Dietary Aide Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a dietary aide. Learn about common job responsibilities, education and training requirements, and earning potential, to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Dietary Aide?

A dietary aide, also known as a dietetic technician, serves is an assistant to a dietician. They assist dieticians with the development of meal plans that can help clients maintain their health, meet specific wellness goals or manage diet-related diseases and medical conditions. They may work with individuals or with groups of clients. In addition to direct assistance with menu development, dietary aides may support dieticians by performing clerical tasks like patient scheduling.

The following table presents an overview for this career:

Education Required High school diploma or GED (minimum), nutrition assistant certificate program, bachelor's degree (for career advancement)
Training Required Supervised on-the-job training, internship, apprenticeship
Education Field of Study Nutrition, health sciences
Key Responsibilities Plan and prepare meals, consult dietary guidelines, document medical histories, supervise patients during meals, assist dietitians
Job Growth (2014-2024) 13% (for all dietetic technicians)*
Average Salary (2015) $29,170 (for all dietetic technicians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Where Do Dietary Aides Work?

A dietary aide may go by such alternate titles as diet tech, diet clerk, diet technician registered (DTR), certified dietary manager (CDM) or nutrition technician, according to O*Net OnLine (www.onetonline.org). In this role, you work under the supervision of a registered dietician or nutritionist in correctional facilities, state and local health departments and hospitals and nursing facilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Other options may include assisted-living facilities, outpatient care, wellness centers or a self-employed dietary consultant.

The BLS also states that working for an airline or college or company cafeteria is also a possibility. You may be interested in one of the many state and federal family service programs or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is a major employer of dietary specialists.

What Types of Activities Would I Perform?

Your job duties usually depend on where you work, as well as your level of experience and training. According to O*Net, you may plan and prepare meals according to specific dietary guidelines. Other responsibilities may include taking patient histories, assessing recipes, supervising meal preparation and observing patients during meal times. You may also assist your supervising dietician with research and other relevant tasks.

Do I Need Formal Training?

Even though the minimum education requirement is usually high school equivalency, some dietary aides and nutrition assistants may have bachelor's degrees in nutrition, health sciences or a related field. In general, you receive supervised, on-the-job training and may also be involved with an internship or other type of apprenticeship program, according to O*Net.

You may want to consider enrolling in a nutrition assistant certificate program. In one year, you complete coursework on nutrition, food safety, diet therapy and the effects of various foods on health and wellness.

After completing your coursework and passing any relevant exams, you can pursue jobs for a variety of government-funded and independent community-based programs such as Head Start or Women, Infants and Children (WIC), as well as local food banks and meal-delivery services.

What Salary Might I Earn?

According to the BLS, dietary technicians made an average of $14.03 per hour or $29,170 per year as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). While the BLS did not specify whether or not the dietary technicians were certified, you may want to consider this option to potentially assist with employment or advancement opportunities. If you are already certified, then you may want to consider enrolling in a degree program to become a dietician or nutritionist.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as a technician for a dietician, you might also be interested in working as an assistant to a different kind of health professional. For instance, as a pharmacy assistant, you would help pharmacists prepare and dispense prescription medications. In a retail setting, you might also sell nutritional supplements. For this job, you need at least a high school diploma. Another option is to become a physical therapist assistant. In this job, you would work closely with a physical therapist to help treat patients who are recovering from injuries or managing movement-related conditions. You might also teach them exercises to improve their range of motion. Physical therapist assistants need an associate's degree.

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