How to become a Consultant Dietitian
What is a Consultant Dietitian?
Consultant Dietitians have the opportunity to help individuals with their nutrition in a variety of settings. Consultant Dietitians typically work under a contract for an organization instead of working as an employee.
Requirements to Become a Consultant Dietitian
To become a Consultant Dietitian you must first meet the minimum requirements for a career in dietetics, which include:
A four-year bachelor’s degree in dietetics from an accredited university.
Completion of a 1,200 hour supervised practice program in several different settings including clinical, foodservice, and community. The practice program typically lasts 6-12 months in length.
Pass a national exam administered by the Commission of Dietetic Registration.
Complete continuing education requirements to maintain registration (1).
After becoming a Registered Dietitian, you are now able to do consulting work. Generally, the more experienced you are, the easier it will be to find consulting work in the field you enjoy.
Process of Being a Consultant Dietitian
There is not any formal training to provide consulting work. The first step is to search for consulting dietitian jobs in your area, and apply to the jobs that interest you.
Consulting does require some negotiating of rates and hours. Payment may be made by project or per hour. It is up to you how you would prefer to be paid. After a contract is signed by both parties, work can begin.
Benefits of Being a Consultant Dietitian
There are several benefits for being a Consultant Dietitian. Those benefits include:
The pay is typically at a higher hourly rate since you are not an employee
There are a variety of places you can work including long-term care, private practice, foodservice, or clinical practice
It gives you the opportunity to work in a variety of settings to see what you like
You may have more flexibility in your schedule and how often you want to work
Contracts may lead into long-term employment
Some contracting work may be done at home
Places to Work
Working as a Consultant Dietitian opens the doors to a variety of work settings. Some common places to work as a Consultant Dietitian include:
Long-term care or Assisted Living: Working with the elderly population in long-term care, assisted living or hospice care
Acute Care Hospitals: Working with a variety of medical conditions such as cardiac, intensive care, mental health, neonatal intensive care or bariatrics
Outpatient Clinics: These may include family medicine, eating disorders, therapy, pediatrics or mental health
Adult Day Programs: Working with older adults on certain health conditions, or creating and approving menus for the facility
Dialysis Centers: Working with individuals on dialysis or conditions related to kidney health
Rehabilitation: Such as working with individuals going through physical therapy or occupational therapy
Mental Health Clinic: Working with individuals with eating disorders, substance abuse, or conditions such as depression, autism, or anxiety
Private Practice: Providing services to private practices such as chiropractic care, licensed therapist, medical doctors, or other dietitians looking for additional help with clients
Freelance Writing: Writing nutrition articles for blogs, handouts, or websites. This may also include providing recipe development or meal plans for companies or individuals
Keep in mind that this list is not inclusive and there may be other opportunities not listed.
Where to Find Work
Here are some great websites to search for consultant work nationwide:
Tips for Finding Consulting Work
Network: Attending conferences, business meetings, meet-up groups, health fairs, etc. are all great ways to network and meet others in the community. Remember to bring a copy of your resume and business cards at networking events.
Build your resume: The more experience you have, the better the chances of getting consulting work that pays well. Try volunteering or providing consulting work at a lower cost in the beginning to help build your resume and experiences.
Create a website: Having your own platform creates a more professional appearance. It’s also a great place to show your nutrition philosophy, show work you have previously done, and show testimonials from past clients.
Send in pitches: If you’re interested in doing freelance writing, sending in pitches is a great way to get work. Come up with some unique writing ideas that the individual or organization has not already written about, and show them how it could benefit them.
Set up notifications: Set up email or text notifications when new jobs are listed on job sites to stay alert on new opportunities.
Get active on social media: The more active you are on social media, the higher the chances of someone seeing your work. Having a large following on platforms like Facebook or Instagram is a great way for organizations to learn who you are.
Reach out: Contact different organizations and individuals who you think could benefit from your services. Even if they say no at that time, it may help them remember you in the future if/when they decide they need your services.
Do quality work: When you do quality work you will have a better chance of an individual or organization wanting to work with you again. Also, when they are happy with the work you provided, they may be more likely to provide a testimonial or refer your services to someone else.
Expected Growth for Dietitians
Employment for Dietitians is expected to grow 15% between 2016-2026, and it is projected that 9,600 more jobs will be available between that time frame. This is a much higher rate compared to other occupations (4).
The following map shoes the employment for Dietitians by state from May of 2017.
Important Things to Know for Consulting
Malpractice Insurance: Having malpractice insurance is very important to have as a Consultant Dietitian. As the roles in healthcare continue to expand, it’s important to have insurance in order to protect yourself. Having malpractice insurance can cover expenses from things like the cost of a lawyer, court cost, lost wage reimbursements, or license board hearing reimbursements. There are several companies that offer malpractice insurance for Registered Dietitians. Coverage and cost will vary upon state.
State Licensure: Most states require Dietitians to obtain a license, certification or registration to practice. Licensure is the strictest form of state regulation and those without a license are not able to practice. It is important to check within your state to see what the requirement are.
The following states do not require a licensure: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Limited Liability Company: Also known as an L.L.C., this is a legal business structure designed to protect your personal assets from company liabilities. Those who provide consulting work may be attracted to an L.L.C. to help protect having personal assets at risk. It is important to look into your state requirements, and speak to a financial or business expert to see what would be the best fit for you.
Charge What You Are Worth: Dietitians are often underpaid, but when it comes to consulting work you have the ability to charge what you are worth. We are the experts in nutrition, so don’t underestimate how long a project will take, or how much you believe you should be getting paid.
Summary: There are many options for Registered Dietitians to provide consulting work. There’s several things to learn about and consider when getting into this line of work, so it’s best to seek support from others in the field before getting started. Consulting can provide very rewarding and diverse experiences, while often providing higher pay and more flexibility in your schedule.
1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2013). Career in dietetics. Retrieved from http://www.eatrightpro.org/~/media/eatrightpro%20files/career/become%20an%20rdn%20or%20dtr/becoming-a-registered-dietitian.ashx
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Dietetics and nutritionists. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Dietitians-and-nutritionists.htm