What are the Pros and Cons of Being a Dietitian?

Published:

May 7, 2015

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If you’re interested in turning your passion for health and wellness into a fulfilling career, you may be considering earning a nutritionist degree or pursuing another career in the field of health and wellness, such as becoming a Health Coach.  

You may also be considering becoming a dietitian, another type of health and wellness professional that helps people reach their health goals through nutritional support. As one of the most popular career choices in the health and wellness field, becoming a dietitian has many advantages. We’ll explore exactly what a dietitian does, what advantages dietitians have in the field, the educational route one must take to become a dietitian, and opportunities one would have as a dietitian in the field of nutrition.

What does a dietitian do?

A dietitian - also known as a registered dietitian (RD) or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) - is a food and nutrition expert who completes rigorous training and satisfies national standards to practice. Dietitians help people improve their health by focusing on food and nutrition protocols, including prescribing certain diets and supplement protocols based on an individual’s health needs and concerns. Dietitians often work in tandem with doctors and physicians to support clients on their health journey, as doctors and physicians can refer patients to dietitians and most likely have their services covered by insurance.

What are the advantages of becoming a dietitian?

There are many advantages to becoming a dietitian, let alone a health professional that helps people get healthier and feel like the best version of themselves!

Some major advantages of becoming a dietitian include:

  • You get to help people! It’s incredibly fulfilling work to help people achieve their goals and inspire someone to take control of their health once and for all. If you’re passionate about nutrition and healthy eating, it’s great to get paid to do what you love! 
  • You have many career options and opportunities. You can find work for food product manufacturers, retail businesses, in research and public health promotion, in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, or even as a food journalist or content writer. Some dietitians also set up their own private counseling practice and can specialize in certain health conditions, as they are able to diagnose and treat conditions through the use of food and nutrition protocols.
  • You have to meet rigorous standards to become licensed and certified. Depending on the career path you want to embark upon, the required education and training can be considered an advantage if you want to stand out amongst other health care professionals. For those who wish to work in nutrition in a hospital or institutional setting, becoming a dietitian may be the best route to take, and having the dietitian credentials will automatically set you apart from those who have other nutrition experience. 

What are the disadvantages of becoming a dietitian?

It all depends on who you are and what your goals are, but here are some common disadvantages to becoming a dietitian:

  • Many training programs take a narrow approach to nutrition. Be prepared to learn the USDA approach to nutrition – calorie counting, protein to carb ratios, and other government guidelines that fail to take a holistic approach to nutrition. Many of these recommendations are influenced by corporate interests, including research that is funded by corporations with only their best interests in mind.
  • Time and money are big factors. In order to become a dietitian, you will spend a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your schooling. While the earning potential of becoming a dietitian is significant, there are costs to be considered even outside of schooling, such as exam, licensure and certification fees, as well as continuing education requirements and member dues for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Why should people be inspired to become a dietitian?

The main inspiration for becoming a dietitian specifically should first and foremost be your career aspirations. As the time and money it takes to become a dietitian is significant, it’s important to consider the journey just as much as the destination.

If your aspirations are to work in the health and wellness field in general, you may want to take time to really narrow down what you want to do and why you want to do it. Chances are, you want to help people because you’ve experienced your own health transformation journey and you want to share that with others. Many people who find the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) are seeking out opportunities to take their passion for health and wellness and harness it into a career they love

While those who go through IIN’s Health Coach Training Program aren’t training to become dietitians, they are still able to help people improve their health by becoming a Health Coach, a guide who creates a safe space for their clients to explore their health goals and concerns. Health Coaches often work with dietitians and other healthcare professionals as part of a team to give people a holistic, personalized experience.

Is it hard to become a dietitian?

If becoming a dietitian is your goal, then the work it requires to get there may be difficult but worth it! In order to become a dietitian, one must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Minimum of a bachelor’s degree in dietetics at an accredited institution
  • Supervised 6-12 month dietetic internship accredited by The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics Education (ACEND)
  • Pass the registration exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration
  • If applicable, gain licensure in your state of practice
  • Pursue and complete cycles of continuing education which depends upon your state of practice

If becoming a dietitian isn’t your career goal or dream, then it will likely feel much harder to go through the work. And remember, becoming a dietitian isn’t your only option if you wish to work in the health and wellness field. You have other options, like becoming a Health Coach. You can become a Health Coach for a fraction of the time and cost investment, and you get to take a more holistic approach that many clients will benefit from. Health Coaches learn to tailor their sessions to their client’s individual needs, learning a myriad of dietary theories instead of toting a one-size-fits-all diet and lifestyle mentality.

Job growth for becoming a dietitian

Because of the extensive education and training that dietitians must complete in order to practice, their earning potential is higher than that of other professionals such as nutritionists. They are also more likely to partner with doctors and physicians, as their services can be covered by insurance, which creates more growth opportunities especially in specialized health fields.

Even though dietitians are trained through a more narrow lens of nutrition, they have endless options to pursue the kind of career that fulfills them. Many people who have pursued careers in dietetics and nutrition also explore adding the title of “Health Coach” to their services, as they understand the value Health Coaches can bring to provide a more holistic approach to health and well-being. 

The Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program is made for health professionals and non-health professionals alike, encouraging students to explore the career path that works for them. Attend a free virtual open-house to get a sneak peek at what it would be like to become a student at IIN!

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