Translating the sciences of nutrition and food

dieteticsA dietetics education opens doors for any student who is interested in nutrition and food science and wants a career that involves helping people improve their health. Our graduates enjoy challenging and satisfying jobs in hospitals and nursing homes, schools, public health agencies, the food industry, research labs and clinics.

Is Dietetics A Good Fit For You?

If you enjoy science, are interested in food and like working with people, you’ll find a home in the field of dietetics.

Science is key. Dietetics is a challenging biological field. In addition to nutritional sciences and food science, you will study bacteriology, physiology, chemistry and biochemistry.

An interest in food is important. Wherever your career takes you, you’ll be helping people select and obtain food to nourish their bodies to improve and maintain their health.

Working with people is a big part of the job. Dietitians usually work in a teaching or supervisory role. You may teach individuals or groups how to improve their eating behavior. You may hire and train employees in food production as a food and nutrition manager.

Credentials Count

A Registered Dietitian (R.D.) is the most widely recognized nutrition professional. Although it is possible to specialize in nutrition without being an R.D., it is very difficult to find nutrition-related jobs without this credential. R.D.status signifies professional competence.

There are three steps to earning credentials:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree from an approved/accredited dietetic program
  2. Complete a program of planned clinical and applied experiences
  3. Pass the Registration Examination for Dietitians

Where Your Career Might Lead

You’ll find dietitians in pretty much any field connected to food and nutrition:

  • Health-care
    Dietitians are part of the health care team in hospitals, HMOs and other health-care facilities. They educate patients about nutrition and administer medical nutrition therapy. They also manage food and nutrition operations, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to personnel.
  • Community and public health agencies need trained dietitians to teach, monitor and advise the public. It’s a great opportunity to help people improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.
  • Sports nutrition and wellness programs
  • Dietitians teach clients about the connection between food, fitness and health.
  • Food and nutrition-related firms
  • Food firms need people with dietetics expertise for communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing and product development.
  • Private practice
    Some dietitians work under contract with health care or food companies. Others advise food service or restaurant managers, food vendors and distributors, athletes, nursing home residents, and many other types of clients.
  • Research laboratories need problem solvers
  • Food and pharmaceutical firms, universities and hospitals, require inquisitive people to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition options.
  • Medical centers need people who can teach the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition to physicians, nurses, and dietetics students.

How the Dietetics Degree Program Works

The UW-Madison’s Didactic Program in Dietetics focuses on coursework. After students have earned their B.S. degree in Dietetics, they go on to obtain the clinical experience they need to qualify to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians. Admission to supervised practice programs is competitive as spaces are limited. Selection is based on GPA, work experience and references.

Your first stop as a new dietetics student is the office of your faculty advisor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences—home department for the dietetics program. Your advisor will help you plan your course schedule.

Over a four-year span you will take required background courses in such areas as chemistry, physiology, bacteriology, communication and psychology. These supplement professional courses in the dietetics program offered through the food science and nutritional science departments. During your senior year, you will apply for a dietetic internship to obtain the required clinical experience after graduation. These post-baccalaureate programs run for six to twelve months (longer for part-time and graduate programs).

The UW-Madison’s Didactic Program in Dietetics is currently granted approval status by the Commission of Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) of the American Dietetic Association, 216 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60606-6995. Telephone:(312)899-4876.

Financial Assistance

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences offers many scholarships that are granted based on academic performance, need or extracurricular activities. For more information on scholarships, loans and work-study programs contact the UW-Madison Office of Financial Services. See the department website for information on specific scholarships available for dietetics students.

For more information contact the Department of Nutritional Sciences:

Prospective Student Services: College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Office of Academic Affairs

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an AA/EEO institution. University policies create additional protection that prohibits harassment on the basis of cultural background and ethnicity. Inquires concerning these policies may be directed to the appropriate campus admitting or employing unit or to the Equity and Diversity Resource Center, 179-A, Bascom Hall, (608) 263-2378, TTY (608) 263-2473.