The majority of registered dietitian nutritionists work in the treatment and prevention of disease — administering medical nutrition therapy as part of medical teams — often in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health care facilities. In addition, a large number of registered dietitian nutritionists work in community and public health settings and academia and research. However, a growing number of RDNs work with food and nutrition industries and business, journalism, sports nutrition, corporate wellness programs and other non-traditional work settings.
In other words, RDNs have the opportunity to contribute their food and nutrition expertise in a wide variety of settings throughout the community. Here's how:
As part of the health care team, RDNs working in the hospital setting educate patients about nutrition and administer medical nutrition therapy. They may also manage the foodservice operations in these settings, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.
Learning the importance of good nutrition early on is key for lifelong health. RDNs often work with school food service directors to create healthy menus and help administrators create and revise wellness policies.
Public Health Clinics
RDNs can be found at public health clinics teaching, monitoring and advising the public and helping improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits. They also work at Head Start and Early Childhood Education Programs guiding childhood nutrition programs.
Believe it or not, Medicare regulations actually mandate that nursing homes employ a registered dietitian. As such, RDNs are key members of the care team, evaluating the overall nursing home menu and catering to the diets of high risk residents.
If you're looking for a captive audience you'll find it working at fitness centers, where RDNs educate clients about the connection between food, fitness and health. Beyond the gym, RDNs are often hired to work with professional sports teams on menu planning, weight management, performance enhancement, recovery and medical nutrition therapy to complement athletes' training.
In food and nutrition-related businesses and industries, RDNs work in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing and product development roles.
Want to teach? RDNs with a classroom calling often instruct physician's assistants, nurses, dietetics students, dentists and others about the sophisticated science of food and nutrition.
Whether at food or pharmaceutical companies, universities or hospitals, RDNs who choose to go into the research field will find themselves directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.
If being your own boss sounds enticing, consider private practice. Working under contract with health care or food companies or in their own business, RDNs may provide services to foodservice or restaurant managers, food vendors and distributors or athletes, nursing home residents or company employees.