The world of healthy living is one that has certainly become part of the cultural zeitgeist and the aptly named Organic Revolution, has spawned a number of jobs with the intention of improving people’s physical well being.
But what is a Dietitian and what do you have to do to become one? Well, we’ve compiled a useful career guide to help you become the next Susan Powter, so let’s jump in, shall we?
What is a dietitian?
Dietitian jobs diagnose and treat nutritional and diet-related problems. Dietitians also raise awareness between food and health with their clients and on a broader scale. Dietetic jobs communicate up-to-date scientific research regarding nutrition to offer practical advice to individuals so they can make healthy decisions about their lifestyle and relationship with food. A nutritionist or dietitian may also work with people who have complex clinical conditions, from diabetes and eating disorders to chronic fatigue and kidney failure. They may also work with patients who have food allergies and intolerance, malnutrition and irritable bowel syndrome. The dietitian role can be found in private clinics and the NHS, as well as the community, public health and mental health facilities.
The NHS dietitian salary for band 6 roles can earn around £31,365 with it increasing to £37,890 at the specialist level.
What is the role of a dietitian?
A clinical dietitian, whether it’s in a hospital or community setting, will need to undertake nutritional assessments of patients who could have a range of medical conditions. They will advise and educate patients with diet-related conditions on how to improve their health and support them on appropriate choices. A dietitian job involves monitoring and reviewing nutritional care plans, delivering group sessions with patients and healthcare professionals, and worth with their patients as part of a large team, where other healthcare individuals may be involved. A dietitian or nutritionist will support schools, run clinics in outpatient departments and GP surgeries, as well as prepare information packs and flyers. NHS nutritionist jobs cover liaising with hospital staff to ensure the patient is supported when they are discharged and back in the community. Where do dietitians work? You can find roles in hospitals, GP surgeries, the community, schools, health boards and in the private sector.
Furthermore, experienced individuals within the nutritionist career can train and mentor students in the field and supervise less experienced staff. There are also opportunities to work within the sports industry, by supporting athletes, advising on their diet for performance or recover following injuries, and educating them regarding physiology and exercise. Lastly, another branch involves developing new food products, evaluating their nutritional content and setting up trials.
How to become a dietitian?
If you’re considering becoming a dietitian, the first step is to undergo dietitian training. To practise as a qualified individual, you’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) after completing an HCPC- approved dietitian degree or another course in a relevant subject and obtaining one of the approved postgraduate dietitian courses. Some dietitian qualifications can also be approved by the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
To get a spot on a dietetics degree, you’ll need three A-levels - or equivalent - including biology and chemistry, as well as five GCSEs at grade C/4 and above. Universities will look for candidates who have English, maths and science at GCSE level and relevant A-Level courses. Dietitian qualifications tend to last three years (four in Scotland), and candidates can apply via UCAS. If you’re taking the postgraduate dietitian study route, you can apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Masters in dietetics. Universities typically state requirements as a life sciences degree, at 2:1 or above, which involves biochemistry and human physiology. Relevant degree subjects can include, biomedical science, biochemistry, physiology, human nutrition, health sciences and nutritional science. The entry requirements for each course and university can vary, so it’s worth checking with individual institutions before applying.
Both types of dietitian study are usually full time and involve theory and practical training or dietitian work experience in a community or a hospital setting. Students will cover diet therapy, human physiology, human nutrition, biochemistry, and nutritional medicine. They’ll learn skills for communication and research that they’ll use in their daily responsibilities.
Dietitian jobs diagnose and treat nutritional and diet-related problems.
Are dietetics courses funded by the NHS? According to the BDA, the NHS in England do not offer the bursary for students, but instead, you can apply for Student Loans for tuition fees and accommodation costs. In Northern Ireland, those studying dietetics as their first degree can apply for their course fee funding, and postgraduate courses are part-funded. In Wales, candidates can have a reduced student loan as part of the NHS Bursary Scheme. For Scotland, undergraduates undertaking their first degree can seek funding for their studies as well as apply for support via student loans. However, all pre-registration students can receive funding from the NHS Learning Support Fund instead of the bursary and receive between £5,000 and £8,000 per year.
You can also apply for entry-level roles without an approved degree or postgraduate degree and work as a dietetic assistant practitioner. Your employer may offer to pay for you to study an approved degree to become a qualified dietitian.
What skills are useful for a dietitian?
Dietitians need a genuine interest in the science behind food, excellent communication and interpersonal skills as well as the ability to build a rapport with patients and carers. They should want to work in a care-based environment and be able to explain complex ideas simply. They’re able to work independently and as part of a multidisciplinary team with other healthcare professionals. As you’ll most likely be managing more than one patient at a time, you’ll need excellent organisational and time management skills as well as prioritising your caseload. Dietitians need to meet deadlines and work under pressure and have a positive attitude. Also, IT skills and accuracy are essential for patient records and note-keeping.
They’re great motivators and can inspire others about their diet choices. Also, being compassionate and having a caring approach to other people’s feelings and thoughts are essential for the role. Next, negotiating skills and a willingness to keep up to date with the latest research and nutrition information is vital for this career. Lastly, trying to understand patients and dealing with sensitive issues in the right way to help people overcome barriers and create positive change is also part of the role.
Can you work as a dietitian remotely?
It is possible to perform some tasks from home, like updating records, staying up to date with the latest research and managing your patients. However, you may be based as part of a multidisciplinary team or in the community, so you’re likely to visit patient’s homes and hospitals etc. Therefore, the job cannot be performed entirely on a remote basis.
How much do dietitians earn?
The nutritionist salary for those starting their career can expect between £24,907 and £30,615, also known as band 5 in the NHS pay scale. The NHS dietitian salary for band 6 roles can earn around £31,365 with it increasing to £37,890 at the specialist level. At the advanced level, (highly specialist) the dietitian NHS salary is approximately £38,890 with the opportunity for it to rise to around £44,503 under band 7. However, a dietitian in the UK can earn more by working on-call, weekend and evening shifts in the NHS. Dietitian jobs in London and particular areas of the south-east are covered with the London living allowance and can expect their earnings to be slightly higher. Wages in the private sector can be much higher depending on the size of the employer, responsibilities and expertise.
If you’re considering becoming a dietitian, the first step is to undergo dietitian training.
What are the prospects of a registered dietitian?
For a local dietitian there is a regular progression route within the NHS, starting at band 5 and moving through the dietitian specialist role (band 6) and then senior positions (band 7). After gaining valuable experience, you can transition into management roles and lead a team, department and budget. If you want to work within the community, patients’ homes or at a GP surgery, you can choose to progress through this area. Another option is to specialise in a particular area, from cancer and diabetes to gastroenterology, or you may want to work with a specific group, like the elderly or children.
Dietitians can move into the food and drink industry, work within product development, marketing or conduct trials. You can also train others and lead teaching and research within the health education, sport, scientific and public relation sectors. If you’re hoping to become an HCPC dietitian or searching for British Dietetic Association jobs, you can look at vacancies on their website. Finally, another opportunity involves becoming self-employed and choosing your career options and patient load, or work with the NHS on a freelance basis or writing for health publications.