There are approximately 34,800 dietetic technicians in the United States. They are employed by hospitals, nursing homes, public health nutritional programs, food companies, clinics, youth centers, visiting nurse associations, home health agencies, and other institutional settings that require food-service management and nutritional-care services. Most technicians work in health care facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes, although some are employed in health agencies such as public health departments, neighborhood health centers, or home health agencies. Schools, correctional facilities, food vendors, and health clubs are also examples of institutions that may have a dietetic staff.
Additional employers of dietetic technicians include colleges, industrial food-service establishments, and other organizations where large quantities of food are regularly prepared.
Contacts gained during the clinical experience segment of a training program are often good sources of first jobs for dietetic technicians. Applying to the personnel offices of potential employers can be another productive approach. Other good places to check are school career services offices, job listings in health journals, newspaper classified ads, and private and public employment agencies.
In some areas close to schools that offer dietetic technician training programs, the local labor market is over-supplied. In these cases, graduates may have better results if they extend their job search to areas where competition is less intense.
Beginning dietetic technicians are usually closely supervised because there is so much to learn about the operations of their new employers. After a time, however, the technicians are often able to take on greater responsibilities and earn higher pay. Often, technicians who have proven their abilities are allowed to perform some of the same functions as entry-level dietitians, such as prescribing diets or diagnosing nutritional problems. With the expanded range of duties, a technician may earn higher pay, while either keeping the same title or officially changing positions. For example, a dietetic technician could be promoted to the position of kitchen manager.
Some dietetic technicians return to school on a full- or part-time basis to complete a bachelor's degree program in a related field such as dietetics, nutrition, food science, or food-service management. To become a dietitian, a year of internship is necessary in addition to the bachelor's degree.
Tips for Entry
Find a part-time, summer, or volunteer job in the food-service department of a hospital or other health care organization to gain experience and learn more about this career.
Working part time or summers in a nonhospital food service or restaurant kitchen is another method to gain experience and learn about work in the nutrition field.
Ask your health teacher or school counselor to help you arrange to meet with a dietitian or dietetic technician for an information interview.
Volunteer in your school's cafeteria, helping set up for lunches and clean up at the end of lunch, to gain experience working in an institutional food-service environment.