Approximately 74,200 dietitians and nutritionists are employed in the United States. Many kinds of government and private organizations hire dietitians, and the variety of career opportunities continue to increase. There are opportunities in hospitals, schools of all levels, community health programs, day care centers, correctional facilities, health clubs, weight-management clinics, health management organizations, nursing homes, government organizations, food-service companies, food equipment manufacturers, sports teams, pharmaceutical companies, and grocery store chains, to name a few. Among the large organizations that need dietitians are the armed forces, which have to feed their personnel as well and as inexpensively as possible. In addition, dietitians can work in private practice, running their own consulting businesses or working in a group practice.
Because dietitians are extensively trained and have some practical experience before they look for their first job, they tend to know the type of organization they want to work for. Most colleges and universities provide placement services, and people often find work through connections they make at school or in practice programs. For this reason, it is wise to make as many professional connections as possible.
Some parts of the country have more dietitians than others, and beginning dietitians should consider taking positions out of their geographic area to get started. As of May 2019, the states of California, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida had the largest number of dietitians and nutritionists, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Jobs can be found via trade journals, national and state conventions, Web sites, classified ads, and specialized employment agencies. Although it is possible to call organizations to learn about job opportunities, the most effective way to find work is through personal contacts.
There are various ways to advance in this field. One of the best is further education. RDs with only a bachelor's degree may wish to obtain an advanced degree, which will enable them to apply for research, teaching, or public health positions that are not otherwise open to them. For example, a dietitian interested in working in community dietetics may get an advanced degree in public health; someone wanting to move into management may get a master's in business administration. RDs can also advance by getting further education that leads to specialty certification, such as the certified clinical nutritionist credential or the board certified specialist in pediatric nutrition. Often advancement depends upon the goals of the individual, as he or she decides where to go with this career.
In the field of nutrition, as in most others, seniority, reliability, expertise, and experience count. An experienced clinical dietitian might ultimately become an administrative dietitian, for example, and a research dietitian might take charge of a research department.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics (https://jandonline.org) to learn more about the field.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Attend the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (https://eatrightfnce.org/program/present-fnce) to network and interview for jobs.
Become certified in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.