August 19, 2015 by
The VRG Blog Editor
By Anne Custer
The health field is constantly changing and expanding with new
technology, new research, and new jobs. The growth rate for dietitians
is expected to increase by 21% over the next ten years. Dietitians work
to educate patients and the public on proper nutrition for optimal
health. They work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing
homes, non-profit organizations, public health clinics, government
agencies, food service settings, and the corporate world.
A person who is interested in nutrition, education, health,
helping others, and cooking may be best suited for this profession.
A dietitian’s day-to-day tasks may include, but are not limited to
assessing a patient’s nutritional needs, counseling on healthy eating
habits, developing meal plans, evaluating progress, and promoting
A dietitian working in the corporate world may have different
day-to-day tasks compared to a dietitian working in a hospital.
As a corporate dietitian, Molly McBride, RD, LD works for the retail
food chain, Kroger, offering food and nutrition expertise, answering
product inquiries, creating recipes, writing blogs for the Kroger
Simple Truth blog, and acting as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for
Aspiring dietitians must complete a Bachelor of Science degree in an
accredited program. These programs can take many names such as
Nutrition; Human Nutrition, Foods, & Exercise; Dietetics; or Nutritional
Science. When researching programs, confirm that they are accredited by
the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics of
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. After completion of an
undergraduate degree in Dietetics or a related field, the next step is
supervised practice, or a dietetic internship (DI). This is usually
1,200 hours of hands-on experience that lasts about a year. These are
all over the United States and Puerto Rico and can emphasize Clinical,
Community, Food Service, Sports Nutrition, Medical Nutrition Therapy, or
be a general program that dabbles in many areas. Once this is completed,
the soon-to-be dietitian must pass a registration exam. In most states,
a license to practice is required as well. For Molly, her education
began at Eastern Kentucky University and continued at The Christ
Hospital for her DI. Once she passed the exam, she began
working for a long-term care facility. After three years, she had the
opportunity to interview for Kroger. She accepted the job and began
working at the corporate call center.
Those looking to enter the field must have significant work and/or
volunteer experience. Because the internships are extremely competitive
(only 50% match rate), it’s crucial to set yourself apart as an
applicant. A quick Google search will reveal that most resources, like
the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommend some type of
experience. This increases your chances of being matched and solidifies
your choice to become a dietitian. Valuable work and volunteer
experience relates to the health and nutrition field or the specific
track of dietetics you are interested in. Someone who wanted to be a
clinical dietitian may seek opportunities in hospitals or clinics.
Examples of this in my pursuit of becoming a registered dietitian (RD)
include volunteering for a hospital and a children’s fitness camp,
interning here at The Vegetarian Resource Group, shadowing an RD, and
working at my school’s gym as a fitness assistant and nutrition analyst.
It can also be helpful to have experience in food service. For example,
McBride started working at Panera Bread. While in school at Eastern
Kentucky, she worked as a student caller then manager for the school’s
alumni office and as a nutrition associate working alongside a dietitian
at a local hospital. These experiences helped her land an internship as
well as provided her with skills needed for her job at Kroger. Those
looking to work in the corporate world may seek out work in corporate
fitness and nutrition or as an associate of a retail food store.
Programs are also looking for leadership skills so if possible, try to
stick to a few activities and focus on moving up and taking on more
responsibility. There are many opportunities out there to get involved
in your community and your university to diversify your application; you
just have to find them!
The training aspiring dietitians receive is mainly through the
supervised practice in their DI. Each rotation varies greatly depending
on the program and its focus. Students will spend more time working in
say a free clinic if the focus is community or in a rehabilitation
center if the focus is medical nutrition therapy. This allows the
student to explore and learn about different aspects of nutrition in
practice. The training received after completion of supervised practice
is dependent on the employer. Registered dietitians must also complete
continuing education credits throughout their career.
Corporate dietitians work for businesses that need nutrition consulting.
This type of dietitian can work in a variety of places such as a large
drug store, a fast food chain, or like McBride, a retail food chain.
These professionals develop menus, check nutrition facts, create food
labels, and consult with the company on its products and nutrition
information. More specific tasks would be established depending on where
you decide to work. McBride says, “My day-to-day includes being a final
escalation point for our call center product team ambassadors to answer
questions for our millions of customers, managing information in a
product knowledge database, providing nutrition education, developing
nutrition-related materials, writing digital/social media content, and
of course being a resource for plant-based nutrition.” (McBride has been
a vegan for four years.) Her office is based out of Blue Ash, OH which
is a satellite location from the downtown corporate building. However,
this type of work may be flexible. McBride is getting married and will
be moving to Columbus, OH after the wedding. Her employer is allowing
her to work full-time from home and come into the office just two days
out of the month.
Hours vary from job to job and even day to day. McBride usually works
from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday and says, “Sometimes important
meetings, some community events, or continuing education retail RD
conferences, are in the evenings or weekends, so my schedule is flexible
enough to accommodate these.”
“I have learned a lot from dietitian conferences I have attended,
befriending other dietitians on LinkedIn, diving into areas of nutrition
that pique my interest, and learning about all the moving parts of my
job,” explains McBride, “For example, working in the grocery retail
setting, it’s also important to know about agriculture, manufacturing,
branding, and regulations.” Her advice for aspiring dietitians is to
network with other dietitians and areas of nutrition that inspire you.
LinkedIn can provide a great resource to do so.
“The job of a retail grocery RD is a newer concept,” says McBride, “RDs
in this sector are a growing trend, as RDs are being recognized,
especially if they have a background in business or develop a strong
understanding of it, for their impact to [the] company’s ROI (return on
investment), health & wellness strategy, food and culinary insights,
product development ideas, food safety expertise, and
labeling/regulatory knowledge, as some examples. I work with two other
RDs at the Kroger corporate level and we have a strong working
relationship with numerous departments including pharmacy, regulatory,
corporate brands, consumer affairs, corporate food technology, digital,
and social media, amongst others. We are viewed as food and nutrition
subject matter experts for the Kroger organization.” More and more
companies are beginning to realize the benefit of having a dietitian on
staff thus creating more opportunities for corporate dietitians.
Visit www.eatright.org for the latest news on the dietetics profession and helpful resources for your career.
Anne Custer wrote this article while interning with The Vegetarian