Frequently Asked Questions
What is a dietitian?
Dietitians are the only nutrition-related profession registered with the Health Professions Council. They are uniquely qualified by degree to translate scientific information about food into practical dietary advice. As well as providing impartial advice about nutrition and health, dietitians also advise about food related problems and treat disease and ill health. Many dietitians work in the National Health Service (NHS) and may work in one or more specialist areas, e.g. diabetes, children's health, cancer, whilst others work with people in the community, often visiting them in their own homes. They are a key part of the healthcare team. There are also a wide range of opportunities for dietitians outside the NHS such as the food industry, sports, scientific research, public health and journalism.
What is the difference between a dietitian and nutritionist?
Dietetics is the interpretation and communication of the science of nutrition to enable people to make informed and practical choices about food and lifestyle, in both health and disease. A dietitian will have trained in both hospital and community settings as part of their course. Most dietitians are employed in the NHS, but dietitians also work in the food industry, education, research and on a freelance basis. It is necessary to have a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) recognised degree in nutrition and dietetics to work as a dietitian and to be registered with the HCPC if working as a dietitian. The title dietitian is protected by law, anyone using the title must be registered with the HCPC.
Nutrition is the study of nutrients in food, how nutrients are used by the body, and the relationship between diet, health and disease. Most of the major food manufacturers and retailers employ nutritionists and food scientists but opportunities also arise in journalism, research and education. There are a variety of careers within the field of food science and technology. Many nutritionists hold a nutrition degree and are on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists, but this is not a mandatory register. Further information about training to be a nutritionist can be found from the Association for Nutrition.
What are the career prospects?
Career prospects are mainly in the National Health Service, food industry, education, research, health promotion, sports nutrition and the media. There is every opportunity for your career to progress in a way that suits your individual strengths and interests. There are many opportunities for working in dietetics across the UK and abroad and in a wide range of specialisms. The BDA has a Dietetic Jobs website that lists dietetic positions which is frequently updated. The NHS Jobs website also lists vacancies in the NHS.
Is there a route to becoming a dietitian through working as a dietetic support worker?
At the present time you cannot progress from Dietetic Support Worker (DSW) or Dietetic Assistant Practitioner (DAP) through to becoming a dietitian. All prospective dietitians must study on an HCPC approved programme of study. However, working within the NHS as a support worker provides excellent work experience opportunities to enable prospective dietitians to understand what the role entails.
Can I study to become a dietitian on a part-time basis?
All dietetic courses are full time. If you have any specific needs to study part time, it may be worthwhile discussing this with the university.
Can I study to become a dietitian through distance learning?
There is no distance learning route to becoming a dietitian.
How can I gain work experience in a dietetic department?
We would advise you to contact your local dietetic department through your local hospital/s and ask to speak to the dietetic manager. A list of hospitals in your local area can be found on the NHS website.