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Dietitian

Dietitians assess, develop, implement and evaluate food and nutrition strategies and programs; develop and analyze food and food products; manage food service systems; promote food security and safety; and conduct research.

Also Known As:Clinical Dietitian, Community Dietitian, Registered Dietitian, Registered Nutritionist
NOC Number(s):3132
Minimum Education:5 years post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:D I S

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Dietitian


Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study

Duties

Duties and responsibilities vary from one position to another but, in general, dietitians:

  • assess the nutritional status of individuals and communities
  • develop, implement and evaluate nutritional interventions and programs
  • manage food service operations or clinical and community nutrition services
  • work with individuals, families, consumer groups, communities and industry to help them apply nutrition principles
  • develop and deliver food services, nutrition education programs and health promotion programs 
  • conduct basic and applied research in food, nutrition, health promotion and food service systems management.

Dietitians work primarily in health care, health promotion, food service management, education, business, private practice, research or a combination of these settings:

  • Clinical dietitians work as part of health care teams to provide nutrition counselling and plan and direct nutritional care.
  • Community or public health dietitians assess the nutritional needs of the communities they work in and develop programs and services to improve nutritional well being, support access to healthy foods, and reduce the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.  
  • In government settings, dietitians develop and implement public policy (for example, nutrition labelling, food fortification, nutrition standards for school programs) to improve the nutritional health of the population.
  • Administrative or food service management dietitians manage nutrition and food services in hospitals, industrial organizations and businesses (for related information, see the Food and Nutrition Manager profile).
  • In education settings, dietitians co-ordinate dietetic education programs at post-secondary institutions, hospitals and the community at large. They educate the public about nutrition for health promotion and disease prevention; promote workplace health and wellness; provide basic and advanced nutrition training to students, health care professionals and paraprofessionals and teach dietetic practice, nutrition, food chemistry or food service management in schools, colleges and universities (for related information, see the Secondary School Teacher, College, Technical or Vocational Instructor, University Professor profiles) .
  • In business settings, dietitians assist food and pharmaceutical companies, marketing associations and food service providers by providing food and nutrition expertise in product research and development, sales, marketing and communication.
  • Research dietitians work in the research laboratories of universities and food and pharmaceutical companies or support practice-based research initiatives in clinical, community or food service settings. They may conduct laboratory research (for example, study the effects of diet on cancer treatment), social science research (for example, investigate the impact of health policies or behaviour change) or evaluate program effectiveness. In universities, they also may have teaching responsibilities.

Working Conditions

Working conditions depend on the type of workplace and may vary considerably. Dietitians generally work weekdays but may be on call outside of these hours or required to deliver programs evenings or weekends.


Personal Characteristics

Dietitians need the following characteristics:

  • critical thinking skills
  • an interest in science and foods
  • good communication skills
  • innovative and flexible
  • honest, ethical and caring
  • self-assured, sincere and diplomatic
  • practical and results oriented.

They should enjoy co-ordinating and developing education materials and programs, analyzing information and solving problems, and working with people.


Educational Requirements

The minimum education requirement is a four year degree in foods and nutrition followed by an internship that has been approved by the College of Dietitians of Alberta.

In Alberta, the University of Alberta in Edmonton offers a four year Bachelor of Science degree program in Nutrition and Food Science with a major in nutrition. The entrance requirement is a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1, Biology 30, Chemistry 30, Pure Math 30 and one other approved Grade 12 subject.

To practice as a Registered Dietitian, individuals must complete the dietetic internship. In Alberta, the University of Alberta's Integrated Dietetic Internship is the only approved program of this type. Individuals enter the internship through a competitive selection process that takes place in their third year of university studies. Internship is a professional placement or practicum which takes place after a student's third or fourth year of university at approved sites across Alberta.

Post-secondary institutions throughout the province offer university transfer programs that allow students to apply up to two years of study toward university bachelor's degree programs. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that the courses they choose to take will be accepted for credit at the institution to which they wish to transfer.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.


Related Legislation

Under Alberta's Health Professions Act and Registered Dietitians and Registered Nutritionists Profession Regulation, registration with the College of Dietitians of Alberta (CDA) is mandatory if you meet identified competency requirements and provide professional services directly to the public, provide food and nutrition professional services that are used by other regulated members and individuals to provide services directly to the public, teach the practice of the profession to members or students of the profession, or supervise registered members who provide services to the public. Registered members who are authorized by the College may perform restricted activities specified in the Regulation. Only registered members may use the protected titles Registered Dietitian, Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian, or the initials RD.

To find more information on the certification process see Dietitian Registration Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Section revised June 2013

Employment and Advancement

Dietitians work in a wide variety of workplaces including:

  • hospitals, long-term care facilities and home care programs
  • clinics and community health units
  • social service agencies
  • correctional services
  • food processing, food service and catering companies
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • schools, colleges and universities
  • government agencies
  • the Armed Forces
  • non-profit and community organizations
  • research facilities
  • fitness centres.

Some dietitians are self-employed consultants who provide expertise in nutrition, diet therapy and food service to individuals, institutions, corporate health and wellness programs, and the media.

Dietitians are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 3132: Dietitians and Nutritionists. In Alberta, 79 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the  Health Care and Social Assistance industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.


Salary

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Dietitians and Nutritionists occupational group earned on average from $33.07 to $45.69 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $40.42 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta website.


Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendar and website (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website: www.alis.alberta.ca/edinfo

College of Dietitians of Alberta website: www.collegeofdietitians.ab.ca

Canadian Healthcare Association website: www.cha.ca

Dietitians of Canada website: www.dietitians.ca

Health Sciences Association of Alberta website: www.hsaa.ca


Related Occupational Profiles
Food and Nutrition Manager
Food Scientist
Food Service Supervisor
Human Ecologist
Restaurant Manager

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; Health, Recreation and Human Services (Foods; Health Care Services; and Human and Social Services); Mathematics; and Science (Biology; and Chemistry)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Health Care and Medical Sciences; and Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences

Produced December 2012
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at alis.alberta.ca, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.


Government of Alberta, Human Services