Dietary Technologist Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a dietetic technician career? See real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to decide if becoming a dietetic technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Dietetic Technician Career

Although the career title dietary technologist is mostly used outside of the United States, it is similar to the job of dietetic technician. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a dietetic technician is right for you.

Pros of a Dietetic Technician Career
May function independently on the job*
Employment in a variety of settings, from schools to nursing homes*
Variety in day-to-day work*
Opportunities to educate people and improve their health*

Cons of a Dietetic Technician Career
Lower than average wages (about $25,000 annual median)**
Some physical demands from standing or walking for hours at a time*
May encounter patients who are rude or frustrated*
Requires strict attention to detail*

Sources: *iSeek.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Dietetic technicians are educators, but they also perform food preparation and administrative tasks. Whether employed at a hospital, nursing home, school, prison, government agency, research lab or business cafeteria, a dietetic technician works with a dietician to develop healthy menus, prepare nutritional food for large groups and keep track of what people are eating. You may interact with patients or clients, teaching them about what foods are best for them and listening to their preferences so you can tailor menus to meet their tastes and nutritional needs. If you work at a large facility, you may have some managerial duties, supervising food preparation workers and showing them how best to cook the menu you've created.

Much of the traditional 40-hour work week is spent standing or walking, though you may sit at a desk to use a computer for record-keeping and nutritional research. If you cook in a commercial kitchen, you may need to operate large machinery and lift heavy containers of ingredients. There may be some risk of personal injury in a kitchen, but if you follow proper safety precautions and procedures, the danger is greatly reduced.

Salary and Job Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May 2014 that dietetic technicians made a median annual wage of about $25,000. Industries with the highest level of employment for dietetic technicians included hospitals, nursing homes and government agencies. The BLS projected an employment increase of 18% in the decade from 2012-2022, which was faster than the average for all occupations. With an aging population, more elderly people will require care, including nutrition counseling and planning.

Requirements

Though some dietetic technicians begin work after earning their high school diploma and completing some on-the-job training, there are formal training programs available. The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredits dietetic technician programs that usually result in an associate's degree. These programs typically combine classroom learning with practical experience in nutrition labs and in the community. Because of the social nature of the work, you may be required to take some public speaking or communications courses.

As of 2012, only one state - Maine - required licensure of dietetic technicians. However, most employers prefer to hire candidates who have earned professional credentials.

What Employers are Looking for

Many job postings mention completing an ACEND-accredited program as a requirement for hire. Read these summaries of job postings open in April 2012 to get an idea of what employers are looking for:

  • A children's hospital in Florida was looking to hire a dietary technician who had completed an ACEND-accredited program and was a registered dietetic technician.
  • A local government healthcare center in California was searching for a dietetic technician with a degree from an accredited program, registration as a dietetic technician and experience in the field.
  • A children's hospital in Connecticut was looking for a dietetic technician with a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience and one year of hospital experience. The posting mentioned that a candidate with dietetic technician registration was preferred.

How to Stand out in the Field

Get Registered

The American Dietetic Association's Commission on Dietetic Registration offers the voluntary Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) designation. You are eligible to take the registration exam after you've completed an ACEND-accredited associate's degree program in dietetic technology. To maintain this certification, you must complete a certain number of hours of continuing education every few years.

Improve your Computer Skills

Dieticians and dietetic technicians use computers to track patients' food intake and diet concerns. They also access databases of nutritional information and use medical software for administrative purposes. Honing your computer and technology skills could help you be better prepared for this aspect of the job. You could take a typing class to improve your keyboarding skills.

Other Careers to Consider

If you like working with food but you just want to cook, consider becoming a chef. Some chefs are self-taught or trained on the job, while others attend culinary school. Working as a chef requires some creativity and flexibility, and chefs often work late nights and odd hours. The BLS reported in May 2011 that chefs and head cooks made a median annual wage of about $42,000. However, the field was also predicted to see a loss of about 800 jobs in the 2010-2020 decade.

If you'd like to work helping to educate people but aren't sure you want to work in nutrition, you could become a teacher assistant. Teacher assistants provide additional attention to students under a teacher's supervision. They usually start working after earning their high school diploma and completing some on-the-job training. The BLS reported in May 2011 that teacher assistants made a median annual wage of about $24,000. Teacher assistants were expected to see a 15% increase in employment from 2010-2020.

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Practical Healing
  • Master of Divinity - Practical Healing

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

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  • Diploma in Health Care Aide
  • Diploma in Health Care Assistant

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Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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Youngstown State University

Westmoreland County Community College

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey