Dietetics is the study of nutrition and diet as it relates to health. A dietitian is a professional who is qualified to give general and specific advice to individuals or groups regarding their diet.
The terms "dietitian" and "nutritionist" are often thought to be synonymous, but there are important distinctions between the two. Most importantly, to carry the title of a dietitian, an advanced university degree is required.
Dietitians spend more years in school, as they have to complete a bachelor's degree in health science, a two-year master's degree in dietetics, and supervised clinical training. All of these are integral to the vital step of gaining Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) status.
The requirements for becoming a nutritionist are not as stringent. But a nutritionist's employment opportunities are more limited than that of a dietitian's. While a dietitian can gain membership in the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) and the titles of Accredited Practising Dietician (APD) and Accredited Nutritionist (AN), a nutritionist can only attain the latter.
What are the Advantages of Becoming a Dietitian?
While a course of study as a nutritionist can lead to a number of job opportunities, even more opportunities are available to dietitians:
- A dietitian can obtain work in the public sector, designing and implementing dietary programs on the community, state or national level.
- In the food service industry, dietitians work in hospitals, aged care facilities, hospitality, catering or any facility that offers specialised diets and/or nutritional advice.
- Dietitians are employed by the food industry in a variety of ways, including food safety, product development, public relations, marketing, research and other related fields.
- Private consultants are called upon by businesses, hospitals, corporations, institutions and individuals for help in a wide range of diet and nutrition-related areas.
- A sports dietitian may work with sports clubs, community sports organisations or national bodies, designing diets for optimal performance and monitoring athletes' diets.
Studying to Become a Dietitian
The road to becoming a dietitian may be long and, at times, bumpy, but it's worth travelling for the sake of an enriching career. Several schools in Australia offer courses in dietetics, but only contact those with a nationally accredited curriculum.
It's also worth asking about the availability of VET Student Loans to assist you with your tuition fee. In addition to this, find out which schools offer their course material online to give you the flexibility to work out your own study hours.
Considering a college or university that offers a distance dietitian course gives you the flexibility to study at your own pace without neglecting your day-to-day priorities such as work and family.
Endeavour College of Natural Health is one of those institutions that make their coursework available online so you can study anytime and anywhere. Completing a three-year Bachelor of Health Science majoring in Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine in this learning institution will prepare you for a master's degree program afterwards.
Accreditation and Continuing Education
After completing your master's degree in dietetics, you have to undergo a supervised training program that is recognised by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) to attain Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) status.
Dietitians are students for life. You need to comply with the mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to retain your APD accreditation status. Failure to do so will result in the nonrenewal of your APD accreditation.
Undertaking advanced learning programs won't only improve your skills and retain your accreditation, but will also get you higher on the career ladder. The more knowledge you gain as a dietitian, the higher position you can land and the bigger paycheque you can enjoy.