training required

To register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), you'll need to complete an approved degree in dietetics, which will take three to four years. 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 an approved postgraduate course.

To secure a place on an undergraduate degree, you will usually need two or three A levels, including chemistry, maths or biology (or equivalent), along with five GCSEs at grade 4 (C), including English language and maths.

If you’re school leaver, you can take a degree apprenticeship in dietetics, in which you’ll work in a related role and study towards a degree at the same time.

Key skills for dietitians

  • The ability to explain things in a clear and understandable way.
  • The ability to interact well with people from a wide range of backgrounds.
  • Strong communication skills .
  • Sensitivity and empathy.
  • Attention to detail and the ability to keep clear patient records.
  • The ability to work alongside other healthcare professionals in a multidisciplinary team.
  • The drive to continue learning throughout your career.

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