Things you really need to consider before deciding to study dietetics
Difference between a nutritionist & a dietitian – You need to be aware that there is a distinct difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian. It is possibly to do a 2 week correspondence course, or to have absolutely no qualifications at all and call yourself a “nutritionist” (and no that doesn’t mean you should!!).
Please take the time to watch this video by 3 time national president of the Dietitians Association Australia Sandra Capra to ensure that you are on the right path to becoming a dietitian if that is your intention:
The university course – To become a dietitian, the course of study will include statistics, psychology, physiology, biochemistry, nutrition sciences, food science as well as being competent in the three main areas of dietetics – clinical, food service management and community dietetics.
Around 90% of dietitians and students are female. Be prepared for the university course to contain content including chemistry and psychology. In this video Prof Sandra Capra talks about which dietetics students do well in the university course:
Fad diets – Dietitians need to be prepared for the fact that the general public can be swayed by fad diets from people including celebrity chefs and from diets that gain exposure from the media. Each year the British Dietetic Association releases its Top 5 Worst Celebrity Diets to Avoid.
Dietitian Sally Marchini wrote an article for our site so that all health professionals would be aware of whether their patients and clients were going gluten free for the wrong reasons. Dietitian Katrina Mills has reviewed some diets you may have heard of, including the Mediterranean diet and the 5:2 diet.
It is My Health Career’s view that dietitians need to make evidence-based nutrition more interesting for the general public so that the topic of nutritious food is discussed by dietitians in the media, not by those without the scientific knowledge to give sound advice.
There has also been a backlash by some dietitians who take offence to continuing education events being sponsored by big food companies.
In this video dietitian Emily Henry talks about what dietitians are up against with respect to diets being featured in the media:
What do dietitians do and where do they work?
Dietitians work in a number of settings including private practice, the food industry, research, teaching, food service management, public health, health promotion and policy. In a hospital setting, there are many areas of specialization, including:
In this video hospital dietitian Megan Ariotti talks about intensive care and parenteral nutrition:
Dietitians can also work with clients who have food allergies, are experiencing postnatal depression or an eating disorder. Dietitians will give advice on specific dietary issues, such as how male nutrition can improve fertility, and how phytoestrogens can decrease the symptoms of menopause. A Queensland-based dietitian is looking to change the nutrition practices in aged care facilities. Some dietitians will consult to aged care facilities, but this may be a one-off and not necessarily on an ongoing basis.
Sports dietetics is a complex area due to the varied requirements of athletes from different sports. This area may require sweat testing so the dietitian can assess what needs to be replaced. In this video sports dietitian Emily Henry gives a case study about a 17 year old tennis player:
Part of a dietitian’s work may be assisting their clients to understand the information in food labels and to eat to meet their energy needs in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This can include giving advice about the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Many dietitians enjoy cooking, food preparation and trying new foods. Mature age student Brett Parker had a fish and chip shop (which he now calls the “dark side” of the food industry) and went on to study dietetics. Dietitian Bonnie Lau also encourages dietetics students to gain exposure to a range of cuisines as it helps to connect and give useful advice to clients from different backgrounds. Dietitian Sally Marchini was also a mature aged student when she started her dietetics course. She has Type 1 Diabetes and was also diagnosed with coeliac disease. This sparked her interest in the area of dietetics.
Where are the courses?
Please go to our article Where are the dietetics courses in Australia? Although correct at the time of publishing, it contains a link to the Dietitians Association Australia website where you should go to ensure you are looking at the most up to date information.
Please go to our dietetics infographic page for more information on the pathways to become a dietitian.
ATAR / OP for dietetics
Click here for ATAR / OP information for dietetics courses in Australia.
Click here for the latest news about dietetics.
Please read our scholarship listing thoroughly for this information.
Are dietetics graduates getting jobs?
There is some concern regarding the employment rate of graduates. The Dietitians Association has a Locum Listing, and when My Health Career checked this in March 2015 and February 2016 there were hundreds of dietitians around the country who had graduated in the last 12 months and were “willing to relocate anywhere” or interstate or to a regional area to find a job as a dietitian.
Interestingly, data from the 2011 Census showed that at that time 6,200 Australians were qualified as dietitians, but only 2,832 (45%) of these reported that their occupation was as a dietitian. 378 (6%) worked in a related occupation where their dietetics qualification could be applied. 2,527 (41%) were working in an unrelated occupation, and 498 (8%) were employed in other health occupations.
My Health Career is aware that some dietitians will work their way through the hospital system to become managers of dietetics departments, and then use that experience to springboard into management in unrelated areas. However, the Dietitians in Focus workforce report stated that it “may be a result of people choosing to work in fields unrelated to their qualification, or people unable to find employment in their chosen field.”
Founder of the website Dietitian Connection Maree Ferguson has offered 8 tips for graduate dietitians who are struggling to find a job, and offers coaching to maximize the chances of getting a job.
When Emma Stubbs graduated, she wrote 39 job applications, had 7 face to face, and 3 phone interviews and has shared the top 9 things she learned in the job search.
2012 graduate dietitian Bonnie Lau gave her opinion on how dietetics graduates need to be prepared to think outside the box with respect to opportunities after graduation:
How much money do dietitians earn?
The statistics on myfuture say that full-time employed dietitians earn an average of $1411 per week.
In addition, Dietitian Connection completed a dietitian salary survey in late 2012, and acquired results from 117 dietitians around Australia. The results were that 60% of dietitians earned between $51,000 and $80,000 per year, and 8% earned over $100,000 per year.
The 2013 Dietitian Connection Salary Survey had 159 respondents, and found that 70% earned between $51,000 and $100,000 and 10% earned over $100,000 per year.
Videos about a career in dietetics
Click here to go to our videos about a career in dietetics. There are over 20 videos which cover many different aspects of this career.
Career information from professional associations
Go to this page and click on the links from there.