How to become a Dietitian

Dietitians apply the art and science of human nutrition to help people understand the relationship between food and health, make healthy dietary choices, and prevent and treat illness and disease.

Personal requirements of a Dietitian

  • Interest in food, nutrition and health
  • Good communication skills
  • Good analytical skills
  • Good organisational skills
  • Able to take initiative
  • Able to work effectively with people
  • Aptitude for science

Education & Training for a Dietitian

To become a dietitian you usually have to study a degree in dietetics accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, chemistry and biology are normally required. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in dietetics. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Dietitian

Dietitians may perform the following tasks:

  • collect, organise and assess data relating to the health and nutritional status of individuals, groups and communities
  • interpret and communicate scientific information, advice, education and professional opinion to individuals, groups and communities
  • manage nutrition care for individuals by planning appropriate diets and menus
  • educate people about their individual nutritional needs and methods of accessing and preparing their food
  • manage food service systems to provide safe and nutritious food by designing nutritionally appropriate menus and implementing nutrition policies
  • plan, evaluate and implement nutrition programs with individuals, groups or communities as part of a team (this may be in a community health, public health or food industry setting)
  • conduct food-related and nutrition-related research and evaluate practice.

Working conditions for a Dietitian

Dietitians generally have a high level of contact with the public.

Employment Opportunities for a Dietitian

Graduates find employment in a wide variety of roles and settings, such as patient care and education in hospitals, nutrition and health education in community health centres, public health nutrition and food and nutrition policy in government departments, private practice and consultancy, education and training, food industries, health promotion and nutrition research. Opportunities are also available in sports nutrition, publishing and the media. Some dietitians work on a part-time basis. Opportunities for dietitians are affected by a range of factors, including government funding and the recognition of nutrition by the community as a means of preventing and treating diet-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Demand for dietitians depends on the level of public and professional awareness, as well as private health rebate schemes.

Additional Information
Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, students may need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate and immunisations, and undergo a Working with Children Check. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. Some qualified dietitians may choose to refer to themselves as nutritionists, although not all ‘nutritionists’ are dietitians. Only a practitioner who has completed a university course accredited by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) is eligible to apply for the Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) credential. Check the association’s website for a list of accredited courses (http://daa.asn.au/universities-recognition). APD status is often a prerequisite for employment in this field. Graduates of DAA-accredited courses are eligible for membership of the association. See the separate entry for Nutritionist for details about relevant pathways.
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