Working as a dietitian is enjoyable, diverse and secure. If you are interested in food, people, health and nutrition, it may be the job for you.
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A dietitian is a specialist who gives people advice on food, health and nutrition.
Dietitians study the science of food and nutrition and how this affects people’s health. They use what they know to prevent disease, treat medical conditions and improve sport performance. They do this by:
working out someone’s food and fluid intake based on their eating habits
investigating a patient’s nutritional needs
creating a care plan with advice on how to follow it
supporting patients who need extra support with their feeding
working with GPs, consultants, and doctors on the best diet plans for a patient’s needs
researching the effect of nutrition on health and disease
Dietitians also teach people about nutrition. They teach patients, clients, students and people working in healthcare, sports and food industries. There are lots of ways they do this:
speaking to people one-to-one or presenting to groups
writing for social media, blogs, websites, or newspapers and magazines
recording vlogs, podcasts, radio or TV programmes
advising on specific diets, healthy school meals, recipes, menus and new products
Why become a dietitian? Watch our stories!
Here are some examples of specialisms that dietitians work in. Click on the links to find out more.
immunology and immune diseases (coeliac, Crohn's, Sickle Cell)
mental health, learning disabilities and eating disorders
neurosciences and neurological diseases (like Parkinson's and motor neurone disease)
oncology (including palliative care, haematology, gastrointestinal)
public health (like cardiovascular disease)
Dietitians work in a huge variety of areas.
Dietitians help everyone understand how food and nutrition affect health. This includes:
people at risk of getting an illness or disease
people who have a medical condition
other healthcare workers
athletes and trainers
people working in the food industry, for example, restaurants, caterers and manufacturers
Dietitians often work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. That is a team of other healthcare workers like doctors, nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists. Working as a team means they can find the best approach for a patient in hospital or in the community.
Dietitians love working with people and food.
They love a challenge, and making a difference. If you enjoy these things then dietetics could be the career for you.
You get to work with all sorts of different people in all sorts of areas.
Dietitians work with all ethnic and age groups, and some choose to specialise. For example, working with older people or babies, or minority ethnic groups.
There is a huge range of jobs for a dietitian in lots of different workplaces all over the country. This is great because you can work in more than one area or specialism (more than 30 to choose from) during your career, or work in more than one at the same time. For example, you could teach in university and have your own freelance practice.
Whether you are employed or self-employed, there is flexibility in how many hours or days you work. Job-sharing, part-time work and opportunities for career breaks are also possible.
Dietitians play an important role in the nation's health. Lots of people needing to see a dietitian means lots of jobs!
There is a need for more dietitians.
The public are secure when working with a dietitian. This is because dietitians are registered with a regulating body – The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The HCPC makes sure dietitians (and 15 other health professions) are fit to practise and that patients get a high standard of care. They take action if this is not the case.
You could get paid up to £593.47 a week or £28,487 as a band 5 Dietitian working for the NHS. This could rise to £81,138 if you decide to progress your NHS career. Find out more.
If you work outside the NHS you could earn the same or more than this. It will depend on what you do and your experience.
Get your university fees paid or part-paid.
You can also apply for funding towards other costs such as living, travel and childcare. This depends on where you live in the UK. Find out more about financial support.
You must do a degree in dietetics to become a dietitian. You learn about food and nutrition and how this affects people’s health. When you become a dietitian, you use this knowledge to help people stay healthy and manage health conditions.
You can study for an undergraduate degree for three or four years, which includes work placements.
If you already have a degree in life sciences – 2:1 or above with adequate human physiology and biochemistry – you could apply for a two-year postgraduate course.
There are also dietetic degree apprenticeship courses available. You can work and learn on the job and get paid.
Lots of students take a loan from a student loan service to pay their university fees and other living costs. But if you are studying dietetics, depending on where you study in the UK, you could get your fees paid, and apply for funding towards your fees and other costs such as living, travel and childcare.
If you want to become a dietitian and live in the UK you can apply for a grant of £5,000 for each year you study.
The grant does not need to be paid back and is available for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses. You can also apply for parental support, travel, accommodation and exceptional hardship grants.
There are some rules about who can apply. Full information is on the NHS website and on the dietetics page of all universities that run the course.
You do not have to pay university fees if dietetics is your first undergraduate degree and you are from Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland or the EU. The fees are paid by the Department of Health.
You can also apply for a range of grants, including maintenance, special support, disability, childcare, adult dependants, parents’ learning and travel,depending on your circumstances.
For postgraduate courses, part-funding is available and there is an allowance for disabled students.
Full information is on the Ulster University website who run the only dietetics courses in Northern Ireland.
You do not have to pay university fees if dietetics is your first undergraduate degree and you are from Scotland or the EU. The fees are paid by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
You can also apply for a living cost grant if you are a single parent or have dependents.
Postgraduate students do not get their fees paid.
You do not have to pay university fees if dietetics is your first undergraduate degree, or you are doing a postgraduate diploma (PG Dip) in dietetics, and you live in the UK.
You can also get a £1,000 grant, a bursary towards living costs and other costs like childcare, and disabled student, dependents and parental learning allowances.
Students from the EU and have lived in the UK for three years before the course starts can also apply for the same package as UK students. If they haven’t lived in Wales for this period of time, they can still apply to get their fees paid but not for the other bursaries.
To qualify for any funding you have to commit to working in Wales after you graduate for two years (if you did a three year course) or 18 months (if you did a two year course). If you cannot commit to this you can still study a course in Wales but need to fund yourself or through the student loan service in your home country.
For more information visit the student award services pages on the NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership website.
There are lots of different universities that offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in dietetics. You can find a list here.
You’ll usually need:
at least five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, Maths, and a science
three A levels, including Biology (some also need Chemistry)
There are other routes for students who have not got GCSEs and A levels. You can do equivalent courses such as Functional Skills, International Baccalaureate, Access to Science, BTEC Diploma, and Foundation courses in Science. Contact the universities directly for specific entry requirements.
It is a good idea to do some work experience before applying for a course.
You may be able to arrange a visit to a dietetic department at your local hospital. This will give you an idea of what the work is like and whether it would suit you.
You could also attend a dietetic careers event at a university. This will let you find out more about becoming a dietitian. Find out which universities offer dietetics courses here.
Working as a dietetic assistant practitioner or support worker will also show your interest and understanding of the area.
Experience in care work, with a nutrition-related charity or as a healthcare assistant is also useful. Visit www.jobs.nhs.uk for current vacancies.
I did some work experience before applying for my degree. It helped me understand the job and the range of specialisms dietitians work in. It also enhanced my personal statement.