As the healthcare system continues to shift from one based on sickness and disease to one focused on prevention and wellness, the demand for and value of registered dietitians is on a steady climb.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the growth rate for dietitians from 2016 to 2026 is at a healthy 15%, more than double the average of all occupations, which stands at 7% (1).
This strong projected growth rate is drawing an increasing number of people to the field of dietetics. At the same time, people want to know if the demand for dietitians is worth the compensation.
This article tells you what the average registered dietitian salary is, how to become credentialed as a dietitian, and the type of settings they work in.
Registered dietitian salary
The median pay for dietitians in 2017 was $59,410 per year, or $28.56 an hour. This amount is 37% higher than the median annual wage for all workers, according to the BLS (1).
According to the Compensation and Benefits Survey of the Dietetic Profession 2017, however, the median annual dietitian salary stands at $63,340 per year, or $30.45 per hour (2).
In that same survey, there were several predictors of salary including:
- Educational level: Dietitians with at least a master’s degree earned $2.02 per hour more than dietitians with a bachelor’s degree.
- Experience: Dietitians with 20 or more years of experience earn an average of $9 per hour more than those with less than five years of experience.
- Supervisory responsibility: Dietitians with no supervisory responsibility earn about 5% less than the typical dietitian.
- Practice area: The highest-earning dietitians work in consultation and business, education and research, as well as food and nutrition management.
- Employment sector: Self-employed dietitians make $3.64 per hour more than dietitians working for other employment sectors including for-profit, non-profit, or government organizations.
How to become a dietitian
Dietitians are regulated healthcare professionals licensed to assess, diagnose and treat nutritional problems.
In order to become credentialed as a registered dietitian, you must:
- Complete at least a bachelor’s degree in dietetics: The degree must be completed at an accredited university or college that is approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. By the year 2024, a minimum of a graduate degree will be required.
- Secure and complete a dietetic internship: You must be accepted to and complete an internship. The internship requires a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised practice in the three areas of dietetics: clinical, community, and food service management.
- Pass the national registered dietitian exam: The exam is designed to evaluate a dietitian’s ability to perform at the entry level.
- Complete continuing educational units (CEUs): In order to keep up-to-date with the advances and understanding of nutrition science, dietitians must complete at least 75 CEUs every five years to maintain their credentials.
Many people mistakenly confuse dietitians with nutritionists but legally, they’re protected differently.
The title of nutritionist is not regulated in several states. This allows anyone to call themselves a nutritionist, even if they have no educational background in nutrition.
Where dietitians work
Similar to other professionals, a major determinant of salary for dietitians is their work setting and responsibilities.
Dietitians work in a wide range of settings including:
- Healthcare facilities: Clinical dietitians assess, diagnose and treat patients’ nutritional problems with evidence-based interventions.
- Community nutrition and public health: Dietitians assist with health planning, setting nutritional standards, and developing and implementing nutrition policies.
- Food service management: Dietitians combine their management skills and nutrition expertise to effectively and efficiently manage food services in hospitals, nursing homes, and universities.
- Education and research: Dietitians conduct research at universities and medical centers to advance our understanding of the relationship between diet and health.
- Sports: Dietitians work with athletes of all disciplines and caliber in order to enhance their athletic performance with proper nutrition.
- Consultation and business: Dietitians provide consultant services to individuals, groups, and organizations, which may include preventive health programs and nutrition education. They also work with major food supply vendors and develop nutrition-related content.
As career interest in the field of dietetics continues to climb, many people want to know what they can expect to earn as a dietitian.
Your educational level, experience, supervisory responsibility, practice area, and employment sector are all factors that determine your earning potential as a dietitian.
To become credentialed as a registered dietitian, you must complete at least a bachelor’s degree, a dietetic internship, and pass a national exam. You must also complete continuing education credits to maintain your credential.
Dietitians work in a variety of practice areas from clinical to community to consultation and business.