Pediatric Dietitian Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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A pediatric dietitian's median annual salary is around $56,950. Is it worth the education, training and licensure requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about the career outlook to find out if becoming a pediatric dietitian is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Pediatric Dietitian

Pediatric dietitians educate children on proper nutrition in order to maintain a health lifestyle. While a career as a pediatric dietitian can be a solid choice, consider the pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros of a Career as a Pediatric Dietitian
Good median annual salary (around $56,950 as of May 2014)*
High job-growth field (21% increase anticipated from 2012-2022)*
Satisfaction of helping people*
Flexible work schedule and opportunities for self-employment*
Allows for creative problem solving**

Cons of a Career as a Pediatric Dietitian
Must complete an internship in addition to earning a bachelor's degree***
Might need a graduate degree to remain competitive (24% of dietitians and nutritionists have a master's degree)**
Usually must hold a state license*
Must complete continuing education courses***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net, ***Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Career Information

Job Description

As a pediatric dietitian, you'll formulate nutritional plans for healthy and ill children from birth to age 18. Some pediatric dietitians work with children who have chronic health care issues. Dietitians assess the client's diet and suggest (or order) changes that will improve the nutritional value. Some dietitians specialize in diets for conditions such as diabetes or allergies. They create meal plans the client can use in regular life, taking food preferences into account. Pediatric dietitians may also conduct education programs for school classes, scout troops or other groups of young people.

A pediatric dietitian may work in a hospital, long-term care facility or with a home health agency. In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that about 31% of all dietitians work in hospitals, while 11% are self-employed, advising individual clients or working for an institution on a contract basis.

Career Prospects

The BLS predicted that employment of all types of dietitians, including pediatric dietitians, could increase by 21% from 2012-2022 due, in part, to growing awareness of the connection between diet and wellness. The BLS noted that more medical providers are emphasizing the role of good nutrition in preventing and treating illnesses.

Salary Info

The median annual salary for all types of dietitians was about $56,950 as of May 2014, according to the BLS. Half of all dietitians made between $45,410 and $69,580, with the highest-paid ten percent making more than $79,840. The lowest paid ten percent earned a median salary of about $35,000, according to the BLS.

What Are the Requirements?

Dietitians typically hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in food and nutrition, dietetics, food systems management or a similar field. Coursework includes food science, food safety, stage-of-life nutritional needs and nutrition as a medical tool. Before admission to a dietetics program, students usually need to complete classes in anatomy, microbiology, chemistry and introductory nutrition. Some master's programs in dietetics admit students with bachelor's degrees in related fields.

After graduation, the student must complete several hundred hours of training in a supervised practice program approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). Some schools combine this training with a bachelor's degree program, while others integrate it into a master's program.

Licensure and Credentials

The Commission on Dietetic Regulation (CDR) reported that 46 states regulated dietitians and the practice of dietetics through licensing, registration or certification as of 2012. Earning CDR's Registered Dietitian (RD) designation is voluntary; however, most states accept it in lieu of a state license since the requirements - a bachelor's degree, experience and passing an examination - are usually the same. You must meet continuing education requirements to maintain your RD standing.

What Employers Want

Job postings for pediatric dietitians show that employers are looking for candidates who are RDs and who have experience in the field. Some postings note that while children will be the primary patients, the dietitian might work with adults as well. Here's a look at postings from real employers in April 2012:

  • A hospital in Minnesota needed a dietitian to provide nutrition care for newborns and their parents as well as children, teens and women. Public speaking ability was also desired. The employer requested an RD or someone who could obtain RD certification within six months. Additionally, certification in pediatric nutrition was preferred.
  • In New York, a hospital wanted an RD or RD-eligible person to work in an acute-care setting with ambulatory patients. A master's degree was preferred. The ability to speak Spanish as well as English would be helpful, the posting noted.
  • In Texas, an RD with a year of pediatric experience was sought by a children's hospital. This person needed to be experienced with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, in addition to e-mail.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Earn a Master's Degree

As illustrated in the job postings, some employers prefer job applicants with a master's degree. Since many schools combine a master's program with the required practical training, it may take only a year to earn a master's degree after you complete undergraduate work.

Pursue Specialty Certification

CDR offers the Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition credential. To apply for this designation, you'll need to be an RD for at least two years, have at least 2,000 hours of experience in pediatric nutrition over the past five years and pass an exam. Sometimes, education can be substituted for experience.

Join a Professional Association

Joining an association of dietetics professionals gives you opportunities to expand your knowledge and further your career. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a Pediatrics Nutrition Practice Group (PNPG) with more than 3,000 members. You'll have access to education courses, seminars, conventions and networking opportunities. Special interest groups within the organization focus on topics such as diabetes, eating disorders in teens and food allergies. PNPG offers research grants and honors the achievements of its members.

Career Alternatives

Dietetic Technician

If you'd enjoy improving lives through good nutrition, but don't like the educational requirements of becoming a pediatric dietitian, perhaps a career as a dietetic technician would be a better fit. You can enter this occupation with an associate's degree and some practical training. Dietetic technicians work in nutritional and food service programs and are supervised by dietitians. The CDR offers the Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) certification to individuals who meet experience and education requirements. The median annual salary for a dietetic technician was nearly $27,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.

Health Educator

If you like teaching children about wellness, but don't want to limit yourself to pediatric nutrition, you might consider a career as a health educator. You can work in a hospital, school or public health department, developing programs that help children and their families care for themselves. The BLS predicted that this occupation would grow by 37% from 2010-2020; this was much faster than the average for all occupations. You'll need a bachelor's degree in health promotion or health education. The median salary for a health educator was around $48,000 as of May 2011, the BLS reported.

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