How Can I Become a Pediatric Dietitian?

Research what it takes to become a pediatric dietitian. Learn about educational, licensure and certification requirements, necessary skills and salary information 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 Pediatric Dietitian?

A pediatric dietitian is a dietitian who focuses on nutrition plan development for infants, children and adolescents. They may offer general nutritional strategies and meal planning services for parents and other family members that help children build healthy eating habits that can last for a lifetime. Dietitians may also work with those who need to build a nutrition plan to manage a particular health condition, such as diabetes, celiac disease, PKU, lactose intolerance or an eating disorder. It is also possible to find a job with a school or daycare center, combining nutritional and financial considerations in order to develop an overall plan for the organization.

The table below provides information for this career:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Clinical nutrition, dietetics
Key Responsibilities Assess patient health, develop dietary regimens, monitor client progress
Licensure/Certification Most states require licensure or certification
Job Growth (2014-24) 16% for all nutritionists and dietitians*
Median Salary (2015) $57,910 for all nutritionists and dietitians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need To Become a Pediatric Dietitian?

You'll need at least a 4-year degree in clinical nutrition, dietetics or a related field to get started as a dietician. In a dietetics or nutrition program, you'll take courses in chemistry and biology, as well as focused studies in clinical nutrition, food science, physiology and health issues related to poor nutrition.

Opportunities for education also extend to the graduate level. Many universities offer master's programs in nutrition science or health. Some programs offer specific concentrations in pediatric nutrition or fellowship opportunities in pediatric settings. These programs emphasize knowledge of nutrition as well as research methods. Many programs require you to produce a final project consisting of an original research project or practicum.

Do I Need a License or Certification?

Just over half of all U.S. states and territories require that dietitians be licensed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Requirements for licensure vary by state. In addition, you can pursue certification to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, though this is not a requirement to work in the field. Certification requires a combination of education and experience, in addition to passing an exam.

If you want to become board certified as a specialist in pediatric nutrition by CDR, you'll need to have had your RD certification for two years and have at least 2,000 hours of work experience in pediatric nutrition in the past five years ( You'll also be required to pass an exam in pediatric nutrition.

What Skills Do I Need?

Dietitians should have strong analytical skills and a passion for science. As a healthcare worker, you should also have a sense of empathy and a desire to help others. Because you'll work with children and parents, patience and strong communication skills might be assets.

What Will My Work Be Like?

Dietitians work regular hours, meeting with patients and addressing their needs. You might work in hospitals as well as private practice. In general, your work environment should be comfortable and not overly stressful.

You will assess patient health, develop dietary regimens and monitor progress. Dietitians frequently assist individuals struggling with obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular issues and related disorders. As a pediatric specialist, you might advise on general nutritional issues for infants and toddlers, as well as the more intensive needs of neonates.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Rather than specializing in pediatrics, dietitians may want to work as generalists, offering their services to a broad range of clients. Alternatively, they may choose a different specialization, such as medical nutrition therapy or community nutrition. Another option for individuals who want to help young people develop healthy eating habits is a job as a high school health teacher. It is important to note that, in addition to a bachelor's degree, health teachers must become licensed if they want to work in a public school.

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