Education and Training Requirements
The educational preparation required for this career includes a high school diploma or its equivalent, plus completion of a two-year, Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND)-approved program leading to an associate's degree.
During high school, you should take as many science courses as possible. Biology and chemistry should provide a good background for both success in college and on the job. Mathematics, business, and computer science courses will also prepare you for aspects of this work such as record keeping, purchasing of supplies, and adjusting recipes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) suggests that you take sociology and psychology classes to broaden your understanding of human behavior. English classes will help you improve your communication skills, which will be very important when working as part of a health care team and with a variety of clients.
The associate's degree program, which is available in many junior and community colleges, combines classroom studies with practical instruction and experience in the field under real working conditions. There are approximately 35 dietetic technician training programs that have been approved by ACEND, the AND's accrediting agency for educational programs. Visit https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/accredited-programs/dietetic-technician-programs for a list of programs.
When attending an associate's degree program, you can expect to take a mix of general education courses, such as English, biological sciences, humanities, social sciences, and business mathematics, as well as technical courses. The technical instruction is likely to include such topics as normal nutrition and menu planning, therapeutic diets, food preparation, nutrition counseling, quantity food production, and food purchasing and storage.
During a two-year college program, you also get a certain amount of supervised clinical experience, sometimes called a practicum. This provides a close look at the work of a dietetic technician and experience that will be valuable during postgraduate employment. For your practicum, you may be assigned to a patient-care facility, where you help with preparing schedules, ordering food, cooking, or instructing patients. If you are assigned to a health agency, you might accompany a nutritionist on home visits, help with teaching individuals, assist in demonstrating cooking techniques to groups, or observe and analyze information on the types of food people purchase at local grocery stores.
Other Education or Training
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers a variety of in-person and online continuing education opportunities for detetic technicians. Recent classes included Food Additives: Impact on Consumers and Clients, Non-Traditional Career Paths in Dietetics, Set Yourself Up to Earn the Internship, and Confused about Nutrition and Technology? Don't Worry. Be Appy. Contact the academy for a complete list of available classes.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Although dietetic technicians are not required to be licensed or certified, those who have completed an approved education program are eligible to take a certifying examination. Many choose to do so, since possessing certification indicates a high level of competence and can be beneficial in finding a job. The exam is given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, an agency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Those who successfully complete it are designated nutrition and dietetics technician, registered and may use the initials NDTR after their names. Registered technicians are required to earn 50 hours of continuing education credit every five years in order to maintain their credentials.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Those working in this career gain experience during their postsecondary education, which typically includes supervised clinical experience, sometimes called a practicum.
Successful dietetic technicians have an interest in nutrition, a desire to serve people, strong communication skills, patience, and understanding. They also have a knack for planning and organizing while being able to follow orders and instructions carefully. Technicians also must be adaptable and ready to explore new ideas and methods, because food products, equipment, and administrative practices are constantly changing.