Dietetic technicians hold a variety of job titles, including diet tech, dietary aide, diet clerk, registered diet technician, certified dietary manager, nutrition technician, and dietary manager. These professionals assist dieticians with their daily duties and help people live healthier lives through proper nutrition.
In hospitals and nursing homes, dietetic technicians observe patient food intake, help develop diets, report progress or problems to dieticians, and analyze menus and recipes. While many are employed by healthcare organizations, others plan menus for schools and day-care centers or work in restaurant or food-service settings, standardizing recipes and testing new products.
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Some dietetic technicians instruct individuals and families in proper food shopping and preparation, menu planning, and healthy diets. Dietetic technicians also assist caterers and food-service companies in determining food and beverage expenses and controlling costs, or work as quality control or testing professionals in food-processing plants.
Dietetic technicians can help treat illness by promoting healthy eating and providing instruction to help people change their food consumption habits.
Dietetic Technicians Summary
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts favorable growth for dietetic technician jobs.
- Most work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, and physicians’ offices.
- Typically, an associate’s degree is required to enter the profession.
Work Environment for Dietetic Technicians
Dietetic technicians usually work in clean, well-lighted settings, with some employed in hot, busy kitchens. They are usually under the supervision of dietitians. At times, they can experience pressure to work quickly and accurately. Dietetic technicians are on their feet much of the workday. While some work part-time, most work a standard 40-hour week. Some weekend may be required, depending on the employer.
Education, Training, and Licensing for Dietetic Technicians
Becoming a dietetic technician usually requires an associate’s degree, but some dietetic technicians sometimes choose to earn nutrition and dietetics bachelor’s degrees. Dietetic technician programs are available through vocational and technical schools, community colleges, and universities.
Coursework typically includes general science, anatomy and physiology, and an introduction to the healthcare system, plus specialized instruction in food and nutrition sciences, food preparation, nutritional counseling, and food service systems management. Some courses may focus on nutrition needs throughout the life cycle, or cultural differences in food. English, sociology, math, psychology, and communications courses are also important.
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The American Dietetic Association (ADA) Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) is the accrediting organization for associate’s degree programs in dietetic technology. Qualifying programs provide required coursework and a minimum of 450 hours of supervised practice in a variety of settings, like healthcare, food service, and community programs.
Upon successfully completing a dietetic technician program, qualified applicants may take the Registration Examination for Dietetic Technicians, which is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Those who meet the requirements and pass the exam will earn Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) status.
Most states require licensing and certification. Many employers prefer to hire registered dietetic technicians, whether or not their state requires it.
Dietetic technician jobs require self-management skills, dependability, and attention to detail, along with excellent problem-solving, interpersonal, and written communication skills.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook, and Earnings
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) records show that dietetic technicians held about 25,200 jobs in 2008. Most of these positions were in hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient care centers, or physicians’ offices. State and local governments employ dietetic technicians in correctional facilities, health departments, and other public health agencies. Some dietetic technicians work in contract food services, educational services, or home healthcare services.
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The BLS projects that employment in this field will expand faster than the average for all occupations, due to the growing aged population and the increased emphasis on disease prevention through improved nutrition. Greater awareness of obesity and diabetes will also create job growth for dietetic technicians.
According to the BLS, dietetic technicians earned an average yearly salary of $28,530 in May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $21,070 and $34,710, while the lowest 10% earned about $17,720. The highest 10% earned an estimated $41,760 annually.