Working as a dietitian is enjoyable, diverse and secure. If you are interested in food, people, health and nutrition, it may be the job for you.
What is a dietitian?
A dietitian is a specialist who gives people advice on food, health and nutrition.
What do dietitians do?
Dietitians study the science of food and nutrition and how this affects people’s health. They use what they know to prevent disease, treat medical conditions and improve sport performance. They do this by:
- working out someone’s food and fluid intake based on their eating habits
- investigating a patient’s nutritional needs
- creating a care plan with advice on how to follow it
- supporting patients who need nutritional supplements – feeding by a tube into their gut or bloodstream
- working with GPs, consultants and doctors to prescribe the best nutritional supplements
Dietitians also teach people about nutrition. They teach patients, clients, students and people working in healthcare, sports and food industries. There are lots of ways they do this:
- speaking to people one-to-one or presenting to groups
- writing for social media, blogs, websites, or newspapers and magazines
- recording vlogs, podcasts, radio or TV programmes
- doing research
- advising on specific diets, healthy school meals, recipes, menus and new products
What is dietetics?
To become a dietitian, you will study a subject called ‘dietetics’. You learn about food and nutrition and how this affects people’s health. When you become a dietitian, you use this knowledge to help people stay healthy and manage health conditions.
Where do dietitians work? (video here or info graphic? text is for our purposes only not to be reproduced in full)
Dietitians work in lots of different places. When they leave university, many dietitians work in the NHS. This could be in a hospital or a clinic in a GPs surgery or health centre. Dietitians work in the community in schools, prisons and care homes. Some work in a patient or client’s own home. All dietitians teach people about nutrition. But some specialise in education and work in a university. Others work in the media. They write or speak online, TV or radio. Some work in a company or institute to do research. Dietitians also work for companies that sell or make food, drink and supplements. This is called the food industry. Dietitians work in places where people do sport. For example, gyms and football clubs. Dietitians can work from home or in their own private practice.
care home (again needs styling appropriately)
gyms and sports clubs
patient or client’s home
What areas do they work in? (WEB - All should link to specialist group pages on the BDA website for more info www.bda.uk.com/about-dietetics/what-do-dietitians-do.html DESIGN - do not present as static list
NB italicised are important to user group, consider testing for others)
Dietitians work in a huge variety of areas:
critical care (patients who are seriously ill and need constant monitoring)
gastroenterology (the digestive system)
immunology and immune diseases
low income groups
neurological diseases (like Parkinson's and motor neurone disease)
palliative/end of life care
parenteral and enteral nutrition (fed by a tube to the gut or vein)
preconception and pregnancy
renal (kidney) nutrition
respiratory disease (COPD)
specialised diets (like vegan, allergies and intolerances)
Who do they work with?
Dietitians help everyone understand how food and nutrition affect health. This includes:
- healthy people
- people at risk of getting an illness or disease
- people who have a medical condition
- student dietitians
- other healthcare workers
- athletes and trainers
- people working in the food industry. For example, restaurants, caterers and manufacturers
Dietitians often work as part of a multi-disciplinary team. That is a team of other healthcare workers like doctors, nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists. Working as a team means they can find the best approach for a patient in hospital or in the community.
Why become a dietitian? (web/design - layout needs input please, I can supply quotations from survey or Rob use video to bring to life)
Dietitians love working with people and food. They love the diversity of their job – working with all sorts of different people and in all sorts of areas. They love a challenge, and making a difference. If you enjoy these things then dietetics could be the career for you.
- Secure and sustainable
Dietitians play an important role in the nation’s health. Lots of people needing to see a dietitian means lots of jobs! There is a need for more dietitians.
The public are secure when working with a dietitian. This is because dietitians are registered with a regulating body – The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The HCPC makes sure dietitians (and 15 other health professions) are fit to practise and that patients get a high standard of care. They take action if this is not the case.
Dietitians work to promote sustainable eating – how food impacts the environment and climate change. In 2020 the BDA launched Sustainable September to help raise awareness of how you can eat healthily for you and the planet.
- Flexible and diverse
There is a huge range of jobs for a dietitian in lots of different workplaces all over the country. This is great because you can work in more than one area or specialism during your career, or work in more than one at the same time. For example, you could teach in university and have your own freelance practice.
Dietitians work with all ethnic and age groups, and some choose to specialise. For example, working with older people or babies, or minority ethnic groups.
Whether you are employed or self-employed, there is flexibility in how many hours or days you work. Job-sharing, part-time work and opportunities for career breaks are also possible.
A dietitian earns £478.98 to £855.83 a week or £24,907 to £44,503 a year working for the NHS.
If you work outside the NHS you could earn the same or more than this. It will depend on what you do and your experience.
Lots of students take a loan from a student loan service to pay their university fees and other living costs. But if you are studying dietetics, depending on where you study in the UK, you could get your fees paid, or apply for funding towards your fees, and other costs such as living, travel and childcare.
How can I become a dietitian?
You must do a degree in dietetics to become a dietitian.
You can study for an undergraduate degree for three or four years, which includes work placements.
If you already have a degree in life sciences – 2:1 or above with adequate human physiology and biochemistry – you could apply for a two-year postgraduate course.
Funding [this is also a separate page on the BDA website now, query repeat in full (if so I need to add links in text) here or link out?]
Lots of students take a loan from a student loan service to pay their university fees and other living costs. But if you are studying dietetics, depending on where you study in the UK, you could get your fees paid, and apply for funding towards your fees and other costs such as living, travel and childcare.
If you want to become a dietitian and live in the UK you can apply for a grant of £5,000 for each year you study.
The grant does not need to be paid back and is available for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses..
You can also apply for parental support, travel, accommodation and exceptional hardship grants.
There are some rules about who can apply. Full information is on the government website and on the dietetics page of all universities that run the course.
You do not have to pay university fees if dietetics is your first undergraduate degree and you are from Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland or the EU. The fees are paid by the Department of Health.
You can also apply for a range of grants including maintenance, special support, disability, childcare, adult dependants, parents’ learning and travel, depending on your circumstances.
For postgraduate courses, part-funding is available and there is an allowance for disabled students.
Full information is on the Ulster University website who run the only dietetics courses in Northern Ireland.
You do not have to pay university fees if dietetics is your first undergraduate degree and you are from Scotland or the EU. The fees are paid by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).
You can also apply for a living cost grant if you are a single parent or have dependents.
Postgraduate students do not get their fees paid.
You can apply for a disabled students allowance if you are on a undergraduate or postgraduate course. Full information is on the SAAS website.
You do not have to pay university fees if dietetics is your first undergraduate degree and you live in the UK.
You can also get a £1,000 grant, a bursary towards living costs and other costs like childcare, and disabled student, dependents and parental learning allowances.
Students who already hold a first degree, and are doing a postgraduate diploma (PG Dip) in dietetics also get their fees paid and can apply for the bursaries and grant outlined above.
Students from the EU and have lived in the UK for three years before the course starts can also apply for the bursary. If they haven’t lived in Wales for this period of time, they can still apply for the fees bursary only.
To qualify for any funding you have to commit to working in Wales after you graduate for two years (if you did a three year course) or 18 months (if you did a two year course). If you cannot commit to this you can still study a course in Wales but need to fund yourself or through the student loan service in your home country.
For more information visit the student award services pages on the NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership website.
NHS Wales Bursary Terms and Conditions.pdf link to existing documents, ideally link to a website incase of updates
NHS Wales Bursary Scheme FAQ.pdf
Welsh Bursary Scheme FAQ.pdf
There are lots of different universities that offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses in dietetics. You can find a list on the University College Admissions Service (UCAS) website.
What GCSE and A level subjects do I need to become a dietitian?
You’ll usually need:
at least five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English, maths, and a science
three A levels, including biology (some also need chemistry)
What can I do if I don’t have GCSEs and A levels?
There are other routes for students who have not got GCSEs and A levels. You can do equivalent courses such as Functional Skills, International Baccalaureate, Access to Science, BTEC Diploma, and Foundation courses in Science. Contact the universities directly for specific entry requirements.
It is a good idea to do some work experience before applying for a course or job as an assistant.
Arrange a visit to a dietetic department at your local hospital so you can get an idea of what the work is like and whether it would suit you.
Voluntary or paid work experience, or working as a dietetic assistant practitioner or support worker, will also show your interest and understanding of the area.
Contact the dietetic manager at your local hospital to ask about opportunities.
Experience in care work, with a nutrition-related charity or as a healthcare assistant is also useful.