Thinking about a career in Nutrition? Wondering how you might get there?
There are a few different educational pathways that can gain you the skills and qualifications to start a career in nutrition and/or dietetics. You also need to decide if you want to become a nutritionist or a dietician.
What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietician, I hear you ask?
The difference is usually in educational attainment but sometimes simply in the choice of title. I mention title because some accredited dieticians choose to call themselves Nutritionists for their own purposes. Further, a dietician can always work as and/or call themselves a nutritionist but a nutritionist can’t call themselves a dietician.
Dieticians are the most qualified and highest paid practitioners of nutrition in Australia. In order to practise as a dietician, you must become what is known as an Accredited Practising Dietician (APD). This title is bestowed on you once you have proven to the Dieticians Association of Australia – the peak governing body of the sector – that you have completed the required qualification from one of their accredited universities.
Dieticians work as consultants and as researchers in the field of nutrition at universities in:
- Private practice
- Healthcare clinics
- Government departments
The most commonly travelled path to becoming a dietician is by the completion of a four-year bachelor degree in Dietetics. The only real alternative is by completing a dietetics post-grad qualification, which is usually 2 years in length. Of course to gain entry to a post-grad in dietetics you must already possess some kind of bachelor degree.
Nutritionists are regulated by The Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA). Since there is no government regulation, anyone could theoretically call themselves a Nutritionist. However, to be properly regarded, insured and (most crucially) to be able to access private health insurance rebates for your clients, you will need to be accredited by the NSA as either an Associate Nutritionist ‘ANutr’ or a Registered Nutritionist ‘RNutr’.
Nutritionists sometimes work alongside dieticians, usually at the dietician’s direction. Nutritionists also work as consultants or researchers in:
- Private practice
- Hospitals (although less often than dieticians)
- Healthcare clinics
Registered and associate nutritionists are well-remunerated professionals but do tend to earn less than Accredited Practising Dieticians.
A three year bachelor degree with a major in nutrition, is what is required to garner the Associate Nutritionist title. To be recognised as a Registered Nutritionist, you will need to be at ANutr level and undertake further education in nutrition, such as a post-grad certificate, and/or 3 years’ experience working in a nutrition related field.
Can I gain work in the field of nutrition without needing a university degree you ask?
Yes you can!
There are a number of private colleges and TAFE providers around the country offering the Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine. It is completed in 18 months to 2 years full-time and up to 4 years part-time. The advanced diploma is government recognised and can be used to gain you membership of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society or the Australian Natural Therapists Association.
Membership of either body allows you to gain insurance for yourself and importantly to gain private health insurance rebates for your clients. This means your clients won’t have to pay you out-of-pocket for all of their expenses. Therefore, you will be able to attract many more clients!
The Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine enables you to hold the title of Nutritional Medicine Practitioner or Nutritional Therapist and work in private practise or at healthcare clinics. Remember though, diploma level practitioners are almost always less well remunerated than their degree level counterparts.
The more attractive thing about the diploma pathway is the fact it can also be used to give you ‘advanced standing’ towards a health science degree. Advanced standing is basically a high level of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) that you can use towards gaining a health science degree.
For instance, if you complete your advanced diploma and then choose to study the Bachelor’s degree of Health Science (Complementary Medicine) at Charles Sturt University (CSU). Twelve to 18 months will be credited towards the degree, leaving between 18 months and 2 years study required to complete the degree.