What is a Dietician?
As a dietician, you will be responsible for identifying and treating malnutrition. You will provide guidance to those with nutritional problems, helping people make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
You will need to be in touch with all of the latest scientific developments and public health research to provide this guidance.
You’ll treat complex clinical conditions such as:
- Chronic fatigue
- Eating disorders
- Food allergies and intolerance
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Kidney failure
You can either work for the NHS or a private clinic to help individuals or at a public-health level. You will be required to give advice on food and health policies at a national, local and individual level. Dieticians are the only nutrition professionals that are statutorily regulated.
- Assessing patients’ nutritional needs and developing personalised meal plans to improve their health and well-being.
- Working with patients to manage specific health conditions through dietary changes, such as diabetes, heart disease, and food allergies.
- Providing education and advice to patients on healthy eating habits, portion control, and food preparation methods.
- Monitoring patients’ progress and adjusting meal plans as needed to ensure that they are meeting their nutritional goals.
- Collaborating with healthcare professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to provide coordinated care for patients.
- Keeping up-to-date with the latest research and trends in nutrition and sharing this knowledge with patients.
- Developing and delivering public health campaigns and educational programmes to promote healthy eating habits and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
- Working with food service providers, such as hospitals and schools, to ensure that menus meet nutritional guidelines and are suitable for patients with specific health conditions.
- Conducting research in the field of nutrition and publishing findings in academic journals.
- Providing guidance and training to other healthcare professionals, such as nurses and care workers, on nutritional best practices.
Overall, a dietician plays a critical role in improving patients’ health and well-being through personalised nutritional advice, education, and support. They must possess excellent communication skills, an in-depth understanding of nutrition and health, and a commitment to staying up-to-date with the latest research and trends in the field.
According to Glassdoor the average salary for a dietician is £41,708 in London.
- If you are working within the NHS, your salary is split into nine pay bands. Starting salaries can start anywhere between £25,655 to £31,534 (band 5)
- At Band 6 where you are considered a specialist, you can earn anywhere between £32,306 and £39,027. Advanced dieticians (band 7) will earn between £40,057 and £45,839
- Those who are at clinical lead level can earn considerably more – up to £53,219. At the highest level (band 8) your salary can rise to £75,874.
NHS staff typically work 37.5 hours a week. If you are not employed by the NHS you can expect to work normal hours between 9am to 5pm, however additional hours and weekend work may be required. Those that are self-employed can dictate their own hours, but this will vary depending on your client’s availability.
What to expect
- Working in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, community health centres, and private practice
- Working flexible hours, including evenings and weekends, to accommodate patients’ schedules
- Being physically active, as some dieticians may need to stand or walk for long periods of time while working with patients or conducting food demonstrations
- Having the opportunity to work in a team-oriented environment, collaborating with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care to patients
- Potentially having the ability to work remotely or have a flexible schedule, depending on the employer and job requirements.
Firstly, you will need to be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council to practise as a dietician. You must complete an HCPC-approved programme and have undertaken an undergraduate degree or of the like. If you are looking to do a postgraduate course, you must have a life sciences degree and have achieved a 2:1 or above. Relevant degree subjects include:
- Biomedical science
- Health sciences
- Human biology
- Human nutrition
- Nutritional science
must have skills:
- Excellent communication skills to interact with patients, colleagues, and other healthcare professionals
- Strong analytical skills to assess patient needs and develop personalised nutrition plans
- Knowledge of scientific principles and medical terminology related to nutrition and dietetics
- Ability to use specialised software and technology to record and analyse patient data
- Good time-management skills to manage multiple patients and tasks effectively
- Empathy and compassion towards patients’ health and nutritional goals
- Attention to detail to accurately record and interpret patient information and provide appropriate recommendations
- Good problem-solving skills to identify challenges and develop effective solutions
- Ability to work independently or as part of a team to achieve patient outcomes
- Continuous learning and keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in nutrition and dietetics.
It may be useful to visit a local dietetic clinic to gain an understanding of the industry and get a feel for the work before you start applying to courses. There are also voluntary and paid opportunities where you can show your interest and enthusiasm, which may put you in good stead in the future.
The NHS is the main employer of dieticians where you will work in hospitals and GP surgeries for example. But there are also other opportunities to work in the private sector. Additional areas include:
- National Health Service (NHS)
- Private hospitals and clinics
- Sports organisations, such as professional sports teams
- Food and drink companies, including manufacturers and retailers
- Fitness and wellness centres
- Rehabilitation centres
- Care homes and hospices
- Schools, universities, and other educational institutions
- Research and development organisations
- Public health departments and government agencies.
- Supermarket companies
- Public relations companies
You will need to complete continual training and professional development courses throughout your career as a dietician. You can do this by becoming a member of the BDA, who run frequent training sessions. These will usually focus on a particular expertise.
You might also want to embark on postgraduate study in your specialist area. Masters modules are available in specific areas of dietetic practice, which can be taken either as stand-alone or Masters programmes.
NHS staff will have a defined route for career progression making their way up the bands and you will be able to choose your specialism based on your own interests – this may be working in a patient’s home or at a GP and you may decide to focus on one specific area such as diabetes, cancers or with a certain demographic. You can also be self-employed and determine your work schedule and the route you would like your career to take based on your own personal interests.