Pediatric Dietitian: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for pediatric dietitians. Get the facts about job duties, education requirements, licensing and salary to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pediatric Dietitian?

Pediatric dietitians specialize in designing dietary plans for children. They may work with individuals and their families, or they may develop menus for larger groups of children, such as those in a school or camp, that support healthy growth and development. When working with clients one-on-one, pediatric dietitians assess the individual needs of children and their families, whether they are looking to instill general healthy lifestyle habits or use diet to manage a particular medical condition, like celiac disease or diabetes. In addition, some pediatric dietitians do research on the effects of diet on infants, children and teenagers. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree at minimum
Education Field of Study Nutrition, dietetics
Key Responsibilities Create healthy food plans for children or groups of children; provide nutrition education to children & parents; research individual nutrition needs
Licensure Required Most states require licensing, certification &/or registration; optional specialty certification in pediatric nutrition is available
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 16% for all dietitians and nutritionists*
Average Salary (2015) $58,410 for all dietitians and nutritionists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Will My Job Responsibilities Be as a Pediatric Dietitian?

As a pediatric dietitian, you will specialize in the nutrition and diet needs of children. Your job duties will vary depending on your work environment, but you will most likely be responsible for creating nutritional food plans, educating children and their families about healthy diet habits or conducting research on the unique nutritional needs of children. You may work one-on-one with children to assess individual nutritional needs, or you may be responsible for assessing the dietary requirements of a larger group of individuals and implementing nutrition plans that produce positive results.

Where Could I Work?

While pediatric dietitians do specialize in children's nutrition, you can do so within a variety of environments. Your expertise may be needed in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, clinical laboratories, government organizations, schools, private practices, the food industry, pharmaceutical agencies or daycare facilities.

Several types of dietitians exist, so your work environment may depend on which area of dietetics you enter. As a clinical dietitian, you could work with children in hospitals or other healthcare facilities to determine the nutritional needs of your patients and administer programs accordingly. Community dietitians tend to work in public clinics or with public health organizations. In these environments, you counsel and instruct people on dietary needs in order to prevent disease and encourage healthy eating habits. As a management dietitian, you would most likely work in an industry setting, such as a school, in order to plan and prepare appropriate menus for the children. As a consultant dietitian, you could have a private practice and work one-on-one with clients to counsel children and their parents about proper nutrition programs.

What Type of Education or Training Do I Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in order to be a pediatric dietitian, you will need at least a bachelor's degree in nutrition, dietetics or a related field (www.bls.gov). As a student in nutrition or dietetics, you will be required to take general science courses in biology and chemistry in addition to any specialty courses. These specialty courses may include food science, clinical nutrition, nutrition for special needs children and weight management. Additionally, some degree programs may require that you complete an internship or fieldwork to receive some hands-on experience.

Once you earn your bachelor's degree, you may have to meet specific state licensing or certification requirements. These vary widely by state, so be sure to check the requirements for your area. Separate from your state's requirements, you could also become a registered dietitian with the Commission on Dietetic Registration if you meet the minimum education requirements, complete an accredited supervised internship program and pass the registration exam (www.cdrnet.org). The Commission also offers the opportunity to become board certified as a pediatric nutrition specialist. This certification requires a large amount of experience in your specialty area and could be beneficial to your career as a pediatric dietitian.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to the BLS, as of May 2015, dietitians in general, including pediatric dietitians, averaged an annual salary of $58,410. Your earnings will vary depending on where you work and the amount of experience you have. In addition, the BLS expects much faster-than-average job growth of 16% for dietitians and nutritionists in general during the 2014-2024 decade. Growth will be spurred in part by concern about obesity in the U.S.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want a job that involves supporting children's health, you could also consider getting a job as a registered pediatric nurse (RN). These professionals assist pediatricians and other healthcare professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of children with a wide range of illnesses and injuries. They also counsel patients and families about healthy lifestyle choices, which can include dietary advice. In order to become an RN, you need to earn an associate's or bachelor's degree and pass a licensure exam. You might also be interested in working as a health educator in a college. In this job, you would design outreach programs to teach young adults about health-related issues and help them navigate the challenges of independent living, such as eating healthy and cooking for themselves. Health educators also usually need a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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