What does a dietitian do?
As a dietitian, your day-to-day tasks may include:
- working out someone’s food and fluid intake based on their eating habits
- investigating a patient’s nutritional needs
- creating a care plan with advice on how to follow it
- supporting patients who need extra support with their feeding
- working with GPs, consultants, and doctors on the best diet plans for a patient’s needs
- supporting schools to deliver healthy school meals
- advising hospital catering departments
- teaching patients, clients, students, and people working in healthcare, sports, and food industries
What do I need to do to become a dietitian?
You can become a dietitian through a university course.
You must do a degree in dietetics approved by The British Dietetic Association (BDA). The course lasts three or four years and includes work placements.
You’ll usually need:
- at least five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths, and a science
- three A levels, including biology (some also need chemistry)
- a 2:1 (or above) degree in life sciences, with adequate human physiology and biochemistry, to do a postgraduate course
What can I do if I don’t have GCSEs and A levels?
There are other routes for students who have not got GCSEs and A levels. You can do equivalent courses such as Functional Skills, International Baccalaureate, Access to Science, BTEC Diploma, and foundation courses in science. Contact the universities directly for specific entry requirements.
It is a good idea to do some work experience before applying for a course.
Arrange a visit to a dietetic department at your local hospital so you can get an idea of what the work is like and whether it would suit you.
Voluntary or paid work experience, or working as a dietetic assistant practitioner or support worker, will also show your interest and understanding of the area.
Contact the dietetic manager at your local hospital to ask about opportunities.
Experience in care work, with a nutrition-related charity or as a healthcare assistant is also useful.
Lots of students take a loan from a student loan service to pay their university fees and other living costs. But if you are studying dietetics, depending on where you study in the UK, you could get your fees paid, or apply for funding towards your fees, and other costs such as living, travel and childcare. You can find everything you need to know on the BDA website.
To work as a dietitian you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). You register when you have completed your degree and want to start applying for jobs.
Where could I be working?
Dietitians work in lots of different places. When they leave university, lots of dietitians work in the NHS. This could be in a hospital, a clinic, a GP surgery, or health centre.
You could also work in other places: care homes, the food industry, gyms and sports clubs, your own home, the media, patient or clients' homes, prisons, private practices, and schools, universities or other institutions.
There is a need for more dietitians. When you are qualified, you have lots of choice about which area to work in. And you don’t need to stick to one area. For example, you could have your own private clients but also work in the NHS, or work in the media and do research.
It is a great career for people who want a secure job that is also flexible, and many dietitians work part-time. You can work abroad but you may need additional qualifications.
Dietitians and other regulated health professionals need to keep their skills up-to-date. This is called continuous professional development (CPD). It also allows you to apply for promotions and to specialise in a specific area, for example paediatric or sports nutrition.
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