Nutrition Career Paths: How to Become a Dietitian

Learn about the five common nutrition career paths that college graduates take. Discover how to become a registered dietitian.

As a future registered dietitian, it can be overwhelming to consider which career path in dietetics may be the best fit for you. The field of nutrition and wellness seems limitless, which makes it challenging to choose a path after your dietetic internship. The good news is, because there are a lot of unique career paths in dietetics, it means there are a lot of opportunities for you to choose a path that you are truly passionate about.

To hone in on your ideal career path, here is an overview of sectors that exist in dietetics. Most nutrition graduates enter the field in one of these sectors:

1. Inpatient (Acute) Nutritional Care

Registered dietitians involved in inpatient care work in a hospital setting or long-term care facility. Similar to your clinical rotations of your dietetic internship, you will be responsible for creating meal plans to accommodate patients’ needs. Additionally, some RDs provide long-term nutrition counseling for specific patients. You will be helping patients who stay in the hospital for extended periods of time (typically, longer than just an overnight stay).

2. Outpatient Nutrition Care

RDs who work in outpatient care work in hospitals and clinics, with patients who are living in their community, not staying in the hospital. Most outpatient clinics, however, are affiliated with a larger hospital system. Outpatient care requires specific nutrition counseling, such as bariatric surgery, eating disorders, oncology nutrition, and more.

Outpatient care also includes working at a physician’s office. Many physicians are hiring nutritionists, dietitians, and health coaches to supplement their medical care.

3. Corporate Wellness

Corporate wellness nutritionists are hired by companies to provide nutrition counseling for the staff. Typically, you’ll work with Human Resources to implement nutrition programs and wellness offerings, like health fairs. Some responsibilities may include online food tracking, creating meal plans, and assisting with weight management and disease prevention.

4. Community Wellness Programs

Whether it’s through SNAP or WIC, these dietitians are hard at work entrenched in the community to support large patient populations.

Healthie teamed up with the California WIC division in 2017. To find out more about our collaboration, read this.

5. Nutrition Private Practice

Nutrition and wellness providers in private practice provide their clients with in-person or virtual nutrition counseling. Though some professionals in private practice take all different types of clients, many choose to specialize in certain fields, such as weight management, sports nutrition, intuitive eating, or diabetes.

Our two cents: If you are thinking of starting a private practice directly out of school, get started with the fundamentals during your program. We’re happy to connect you with a few providers who did this.

Also, be sure to download our FREE ebook: Healthie’s Guide to Starting A Private Practice.

Here at Healthie, we speak to dozens of nutrition and wellness providers each day. A resounding conclusion we’ve drawn is that 10 to 15 years into their careers, most providers have worked across all (if not many) of these settings. Moreover, it took many providers at least 3-5 years to find their true “calling” within the profession… and some are still looking.

But if one of these areas is calling your name more than another, go for it… even if it’s private practice! There’s a big concern from students that you cannot go into private practice straight out of school or training. This can’t be further from the truth! Of course, there are many factors to consider before taking this jump right away, but we want to stress that you must do what is right for you.

Our suggestion – don’t fret and don’t stress! Your career will unfold in a beautiful way over the course of many jobs. At the end of the day, make sure you find yourself in a career you like, that you’re learning in, and that puts you working with smart and passionate people. Carve out a niche for yourself and use nutrition to empower others!

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