Are you someone who would look at the nutritional value of all food items before consuming them, and wonder if you are eating right? Does educating others about right food habits and nutrition excite you? If yes, then you would enjoy a career as a Dietician.
Dieticians are counsellors who examine and evaluate the dietary habits of individuals, and further guide them to eat a balanced diet according to various principles of dietetics and nutrition. They deal with the science of nutrition and apply that knowledge to health care and rehabilitation.
How to Become a Dietician in India?
To become a Dietician, you need to follow the steps below:
- Clear class 12th with any stream (Science with Biology is preferred).
- Pursue B.Sc/B.A Nutrition or B.Sc Food Technology.
- Pursue a PG Diploma in Nutrition or an M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition.
- Intern for 6-months and clear the Registered Dietician entrance exam (to obtain the Registered Dietician license from the IDA).
Now Let’s discuss each of these steps in detail.
Becoming a Dietician: Stream and Subjects in Class 12th
You can take any stream in your class 12th, however, the science stream (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) is highly recommended, as it opens up a wider range of courses and career opportunities. Also, taking Biology as a subject will help you build a base through a focus on human physiology.
Becoming a Dietician: Courses in Graduation
There are various courses that you can pursue in your graduation in order to become a dietician in India, such as B.Sc Nutrition, B.Sc Home Science, etc. The admission to all these undergraduate programs is based on merit.
1. B.Sc. / B.A. Nutrition: It is a 3-year course focusing on a wide variety of topics, such as human physiology, basics of nutrition, food biotechnology, health, weight loss strategies, human physiology, etc. The degree not only focuses on the general health but also provides expertise in areas such as public health, maternal and child nutrition, etc. You will also be exposed to the techniques of food preservation, food, and quality analysis, fundamentals of the bakery, etc. By the end of the course, you will be trained in planning diet charts and working on weight loss plans individually.
2. B.Sc. Food Technology: It is a 3-year course that focuses on the safe use of food. Food technology is the process in which various principles of food science are applied to the selection, preservation, packaging and safe distribution of food. During the course, you will be exposed to the basics of food technology, principles of food science, nutrition, food processing and engineering, food preparation, etc. Another important area in which you will be trained is food quality testing and evaluation. This course will help you in understanding the science behind food and nutrition, and will also open a wide array of options beyond nutrition.
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Becoming a Dietician: Courses during Post Graduation
After your graduation, you can either opt for postgraduate diplomas related to nutrition and dietetics (such as Post-Graduate Diploma in Dietetics & Public Health Nutrition), or a Master’s degree in Food & Nutrition. It is highly recommended to pursue your Master’s to get an edge over others in the job market. The degree gives you theoretical knowledge and practical experience, both in the form of internships and research. The topics are also taught in greater detail.
M.Sc in Food and Nutrition: Post-Graduate programs give you a chance to choose your specialization from various fields in food and nutrition such as Clinical Health (dealing with clinical patients), Child/Adolescents, Public Health, Food processing etc. The course focuses on advanced Human Nutrition, Therapeutic Nutrition, Food Science, Quality Control, etc. It is mandatory to complete a 6-8 months internship. You will be made to work in different areas and undergo rigorous training.
The dissertation is also a very important and crucial part of the course. A dissertation is a short research where you select a topic of your interest, and conduct research on it. It will give you an exposure to the research side of the field, thus giving you a chance to practically experience what you study in your books. Admission to the various postgraduate programs is through entrance exams conducted by respective colleges.
Post Graduate Diploma: Post Graduate diplomas are generally 1-year long, and are extremely comprehensive. These courses will expose you to the fundamentals of nutrition, public nutrition, therapeutic nutrition, public health nutrition and institutional food management. Different colleges have different course structures, but these are some of the basic elements of such courses. Most of them end with a 7-8 week’s compulsory internship at a healthcare centre. Admission to PG Diploma programs is through merit.
In most cases, a postgraduate diploma is enough, but if you want to study in detail and conduct a dissertation at your post-graduate level, then a M.Sc would be a better option. If you are just looking to obtain the Registered Dietician License, a PG Diploma is sufficient.
Becoming a Dietician: College and Institutes
Here are a few colleges for B.A, B.Sc., PG Diploma and M.Sc. Courses in food and nutrition:
- Lady Irwin College (New Delhi)
- Institute of Home Economics, (New Delhi)
- SNDT Women’s University (Mumbai)
- Women’s Christian College (Chennai)
- All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Nirmala Niketan (Mumbai)
Difference between a Dietician and a Nutritionist in India
Many people use the terms, Dietician, and Nutritionist, interchangeably, but their job roles and educational qualifications are different. Nutritionists are professionals who advise people on the types and quantity of food intake required specifically to increase or decrease their body weight.
On the other hand, dietitians are experts who guide patients (medical patients in hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) regarding the right kinds of nutritional intake. For example, a person recovering from a car accident would have different requirements from someone suffering from cancer. They are specialized in nutrition for different categories of people, especially clinical patients. Dieticians can work as Nutritionists, but Nutritionists cannot work as Dieticians.
Once you know what Dieticians do, it is important to understand how you can obtain the license to practice individually, which will ultimately help you in your career growth.
How to Become a Registered Dietician
After completing your graduation and post-graduation/ PG diploma, you will be termed as a Nutritionist. In order to be termed as a dietician, it is important to register with the Indian Dietetic Association as a Registered Dietician.
To qualify as a Registered Dietician, you are required to pass the entrance exam conducted by the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA). You should have either completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Nutrition & Dietetics or a M.Sc. in Food & Nutrition, followed by a 6-months internship after graduation, to be eligible for the exam.
The exam is divided into 2 papers. Paper-1 includes areas such as Human Physiology, Biochemistry, Physiologic and Metabolic Changes in Disease, Food Microbiology, Sanitation, and Hygiene, etc. Paper-2 includes Human Nutrition and Meal Management, Community Nutrition, Diet Therapy (Theory), Nutrition Education and Dietetic Counselling and Food Services Management.
Now that you know about the route to becoming a Dietician, the next question that might have popped up in your mind is whether the field has good career opportunities after graduation. In the next section, we will explore the scope of a Dietician in various areas.
Scope for Dieticians in India
- Clinical Dieticians: They work with patients in health care settings, such as hospitals, nursing care facilities, etc., and help them in maintaining their nutritional intake. For e.g., a clinical dietician might help cancer patients to maintain their health by eating the right quantity of nutrients.
- Pediatric Dieticians: They work with children of all age groups such as infants and adolescents and advise them on nutrition accordingly. They can either work in hospitals or set up an independent practice.
- Sports and Health Dieticians: They work with various sports clubs, sports hostels, and athletic teams. They make diet plans for the sports personnel, both to maintain their weight and body muscle, and to keep their nutrition levels in check.
- Research and Development: Dieticians can also work in the field of research to ensure the quality and nutritional values of food items. They work in labs and study the effects of different types of diet forms on the body. The main area of focus is the nutritive components of food. The results of such research efforts also serve to aid practising Dieticians in their work.
- Academics: They teach in various schools and colleges to pass on their knowledge of nutrition to aspiring dietitians. They work as Home Science teachers in school or as lecturers in colleges.
- Community Dieticians: Dieticians can also work with various fitness clubs, public health agencies, government projects, to educate individuals on food nutrition and eating a balanced diet to prevent diseases. They work with large groups and communities.
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