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Becoming a Dietitian

Would I enjoy a career as a dietitian?

If you are interested in food, nutrition and health, enjoy communicating with people and have an aptitude for science – an exciting future lies ahead of you when you become an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD).

Dietitians need to have a critical and enquiring mind, good organisational skills and initiative, good written and verbal communication skills, and be able to work effectively with people.

What do dietitians do?

Dietitians apply the art and science of human nutrition to help people understand food and health relationships and make dietary choices to get the most out of their lifestyle.

Dietitians are trained to:

  • understand food science;
  • interpret nutrition science;assess people's nutritional needs;
  • advise on nutrition and diet for general good health or for special needs such as sport or medical conditions;
  • implement and manage nutrition services and programs;
  • teach others;
  • undertake research; and
  • develop nutrition communications, nutrition programs and policies.

What are my career options?

The diverse range of job opportunities and working conditions for dietitians will enable you to develop a wide variety of interests and skills and use them in many different situations.

  • Patient care Working as part of a health care team in hospitals and nursing homes, dietitians are responsible for assessing the nutritional needs of patients, planning appropriate diets and educating patients and their families.
  • Community nutrition and public health Dietitians are involved in nutrition and health education programs. This can be at the local community level or for the population at a national level. Dietitians working in public health also assist with health planning, setting nutritional standards, and developing and implementing nutrition policies.
  • Food service and management Dietitians combine management skills and nutrition expertise when delivering food services in hospitals, nursing homes, meals on wheels, hospitality and catering. Dietitians also manage nutrition services and health programs.
  • Consultancy/private practice Dietitians provide consultancy services to individuals, groups and organisations which include individual counselling, group programs, preventive health programs and nutrition education. Dietitians also prepare nutritional information for publication, work with the media and in public relations.
  • Food industry Dietitians working in the food industry are involved in food regulatory issues (food law), food safety and quality systems, consumer and health professional education, nutrition research, product development, nutrition-related marketing and public relations.
  • Research and teaching Dietitians work as part of research teams investigating nutrition and health issues and developing practical nutrition recommendations. Dietitians are also involved in training student dietitians, doctors and other health professionals.
  • Other fields Dietitians are able to transfer their skills to other fields such as management, public relations, marketing, program management, communications, media, health promotion, policy development and information technology.

What are the salaries – public sector and private practice fees?

In the public healthcare sector dietitians' salaries are similar to other allied health professionals, nurses and teachers. To find out about salaries you should visit the website of the relevant State/Territory Departments of Health or obtain the relevant awards (eg Health Professionals), collective agreements or enterprise agreements in your State or Territory.

In other work areas dietitians' salaries reflect salaries for that industry, e.g. university lecturers. It is against the Trade Practices Act for DAA to set or recommend fees therefore dietitians in private practice or consulting do set their own fees. DAA does survey members on what fees are being charged and the survey results are provided as a guide to what you may expect to pay if consulting a dietitian.

What course do I select?

To become a dietitian you need to complete a tertiary level course accredited by DAA. Currently there are courses in ACT, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Courses vary depending on the university. Some examples of current courses include: a one to two year post-graduate diploma or master degree following a bachelor of science degree (including physiology and biochemistry), or a four year integrated undergraduate course. Courses cover food, nutrition, health and diet-related medical conditions, and skills in communication, counselling, education, health promotion, management, research and critical analysis of literature.

How will my expertise be recognised?

Accredited Practising Dietitians (APD) are recognised professionals who have the qualifications and expertise to provide expert nutrition and dietary advice. APDs need to meet detailed criteria developed by DAA. These include ongoing education to keep up to date with advances in health and food sciences and a commitment to a Code of Professional Conduct. All APDs can be identified by the APD title and logo, and are listed on a national APD register.

Source: Dietitians Association of Australia

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Overtime is bad for the heart

Working overtime puts people at increased risk of coronary heart disease, according to a new study published in the European Heart Journal. CHD occurs when plaque builds up in and narrows the arteries through which blood reaches the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. Specifically, working three to four hours extra (amounting to an 11- or 12-hour work day) was associated with a 1.56-fold increased risk of CHD.

Previous studies have also shown that overtime work is linked to hypertension, sleep problems and depression.

The European researchers followed 6,014 British civil servants aged 39 to 61 for 11 years. Just less than half worked at least one hour of overtime a day, or up to four hours. Those who worked overtime were more often young, male, married or living with a partner, and in more prestigious occupations. The risk of CHD increased in tandem with the number of extra hours worked.

Overtime workers slept less, and reported higher rates of “psychological distress,” according to the study. They often exhibited “Type A behaviour,” which the researchers define as “a chronic, incessant struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time, and is also believed to be characterized by aggressiveness and irritability,” which is also a risk factor for CHD. The researchers also speculate that overtime workers ignore illness, which may aggravate health problems over the long-term.

Perhaps surprisingly, these participants did not exhibit other behaviours that would compromise their heart health: Overtime workers did not drink excessively, smoke or have diabetes. In fact, they actually had better habits—consuming more fruits and vegetables and exercising more often—than those workers who never clocked overtime hours.

In an accompanying editorial entitled “Overtime is bad for the heart,” Gordon McInnes of the University of Glasgow concludes with a quotation from English philosopher Bertrand Russell: “If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considers work important.”

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Be Good to Yourself

Due to loss of loved ones, health problems, trouble paying bills, or other reasons, many older people feel lonely, sad, or stressed in their daily lives. Feelings like these may cause you to lose energy, not feel like doing anything, not eat enough, or overeat. Being good to yourself may help you to cope with your feelings and improve your energy level, eating habits, and health. Here are some ideas for being good to yourself:

  • Get enough sleep.
  • Stay connected with family and friends.
  • Join a walking group, or other social group.
  • Surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy.Volunteer or get active with groups in your community.
  • Try a part-time job at a place you would enjoy working for a few hours a week.
  • Watch a funny movie and laugh.
  • Take up a hobby such as playing cards, gardening, cooking, or dancing.

Remember, it's never too late to improve your eating plan, be more physically active, and be good to yourself for a healthier life. If you need to talk, make an appointment to see Nastaran.

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