Career as a Dietician

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Marie French is a community dietician and is responsible for education about food and health in schools, hospitals and nursing homes. As such she needs to have a scientific background in understanding the body's digestive process.

What does your job as a dietician involve?

I work for a NHS Trust, and I advise people in my area who need to follow a special diet because of illness. I am also involved in work to promote healthy eating in the area, mostly in schools but also in the community generally.

Do you have a typical day?

A normal day involves travelling, talking, attending to individual patients and visiting hospitals and doctors. One day I may visit a patient at home who is recovering from an operation and has difficulty eating.

On another occasion I may have to conduct a class at a hospital for people who have diabetes and must be careful about their diet. I attend a lot of meetings with different people about healthy eating, catering and special diets.

What equipment do you use?

I need a computer for keeping up-to-date with correspondence and maintaining records. I have a variety of publications and information to help explain to people how they should plan their eating. Also, I have scales and rules for measuring height.

What hours do you work?

A normal 36.5 hour week, starting at 9.00 a.m. I work occasionally at weekends and in the evening.

What do you like best about your job?

The variety appeals to me. I get a lot of satisfaction from being able to help individuals and, hopefully, make a difference. I meet a lot of interesting people both as colleagues and patients.

Are there any disadvantages?

The travelling can be tiring and people who ignore advice can be frustrating. It can also be disappointing when a patient doesn't respond to treatment.

What are the skills and qualities needed to be a Dietician?

You need to be a good communicator, with a scientific mind to understand human biology and an interest in food and healthcare.

Marie's route to becoming a Dietician

  • GCSEs
  • A Levels.
  • BSc (Hons) Dietetics with State Registration in Dietetics (4 year course).
  • Diploma in Advanced Dietetic Practice.
  • City & Guilds 730: Further and Adult Education Teaching Certificate.

Marie's tips

  • Each health care profession such as dietetics or physiotherapy has different entry qualifications – make sure that you are studying the correct subjects for the career you want.
  • It helps if you care about people.

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Salary of a Dietician

  • The annual salary for a newly qualified dietician (outside of London) is around £17,115, rising to about £21,825 at senior level.
  • A consultant allied health professional can earn up to £46,675.

How to become a Dietician

  • Most dieticians work in the National Health Service as part of a professional healthcare team.
  • To become a state registered dietician you need to be registered with the Dieticians' Board of the Health Professions Council. Graduates with an approved degree or postgraduate diploma are eligible for state registration.
  • Approved degree courses last four years and are full-time. Some colleges, however, are developing flexible study routes, including part-time courses, and further information about these is available from individual colleges.
  • The minimum entry requirements for degree courses are five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two A levels/three H grades. These should include maths and English at GCSE/S grade, and chemistry, another science subject, or maths, at A level/H grade.
  • Alternative qualifications which may be acceptable are a BTEC/SQA National Diploma in Science with a merit in chemistry at Level 3 or a vocational A level/GSVQ Level III in science.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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