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Ever wonder what those little labels on the side of food packaging mean or what makes a 'balanced' meal? Well, those are only a few of the things a Nutritionist can tell you. As the obesity crisis in the U.S. grows, Nutritionists are more and more in demand. From providing personal weight loss plans to ensuring hospital patients are properly nourished, the role nutritionists can play in our society is wide and varied.
As a Dietitian you can work in a variety of settings spanning from hospitals, health clinics, food manufacturers and private practice. The hours are usually very conducive to family life and most positions have a nice salary.
The term "Nutritionist" within the United States means different things depending on the state. Some states require you to have certain training to call yourself a nutritionist, while others do not. However, to call yourself a "Dietitian" and to obtain a job in a hospital, clinic,or manufacturing company you must follow certain training guidelines.
A Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) is a practitioner that has achieved at least a two year associates degree in food and nutrition sciences at an accredited U.S. college, certain required coursework, and at least 450 hours of supervised practice or has a bachelors degree at a U.S. accredited university and required coursework for a Didactic Program or Coordinated Program in Dietetics. In addition they must also pass a national DTR examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Most DTR's work with a Registered Dietitian.
To become a Registered Dietitian (RD) one must complete at least a Bachelors degree at a U.S. accredited university, required coursework and supervised practice. In addition one must pass a registered dietitian exam administered by the CDR. Many pursue Masters Degrees to qualify for the Certified Nutrition Specilaist (CNS) exam. This higher level of training opens many career options. To maintain registration RD's must participate in continuing education courses throughout their career. The majority of RD's work with medical teams on the treatment and prevention of disease. However, more and more are entering the workforce as part of academia, corporate wellness programs, and journalism.
The main application you must deal with on your journey to becoming a dietitian is your college application. Make sure you apply to a college with a program in nutrition and food sciences accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Having a solid SAT score, letters or recomendation and GPA will help you gain admissions.
When applying to Masters programs make sure you can explain why you want to be a dietitian. Relevant work in the field and recommendations from your professors will go a long way towards helping you achieve admission.