Dietary Manager Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a dietary manager's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a dietary manager career.
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Pros and Cons of a Dietary Manager Career

Dietary managers create custom tailored meal plans for patients and clients under the supervision of a nutritionist to ensure specific diet needs get met. Consider the pros and cons before you decide if becoming a dietary manager is right for you.

Pros of a Dietary Manager Career
Educational training can be completed in less than two years**
Steady employment growth expected***
Some positions offer excellent job benefits****
Opportunity to serve in a leadership position*

Cons of a Dietary Manager Career
Certification and foodservice experience may be necessary for some positions****
Long, irregular hours are common***
Can be stressful to deal with multiple demands***
Some employers may require prior work in a supervisory position****

Sources: *Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals (ANFP), **Merritt College, ***Certifying Board for Dietary Managers, ****2012 job postings

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a dietary manager, you'll normally work under the direction of a dietician or nutritionist. Your job will combine elements of basic nutritional therapy with administrative/operational duties common in foodservice management. You'll ensure compliance with state and federal regulations as well as the policies and procedures of the facility for which you work. Typical job duties include monitoring food safety, applying nutrition principles, recording nutrition information, purchasing and preparing food, planning menus, monitoring inventory, tracking expenditures and managing employees.

You also might provide counsel regarding basic diet restrictions, interview clients to learn about their diet histories and assess the effectiveness of nutrition plans. Many dietary managers are employed in senior living communities, rehab facilities, hospitals and nursing facilities. However, you also might find employment with the military, schools, correctional facilities and corporations.

Career Prospects and Salary Info

The Certifying Board for Dietary Managers reports that employment in this field is steadily increasing; the fastest-growing segment is elder care. Approximately 43% of dietary managers were employed in long-term care, while another 21% worked in hospitals, according to a survey conducted by ANFP in 2010, which is the latest information available.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that food service managers, which include dietary managers, were expected to experience little to no growth (2%) from 2012-2022. However, most of this growth will be in the restaurant sector. The BLS also stated in May 2014 that food service managers average salary was $53,500.

As of July 2015, Payscale.com reported that the majority of certified dietary managers made between $27,020 and $51,492 annually, while the majority of non-certified dietary managers made between $24,903 and $51,383. The ANFP survey revealed that the highest salary earners were those with a bachelor's degree or a culinary arts education. Continuous care retirement communities paid the most. Lastly, the more employees a dietary manager supervised, the greater his or her earnings were.

What Are the Requirements?

The Certifying Board of Dietary Managers says that those employed in this field are normally results-oriented and good at solving problems. They flourish under the pressure of different challenges and work well in teams. They also tend to possess organizational and administrative skills and are proficient in using computers.

Educational requirements to become a dietary manager vary by state and employer. In general, you must have a high school diploma or its equivalent and complete a training program. The most common route is completing an ANFP-approved program in dietary management, which typically involves less than two years of study. Such programs are usually offered at community colleges and vocational schools. Finishing an approved program qualifies you to take the voluntary Dietary Manager Credentialing Exam (DMCE) offered by ANFP.

Credentialing Information

In addition to completing an approved dietary manager training program, there are three more ways to qualify for the DMCE: earning a 2- or 4-year degree in nutrition, foodservice management or culinary arts; obtaining related military training; or having an appropriate combination of relevant experience and training. The exam, which consists of 200 multiple-choice questions, is offered twice annually in most states. Dietary managers who pass the DMCE are awarded the title Certified Dietary Manager, Certified Food Protection Professional (CDM, CFPP). To maintain certification, continuing education and an annual fee are required.

State regulations regarding dietary managers vary. In some states, you need to be licensed or certified as a food manager to work as a dietary manager. Other states don't require licensure or certification for dietary managers, but they do require that hospitals, nursing homes and/or other healthcare facilities have a dietitian or qualified foodservice supervisor, such as a CDM, CFPP, on staff.

Job Posts from Real Employers

In addition to applicants with relevant education and experience, employers tend to seek dietary managers who possess excellent written and oral communication skills. Following are examples of some of the things actual employers were looking for in May 2012:

  • A nursing home in Fort Worth needed a dietary manager with at least two years' experience in a supervisory position and at least two years' experience in the foodservice industry. The applicant need to be a certified dietary manager or hold a comparable degree. Training as a culinary professional was a plus.
  • A senior care nursing facility in North Carolina was searching for a dietary manager who had completed an ANFP-approved training program and had one year of foodservice supervisory experience in a healthcare setting. Analyzing reports, data and clinical documentation and the ability to design workable solutions to problems were some of the job duties. Keen mathematical and communication skills were needed as well.
  • A nursing home in Orlando, Florida, was looking for a quality-focused, certified dietary manager with five years of supervisory experience in a healthcare facility. The candidate needed to understand state and federal regulations in long-term care and be familiar with nutrition and therapeutic diets. Additionally, the applicant needed computer, organizational and communication skills.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

In addition to training through a dietary management program, you could take classes to help you develop skills valued in this field. Leadership, communication and speech classes can assist you in building qualities conducive to guiding the people in your charge. To help you become more efficient at the administrative aspects, you can take extra coursework in accounting and business management. Since using computers is typically a major facet of the job, you may want to take continuing education classes to help you build your skills and stay abreast of new technologies and programs. Lastly, culinary classes can also help give you a leg up (and potentially increase your earnings) since some employers prefer to hire those with such training.

Alternative Career Options

Dietitian

If certain aspects of becoming a dietary manager don't appeal to you, but you're still interested in a career where you could help people improve their lives with good nutrition, a career as a dietitian might be more up your alley. Dietitians help people understand what they should eat for optimal health. You might work with individuals or groups, and you'd typically be employed in the same environments as dietary managers. Job prospects are good in this field, with a projected employment increase of 20% between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported that the annual median wage of dietitians was around $54,000 as of May 2011, which was slightly higher than that of dietary managers.

However, the education and training is generally more involved. Most dietitians earn a bachelor's degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition or a related field, but many go on to earn an advanced degree. The BLS states that several hundred hours of a post-graduation internship is typical as well, though some degree programs include this in their curricula. Additionally, licensure is required in many states.

Foodservice Manager

A career as a foodservice manager is similar to that of a dietary manager, but you also might find employment in fine-dining restaurants or fast-food chains. Like a dietary manager, you would be responsible for duties such as managing employees, ensuring compliance with food safety standards and regulations, and overseeing food preparation methods and presentations. According to the BLS, the most common path to this career is through on-the-job training as a cook, counter attendant, waiter or waitress. After sufficient knowledge and experience are achieved, you might be promoted to the position.

However, more employers are starting to seek applicants who have some postsecondary education in a field like hospitality or foodservice management. You can also increase your job opportunities and potential earnings by obtaining a related degree and earning the same ANFP certification as dietary managers. The pay may be slightly less than that of a dietary manager; the BLS reported a median salary of approximately $48,000 as of May 2011, though the top 10% of food-service managers earned more than $81,000. Hectic work environments and long hours may be some undesirable aspects of this career.

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American University

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The George Washington University

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Grand Canyon University

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Saint Joseph's University

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Project Management

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

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