Staying healthy is an important aspect of life because there would be no existence without good health. Science has shown that there are two major things that we can do to maintain our health: exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet. Many health professionals believe that diet is even more important than exercise in staying strong and disease-free. If you are interested in nutrition, you are probably wondering: “How do I become a dietitian?”
What Do Dietitians Do?
Dietitians are certified nutritionists that are gurus of food and nutrition. Their jobs require them to be food advisors. Dietitians help people choose what foods to eat in order to maintain general health or to reach a more specific goal. They may be responsible for preparing meal plans or even recipes to be served. Using their vast knowledge of the components of certain foods and their properties, dietitians will be asked to select food choices that are most appropriate for a certain target group. For example, schools may employ dietitians to plan healthy menus for children who aren’t getting enough protein or vitamins. Nursing homes may also hire dietitians to prepare food that is appropriate for older adults.
If you would like to become a dietitian, you will generally need to complete a 4-year undergraduate program in dietetics. This program will require that you take a combination of classes in health and nutrition as well as introductory courses in a variety of other subjects. Some of the subjects you will learn might include: biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, human nutrition, anatomy and physiology, and more.
Although it’s not that difficult to become a dietitian if you put your mind to it, you will have to endure plenty of challenging courses, labs, internships, and licensing exams to get your bachelor’s degree in dietetics. First, you should focus hard on getting the best grades you can in all of your classes, especially those that are related to your major. Try to ace all of your science classes along with every writing and math class that you take.
Some courses will have a required lab portion that helps to illustrate the ideas brought up in the lectures. These labs will also give you hands-on experience so that you become familiar with the lab setting. Nutrition labs will probably require you to devise meal plans for fictional patients. You may also complete case studies that will bring up a problem and ask you to find a nutritional solution.
Supervised experience is essential for you to become a dietitian. Real-world experience is critical because it will help you to become familiar with how things flow in a real work setting. You will have to complete an internship lasting several hundred hours before you are qualified to take your licensing exam. Licensing exams usually vary by state so do your research to find out how to proceed with the test. Passing the state exam qualifies you to practice as a dietitian in that state.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, dietitians earn about $53,000 per year. About 12,000 dietitian jobs are expected to open from 2010 to 2020. This job growth shows that there is a high demand for dietitians so it is a good time to become a dietitian.
Dietitians work in all types of environments from hospitals and nursing homes to restaurants and schools. Some dietitians open up their own practice to serve the general public. Dietitians can play the role of health advisor or nutritional consultant, meal planner or cook, and a number of other roles depending on where they work.