If you’re interested in nutrition and health then a career as a Dietitian could be for you.. and seen as though two of the most frequent questions that I get asked are how do you become a dietitian and what nutrition courses do you recommend I thought I’d post this mini interview (and video!) to help you out :).
So, carry on reading if you want to find out about my career background, what it’s really like working as a dietitian and how you can become a dietitian too!
Tell Us About Your Career Background
Regarding jobs, before university I worked as a Waitress in a hotel and then during my first degree I worked in a bar; jobs such as these help you to develop confidence and effective communication skills, in other words how to work and deal with real people, and they also teach you to manage your time! Part-time jobs also show that you’re reliable and can complete the task in hand – all essential traits for a dietitian!
Regarding my career route, during sixth form I knew I liked PE, sport and human biology (I gained A’s in Geography, Biology & PE at A-Level plus French at AS-Level), and so I went to Loughborough University to study a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science (3 year full-time course). In my second year I went to see a careers advisor who asked me what I was interested in and I said nutrition! I knew that I wanted to turn my passion into a job and so I shadowed a few NHS Dietitians, and after graduating with a First Class Honours Degree, went on to study the Post Graduate Diploma in Nutrition & Dietetics at Leeds Metropolitan University (2 year full-time course) and gained a merit award.
I worked for MoreLife, a children’s weight management camp and club, as a Lifestyle Leader whilst studying to be a dietitian and it was fantastic experience working with Professor Paul Gately – I think this experience really helped me to secure my first job as a dietitian! MoreLife fuelled my desire to work in the health industry and I decided that I wanted to work for the NHS, where there is a lot of career progression, support and learning opportunities.
I currently specialise in Bariatric Surgery, Diabesity (Diabetes & Obesity) & Maternal Obesity and a few years ago gained my MSc in Health Science at Leeds Metropolitan University and published my first paper – I completed my masters degree part-time whilst working full-time.
What is The Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?
The title ‘Dietitian’ is regulated, meaning not everyone can call themselves one. The title ‘Nutritionist’ isn’t regulated (any one can call themselves a nutritionist, even after a one day course!), however you can guarantee that Registered Nutritionists have gone through an approved nutrition course.
Dietitians can work as a Nutritionist but a Nutritionist can’t work as a Dietitian. Those working in Dietetics specialise in interpreting nutrition science and helping patients to overcome health issues with healthy eating and lifestyle choices.
What Qualifications Are Needed to Become a Dietitian?
There are two routes that you can go down to become a Dietitian: A three or four year BSc Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics or a two year Post Graduate Diploma in Nutrition & Dietetics (what I did!) – but you have to show that you’ve completed certain modules in your previous degree such as anatomy and biochemistry.
The degree courses tend to be very selective so one of the key tips I can give about going to university is to spend time shadowing someone in the industry. This will show you are passionate about the industry but also will help you to decide whether it’s the right career choice for you. I think a lot of people think nutrition can be glamorous because of the way it can be portrayed in the media, but it’s not always glamorous! This is why gaining experience for yourself before you commit to it as a career is a good idea.
If you are just interested in improving your knowledge on nutrition and not turning it into a career then checkout the courses from the British Nutrition Foundation.
Are There a Variety of Fields You Can Work in within the Dietetic Industry?
Yes! There are many, including: Gastroenterology (liver disease, coeliac disease, irritable bowel disease (IBD) etc.), Cancer, Stroke, Heart Disease, Metabolics, Renal, Weight Management, Bariatrics, Diabetes, Obesity, Maternity, Paediatrics and General including IBS and Healthy Eating etc. You can read more information about the different roles [here].
Where Can You Find a Job as a Dietitian?
As well as the NHS, you can work for a variety of organisations as soon as you have qualified. Some Supermarkets hire Nutritionists as do Nutritional Supplement companies. You can work in Research and for companies who take part in Health Road Shows. You can work in Education and of course you can go Freelance and build up your own client base.
What is a Typical Day as a Dietitian Like?
Obviously it depends where you work but a typical day for me could start with facilitating a weight loss group session, going on to delivering a diabetes education (XPERT) session with a Diabetes Nurse. I could also be running a weight loss clinic or working with a GP to discuss patient medication. It’s different most days.. the way I like it!
What’s the Best Part of the Job?
Seeing people coming through a journey makes me really happy. I run 12 week weight loss groups and my favourite week is week 12 because the feedback is so rewarding. It can be amazing to see someone who started off fairly unhappy, become happy and be able to treat their condition with food and lifestyle changes. My aim is to help people (not tell them) to make informed decisions and to see it work for people can give you a great sense of achievement.
What’s the Hardest Part of the Job?
Working with people who aren’t ready for change. Someone may be referred to me for weight loss advice but it may not be a priority for them so sometimes it can be harder to help.
If Someone Was Looking to Get Into This Industry, What Career Advice Would You Give Them?
I would say contact your local hospital and try to spend a day shadowing to find out more about the job. Then if you feel you want to pursue it as a career, contact your university and ask what credentials you need. Then you can work towards gaining entry into education and completing your qualifications. I also think gaining work experience in any job is essential because it shows you have commitment and that you are reliable. Any kind of experience, whether it’s voluntary or paid, is good to add to your CV.
In Your Opinion, What Makes a CV Stand Out When Applying for a Job in this Industry?
I think extras on your CV can be really crucial. At Loughborough I volunteered to help create the very first Sport & Exercise Science Committee (for the benefit of current and future students), taking on the roles of social secretary and then chair. Whilst studying at Leeds Met I then took an evening course at college to gain an extra qualification in teaching (PTLLS). I also think it’s crucial to keep an eye on the industry, sign up to journals and to know what’s going on in other countries. Staying ahead of the game is important when it comes to applying for jobs; I gained my MSc in Health Science after qualifying and working as a dietitian to help further my career. For more information check out Jobulo.
But even if you have a hot CV, the job interview stage is crucial so working on your interview skills is important. If you apply for a job, ensure you read the job application and if they ask you to complete something specific ensure you prepare for it. I think you need to be persistent in most industries and that is certainly true for this one. Don’t feel disheartened if you don’t get the first job you apply for – keep trying and learn from feedback.
And Finally… tell us about your Blogging Career!
I qualified as a dietitian in 2009, and my first taste of blogging was actually reading beauty and fashion blogs in my free time. I loved the fact that you could get honest advice from people who were equally as passionate, and after looking for nutrition blogs I quickly realised that there was a lack of trust-worthy advice out there, and I couldn’t find any UK dietitians who were blogging or vlogging.
In 2012 I finally decided to ‘take the plunge’ and start blogging as I basically wanted to share REAL nutrition advice that works. I’m not about fad diets and I’m not about nutritional claims that have no evidence to back them up. The aim of my blog ‘Nic’s Nutrition’ is to inspire others to lead a healthier and ultimately happy life, one step at a time through providing nutrition and fitness tips, healthy recipes and product reviews. My blog is my hobby and passion and I’m really proud of it :).
The best thing about blogging is seeing my healthy recipes being made by other people and hearing about how their lives have changed. The other week I received an amazing email from someone who had lost 5 stone in the last year and she was saying thank you for all of the honest and credible advice. It’s feedback such as this that keeps me blogging!!
The biggest challenge for me is a lack of technical knowledge. A friend helped me to redesign my website in 2013 and I’ve had to take multiple trips to the Apple store to understand how to film and edit my YouTube videos!
Oh, and if you’re a dietitian and want to start blogging/using social media then don’t forget to sign up to RDs4DisclosureUK which I helped to found this year!
I really hope this blog post is useful for you if you’re thinking about a career as a dietitian – do leave me any more questions in the comments section below!