Education and Training: College
Salary: Average—$10.99 per hour
Employment Outlook: Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Dietetic technicians help dietitians in the daily operation of food services. Technicians help to plan and prepare meals that are nutritious and satisfying. They work in hospitals, day care centers, nursing homes, and other institutions.
Many dietetic technicians work for schools, colleges, or factories that operate food service facilities. Some work for public health departments, visiting nurse associations, and other health agencies. They may also work in one of the growing number of neighborhood health centers that help families plan better meals. Some dietetic technicians work as supervisors. Others are involved in research.
Dietetic technicians who work in health care facilities often work directly with dietitians to plan patients' diets. They observe and record patients' eating habits and report changes to the dietitian. They also work with the food service staff in the kitchen to make sure that each menu is prepared according to nutrition guidelines.
Dietetic technicians who are supervisors often serve as the liaison between a professional dietitian and the food service employees who work in the kitchens of hospitals, factory cafeterias, schools, and other institutions. Technicians prepare work schedules and time cards. They also supervise the ordering, storing, preparing, and serving of food.
Education and Training Requirements
Prospective dietetic technicians must have an associate's degree. While in high school, they should take courses in the sciences, including family and consumer science. Two-year courses in dietetics are offered by vocational schools and community and junior colleges. Most courses include some practical experience in a food service facility.
Getting the Job
In many cases candidates can get a job with the hospital, health agency, school, or plant where they received their practical training. School placement offices can also be helpful in finding a job. Interested individuals might also try searching newspaper classifieds and job banks on the Internet. The job listings in health care magazines are another good source of information. Candidates can also apply directly to the personnel office of companies, institutions, or agencies where work is desired.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Dietetic technicians begin as assistants to dietitians or food directors. They may then go on to become supervisors in kitchen management or administration. With a bachelor's degree and a year of internship, technicians can become professional dietitians.
Employment opportunities are good. The number of patients requiring long-term care in nursing homes and other institutions will increase, so there will be a greater need for qualified dietetic technicians.
The job is a very active one. There are times when technicians are under pressure to work fast and accurately. They usually work in eight-hour shifts, and they work forty hours per week. Holiday and weekend work is often required. During food preparation, technicians may have to stand for long periods. Wherever technicians work, the environment is clean and well lighted. They generally work with up-to-date equipment.
Where to Go for More Information
American Dietetic Association
120 South Riverside Plaza, Ste. 2000
Chicago, IL 60606-6995
American Society for Nutrition
9650 Rockville Pike, Ste. 4500
Bethesda, MD 20814-3990
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries vary depending on experience, geographic location, and the individual employer. Dietetic technicians earn an average of $10.99 per hour. Benefits include paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and meals during working hours.