Dietitians aim to improve and promote health through food and nutrition. They play a variety of roles:
- Dietitians in nutrition care roles assess the nutritional status of patients, and develop and oversee implementation of nutrition care plans.
- Dietitians in management roles oversee programs, projects and services related to dietetics. A key role is managing the production and service of high quality, nutritious and cost-effective food in institutional settings.
- Dietitians in population and public health roles promote health and well-being in community settings.
The majority of dietitians in Canada work within the public health care system. Dietitians may also work in private practice, consulting, individual counselling or choose to develop careers in the government, business and industry, education and research.
Job Market Conditions
Current job market conditions for dietitians are excellent. There are more than 1300 dietitians registered in BC and dietetics is a growing profession with excellent future job prospects. According to the UBC Dietetics Alumni Survey (2007-2011 grads), most program graduates have no difficulty obtaining employment in the field following program completion. Some new graduates spend time on the casual roster in a health care setting before obtaining a temporary or permanent posting.
Dietitians can expect to earn wages for level 1 unionized positions in nutrition care/population and public health, which are in the $58-72,000 range. More specialized positions may have higher wages.
Registration to Practice
The national Canadian Dietetics Registration Examination (CDRE) is taken post internship (available in November and May each year). This is a requirement for registration with most provincial regulatory colleges in Canada. Only individuals who have met the academic and practical training requirements for dietetics are able to write the CDRE. Graduates from Canadian accredited dietetics programs have a high pass rate.
Note: Once students complete program requirements they are eligible to practice as temporary registrants prior to taking the CDRE.
Upon graduation from the UBC Dietetics program, students may register with any provincial regulatory college in Canada to be eligible to practice.
In terms of working abroad, dietetic practice and registration requirements vary from country to country. Canadian dietitians wishing to enter practice in another country should contact the applicable regulatory organization for information.
Dietitian versus Nutritionist
A Registered Dietitian is a regulated professional who must complete an accredited undergraduate educational program and program of practical training to practice. Upon registration with a provincial regulatory body, dietitians may use the RD designation. Nutrition-related positions in hospitals and public health generally require dietitian qualifications.
The title Nutritionist can be a source of confusion. This title is not regulated, and is used by people with a wide range of training and knowledge. The title may be used by both individuals who do not have formal education in nutrition (e.g., health food store clerks and gym employees) and those that do (dietitians employed in community settings; nutritional scientists working in academic or industry settings; nutrition counsellors trained in non-university settings such as private colleges).
Dietitians working in a hospital or health care facility will often have a job title that incorporates the term “dietitian.” These dietitians focus on the clinical care of patients/clients or manage food production and service. In contrast, dietitians working in a community setting will often have a job title that incorporates the term “nutritionist.”
Desirable Characteristics of a Dietitian
- Interest in food, nutrition and health care
- A desire to help others, by working on their terms
- Excellent oral and written communication skills
- Dedication to patients/clients and commitment to the profession
- Sharp critical thinking skills
- Ability to work on a team as well as independently
- Strong organization skills and ability to multi-task
- Accuracy with details
Rewards of the Dietetic Profession
- Sense of accomplishment from helping people to improve their health and feel better
- Interaction with other health professionals, and a wide variety of patients/clients
- Lifelong learning, due to the constantly evolving field of nutrition
- Portability and opportunities for advancement
- Opportunity to work in a diverse range of practice areas and workplaces
- Interesting, varied, stimulating and challenging work as new knowledge and new ways of helping patients/clients arise
Dietitians of Canada
Dietitians of Canada (DC) is the national professional association with approximately 6000 members. Dietetics students are eligible to become student (qualifying) members. Below are some benefits of joining DC:
- Chance to connect and communicate with fellow students, as well as RDs
- Increased awareness of current dietetics-related issues in Canada
- Access to valuable tools and resources
- Opportunity to participate in conferences and workshops
- Access to jobs and other opportunities to practice dietetics