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Detailed Guide for

Dietitians and Nutritionists in San Diego County

May also be called: Diet Consultants; Registered Dietitians

Specialties within this occupation include: Clinical Dietitians; Community Dietitians; Consultant Dietitians; Management Dietitians; Gerontological Nutrition Dietitians; Oncology Nutrition Dietitians; Pediatric Clinical Dietitians

What Would I Do?

Dietitians and Nutritionists plan food and nutrition programs, supervise meal preparation, and oversee the serving of meals. They attempt to prevent and treat illnesses by promoting healthy eating habits and recommending dietary modifications. For example, Dietitians might teach a patient with high blood pressure how to use less salt when preparing meals or create a diet reduced in fat and sugar.

Dietitians may use bodyweight measuring scales, such as a hydrostatic weighing machine, calorimeters, glucose monitors, and skinfold calipers. They also use computers installed with analytical or scientific, medical, spreadsheet, and word processing software.

Dietitians manage food service systems for institutions such as hospitals and schools. Some promote sound eating habits through education programs, while others conduct research. Many Dietitians specialize, becoming Clinical Dietitians, Community Dietitians, Management Dietitians, or Consultants.

Clinical Dietitians provide nutritional services to patients in hospitals, nursing care facilities, and other institutions. They assess patients’ nutritional needs, develop and implement nutrition programs, and evaluate and report the results. They also communicate with doctors and other health care professionals to coordinate medical and nutritional needs. Some Clinical Dietitians specialize in managing the weight of overweight patients or in the care of renal (kidney), diabetic, or critically ill patients. In addition, Clinical Dietitians in nursing care facilities, small hospitals, or correctional facilities may manage the food service department.

Community Dietitians counsel individuals and groups on nutritional practices designed to prevent disease and promote health. Working in places such as public health clinics, home health agencies, and health maintenance organizations, Community Dietitians evaluate individual needs, develop nutritional care plans, and educate individuals and their families. Dietitians in home health agencies provide instruction on grocery shopping and food preparation to the elderly, children, and individuals with special needs.

Management Dietitians oversee large-scale meal planning and preparation in health care facilities, company cafeterias, prisons, and schools. They hire, train, and direct other Dietitians and food service workers; budget for and purchase food, equipment, and supplies; enforce sanitary and safety regulations; and prepare records and reports.

Consultant Dietitians work under contract with health care facilities or in their own private practice. They perform nutrition screenings for their clients and offer advice on diet-related concerns, such as weight loss and cholesterol reduction. Some work for wellness programs, sports teams, supermarkets, and other nutrition-related businesses. They may consult with food service managers, providing expertise in sanitation, safety procedures, menu development, budgeting, and planning.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Consult with physicians and health care personnel to determine nutritional needs and diet restrictions of patient or client.Oral Expression
Assess nutritional needs, diet restrictions and current health plans to develop and implement dietary-care plans and provide nutritional counseling.Deductive Reasoning
Develop policies for food service or nutritional programs to assist in health promotion and disease control.Judgment and Decision Making
Coordinate recipe development and standardization and develop new menus for independent food service operations.Coordination
Prepare and administer budgets for food, equipment and supplies.Mathematics
Monitor food service operations to ensure conformance to nutritional, safety, sanitation and quality standards.Monitoring
Inspect meals served for conformance to prescribed diets and standards of palatability and appearance.Critical Thinking
Counsel individuals and groups on basic rules of good nutrition, healthy eating habits, and nutrition monitoring to improve their quality of life.Instructing
Advise patients and their families on nutritional principles, dietary plans and diet modifications, and food selection and preparation.Problem Sensitivity
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Dietitians and Nutritionists work in a wide variety of settings. Most work in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities. Others work in schools, prisons, physician offices, government agencies, and community organizations. They usually work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated areas. However, sometimes they must work in hot, congested kitchens. Many are on their feet for much of the workday.

Most full-time Dietitians and Nutritionists work a regular 40-hour week; however, in hospitals, Dietitians may work some weekends. Those employed in commercial food service often have irregular hours.

So far, there has been little unionization for Dietitians.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The occupation of Dietitian may appeal to those who are interested in nutrition, and enjoy working with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking, searching for facts, or figuring out problems.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Salaries vary by years in practice, education level, and geographic region.

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Dietitians and Nutritionists in California is $73,855 annually, or $35.51 hourly. The median wage for Dietitians and Nutritionists in San Diego County is $68,955 annually, or $33.15 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$64,004$73,855$85,512
San Diego County$57,501$68,955$78,106
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits generally include medical, dental, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

A growing and aging population will boost demand for nutritional counseling and treatment in hospitals, residential care facilities, schools, prisons, community health programs, and home health care agencies. Public interest in nutrition also will spur demand, especially in food service management.

Employment growth may be curbed if some employers substitute other workers, such as food service managers and dietetic technicians, to do work related to nutrition. However, employment is expected to grow for contract providers of food services, outpatient care centers, and offices of physicians and other health practitioners.

Dieticians with specialized training, an advanced degree, or certifications will experience the best job opportunities. Those specializing in renal and diabetic nutrition or gerontological nutrition will benefit from the growing number of diabetics and the aging population.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Dietitians and Nutritionists is expected to grow faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Dietitians and Nutritionists are expected to increase by 19.2 percent, or 1,500 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

In San Diego County, the number of Dietitians and Nutritionists is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Dietitians and Nutritionists are expected to increase by 16.7 percent, or 80 jobs between 2012 and 2022.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Dietitians and Nutritionists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2012-2022)
7,8009,3001,50019.2900
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
4805608016.760
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 150 new job openings per year is expected for Dietitians and Nutritionists, plus an additional 90 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 240 job openings.

In San Diego County, an average of 8 new job openings per year is expected for Dietitians and Nutritionists, plus an additional 6 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 14 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Dietitians and Nutritionists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2012-2022)
15090240
San Diego County
(2012-2022)
8614
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Becoming a Dietitian or Nutritionist usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area. Graduate degrees also are available. College students in these majors take courses in foods, nutrition, institution management, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and physiology. Other suggested courses include business, mathematics, statistics, computer science, psychology, sociology, and economics.

Experience

Employers generally prefer candidates with at least one year of professional experience. Some will accept an internship in lieu of one year's work experience. A supervised internship is required for certification by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association. The internship can be completed after finishing the dietetics program or incorporated into the academic program.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in becoming a Dietitian should take courses in science, biology, chemistry, mathematics, health, English, business, and communications.

Continuing Education

To maintain the Registered Dietitian status, 75 continuing professional education units are required every five years by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association.

Certification

The Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association awards the Registered Dietitian credential to those who pass an exam after completing academic coursework and a supervised internship. While the State does not mandate registration unless using the title of Registered Dietitian, many employers require new applicants to be Registered Dietitians.

Certificates are available by the Commission on Dietetic Registration in specific fields, such as weight management, to those who pass the course. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Clinical Nutrition, Dietetics, Dietitian, Nutrition Sciences, and Nutritionist.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Dietitians and Nutritionists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 23.6%
Outpatient Care Centers 14.6%
Grantmaking and Giving Services 11.9%
Offices of Physicians 5.9%
Local Government 4.5%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges and universities. Professional organizations, such as the California Dietetic Association, post job openings on their Web site. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Dietitians and Nutritionists.

  • Dietitians
  • Hospitals
  • Medical Centers
  • Nursing Homes
  • Nutritionists
  • Prisons
  • Schools

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Experienced Dietitians may advance to management positions, such as assistant director, associate director, or director of a dietetic department. Some may become self-employed. Dietitians may specialize in areas such as renal, diabetic, cardiovascular, or pediatric dietetics. Others leave the occupation to become sales representatives for equipment, pharmaceutical, or food manufacturers. A master’s or doctorate degree can help Dietitians to advance their careers, particularly in career paths related to research, advanced clinical positions, public health, or higher levels of teaching.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Dietitians and Nutritionists with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
Dietetic TechniciansGuide
Farm and Home Management AdvisorsProfile
First-Line Supervisors of Food Preparation and Serving WorkersGuide
Food Service ManagersGuide
Health EducatorsProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-1031
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Dietitians and Nutritionists29-1031.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ISE
CIP - Classification of Instructional Programs
   Foods, Nutrition, and Wellness Studies, General 190501
   Foodservice Systems Administration/Management 190505
TOP - Taxonomy of Programs (California Community Colleges)
   Nutrition, Foods, and Culinary Arts130600
   Dietetic Services and Management130620