Dietician and Nutritionist professions are relatively new, but in these modern times everyone knows that eating good food is vital for good health, and that looking after your diet can result in you living longer, looking better and feeling healthier.
Nutritionists and dieticians are responsible for educating the population about healthy food, promoting good eating habits and advising people who have specific dietary requirements.
Third-level nutrition and dietetics courses are very scientific and cover the latest theories and technologies. For students with an aptitude for science subjects and an interest in human health, a course in nutrition or dietetics is well worth considering.
There are two options for students interested in diet and nutritional science – the degree in Human Nutrition & Dietetics run jointly by TCD and DIT, and the degree in Nutritional Sciences at UCC. The CAO points required are around 450 and 500 respectively, while a Higher Level C3 in Chemistry at Leaving Cert level is required for both. Another option is to travel to the University of Ulster, which runs degree courses in Human Nutrition and Food & Nutrition.
Subjects you will encounter on a Dietetics or Nutrition degree include general science subjects such as Physics and Chemistry, and other specialist subjects such as Food Science, Nutrition, Dietetics, Physiology, Biostatics and Behavioural Science.
Courses also include a half-year spell of work experience in a clinical or workplace environment.
Students with an interest in the diet and nutrition area might also consider courses such as Food Science, Food Technology and other science subjects like Biochemistry, Pharmaceutical Science and Environmental Science. There are also a number of shorter PLC and further education courses available in diet and nutrition subjects.
Options after Qualification
Graduates from the TCD/DIT course are eligible to apply for membership with the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI). The majority of graduates move into a career in public or private healthcare provision; however, a third-level qualification in dietetics or nutrition can offer many career possibilities in diverse areas such as food manufacturing, local or national government, education and the media.
There are many options for postgraduate research and study in dietetics and nutrition, with a host of possibilities including food safety, molecular biology and medical research.
Dietician and Nutritionist aren’t just posh names for a Weight Watchers consultant. Public interest in healthy eating is at an all-time high, so qualified dieticians and nutritionists are in huge demand across a number of sectors.
Clinical dieticians work in institutions such as hospitals or nursing homes, where they help prevent and treat illnesses by encouraging healthy eating habits. After consulting with doctors, the patient and his or her family, they scientifically evaluate the patient’s eating regime and suggest dietary modifications. This can include suggestions such as less salt for those with high blood pressure or reduced sugar and fat intake for those who are overweight.
Consultant dieticians perform nutrition screenings and provide advice on areas such as cholesterol reduction and weight loss. Some have their own practices or work in health centres, while others find employment with sports boards or teams, supermarkets or nutrition-related businesses.
Management dieticians supervise the planning and preparation of meals in facilities such as hospitals, schools, prisons and company cafeterias. They develop menus, hire and train food workers and offer expert advice in budgeting and planning healthy meals, safety procedures and sanitation.
Nutritionists might also work in the food industry, where they help to develop new products and calculate their nutritional value. They may also work in a marketing or advertising department, helping to run promotional health campaigns, writing advertisements and producing information to promote products.
Personal Qualities & Work Environment
If you are thinking about becoming a dietician, you will need to be interested in science, people and food, as all three are central to the job. Personal qualities needed include good communication skills, patience and the ability to motivate others.
Dieticians and nutritionists often work in a clinical or hospital environment. Other possibilities include laboratories, offices and manufacturing plants. Dieticians and nutritionists generally work regular office hours.
Newly qualified dieticians can expect a salary of between €24,000 and €32,000. For experienced dieticians, this can rise to as much as €65,000.
JargonDietetics: The study of healthy food and dietary requirements
Sitology: Another term for dietetics; the science of diet
Cholesterol: A white crystalline substance found in animal tissues and various foods, which can clog human arteries and cause serious health problems