Dietitians investigate, diagnose, and treat dietary and nutritional diseases and increase public knowledge of the link between food and health on an individual and communal level.
As an apprentice dietitian, you will translate the latest scientific and public health nutrition research into practical advice to help people make healthy food and lifestyle choices.
You might work in the NHS and private clinics, as well as in the community, learning disabilities, mental health, public health, and acute care settings. You will also advise on food and health policy at the national, local, and individual levels.
Dietitians are an essential element of the healthcare team and the only nutrition professionals who are statutorily regulated.
Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:
- assess the nutritional needs of individuals, families or groups
- create treatment plans to improve nutrition and overall health
- give practical and sensitive dietary advice, tailored to people’s needs
- monitor people’s progress towards healthy eating targets
- create and update confidential clinical records.
- Starting salaries for qualified dietitians range from £25,655 to £31,534 (band 5).
- Dietitians at specialist level (band 6) can earn between £32,306 and £39,027.
- At advanced (highly specialist) level (band 7), you can earn between £40,057 and £45,839.
- Salaries at clinical lead level are usually between £47,126 to £53,219 (band 8a).
- At the highest level, as head of a nutrition and dietetic service, for example, salaries can rise to £75,874 (band 8c).
If you’re working in the NHS you’re likely to work a standard 37.5 hours a week. Elsewhere, you’ll usually work 9am to 5pm, but may need to work some extra hours or weekends if required working on average 38 to 40 hours per week.
You could work in an NHS or private hospital, in the community, at a research facility or at a health centre.
Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice dietitian include:
- Level 6 Dietitian – Entry requirements for this level include 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, preferably including biology, for a degree apprenticeship.
This is typically completed in four years via a mix of on-the-job training and academic study at a recognised college.
If you complete your apprenticeship successfully, you will be eligible for full membership in the British Dietetic Association.
On a dietitian apprenticeship, you’ll learn:
- active listening skills
- knowledge of biology
- sensitivity and understanding
- excellent verbal communication skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- the ability to work well with others
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- the ability to work on your own
- to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device.
The NHS is the major employer of dietitians.
You may also work for:
- local authorities
- catering companies
- care homes
- the food industry and food and drink manufacturers
- supermarket chains
- trade associations and promotional groups
- schools, universities and research establishments
- pharmaceutical companies
- the media
- public relations companies
- publishing companies
- government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
- professional gyms, sports clubs and Olympic camps.
CPD is an important component of being a dietician and is necessary for continued registration with the HCPC.
As a licenced dietitian, you may join the BDA, which provides post-registration training regularly.
Other courses in professionalism, leadership and management are available. Food manufacturers also give training for dietitians on new products, which is sometimes provided via BDA chapters.
In addition, the BDA takes part in two post-registration dietetic apprenticeships: enhanced clinical practitioner and advanced clinical practitioner.
You might pursue postgraduate courses in your area of expertise. Dietetic practise Masters modules are available as stand-alone courses or as part of a Masters programme.
You might also become involved in mentoring and teaching.
The NHS offers a well-defined professional growth path that begins with a basic grade dietitian (band 5), progresses to a dietitian specialist job (band 6), and eventually leads to more advanced duties (band 7). After accumulating experience, you may be promoted to management, where you will be responsible for a team, department, and budget.
Your professional choices will decide your path, such as working in community-based employment in patients’ homes or at a general practitioner’s office. In addition, you may choose to specialise in a particular sector, such as gastrointestinal, diabetes, or cancer, or with a specific clientele, such as children or the elderly.
Dietitians in the food and beverage industry may rise to product development and marketing jobs. You may continue your studies and work in education and research, or you can go into sports, health education, public relations, scientific research, or journalism.
Another alternative is self-employment, which allows you to tailor your job to your interests. Combining freelance work for organisations like the NHS with other activities like writing for medical journals might be a component of this.