The best things about a career in dietetics
We asked two dietitians what they love about their job. Sally Marchini said that it is helping people to understand their health concerns and improve their life, and Josh Reed said that it’s motivating and empowering people and learning how to improve his own health.
There is plenty of variety in the university course, which includes 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. This gives a range of potential career paths with a dietetics degree.
Dietitian Megan Ariotti talks about community dietetics in terms of running a group program:
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”.
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:
Female dominated profession – Around 90% of dietitians are female, with males being in the minority. Brett Parker was a male dietetics student at the time of sharing his view in this article.
The university course – According to Christina Turner, a Senior Teaching Fellow for a university dietetics program, universities are changing the way they teach nutrition. In this video dietitian Emily Henry talks about getting through the chemistry subjects when chemistry wasn’t her forte:
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.
Dietitian Sally Marchini has questioned whether people are 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:
- Food service management
- Digital healthcare innovations
- Intensive care and parenteral nutrition
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. Dietitian Nicole Micallef coordinates a state wide cystic fibrosis service in Tasmania. 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.
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.
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. Now, Sally shares that what she loves most in her career as a dietitian is being able to help people improve their well-being.
Some dietitians are incorporating the practice of mindfulness into their clinical role. Sylvia North believes that in order to provide an effective nutrition counselling practice, health practitioners should also take good care of themselves. Lulu Cook attests on how mindfulness helped her be present with her clients and notice verbal and non-verbal clues to effectively provide solutions for her patients.
How long does it take to become a dietitian?
It depends on the pathway you take, but it’s at least 4 years.
Please go to our dietetics infographic page for more information on the pathways to become a dietitian.
ATAR for dietetics
Click here for ATAR information for dietetics courses in Australia. For entry into dietetics in 2020 the ATAR range was from the mid-50s to the mid-90s.
Click here for the latest news about dietetics.
Please read our scholarship listing thoroughly for this information.
Are dietetics graduates getting jobs?
There is difficulty in obtaining up to date data about the dietetics workforce in Australia.
At the time of the 2011 census, of the approximately 6,200 Australians who had a dietetics qualification, only 45% stated that their occupation was a dietitian. It has been stated that “this 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.” There is some uncertainty as to why many dietitians work in other fields.
For more details:
- 2014 Australia dietetics workforce in focus article by My Health Career
- 2014 Health Workforce Australia Dietitians in Focus
- Contact the Dietitians Association of Australia
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. She also provided tips for preparation for overseas working opportunities.
How much money do dietitians earn?
In 2018, the statistics on myfuture say that full-time employed dietitians earn an average of $1,426 per week, which equates to around $74,000 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.
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.
Videos about a career in dietetics
Click here to go to our videos about a career in dietetics. There are over 20 videos from 7 dietitians who cover many different aspects of this career.
Career information from professional associations
Go to this page and click on the links from there.
This page was last updated in March 2019.