How Do I Become a Hospital Dietitian?

Anna B. Smith

To become a hospital dietitian, students must complete a national certification program, receive a secondary licensure where appropriate, and apply for a job at a hiring hospital. The certification program can often be completed at a four year university which offers qualifying course work and practical experience. Students can take a final examination once they have completed their course work to receive their certification. Each hospital posting for this type of position may ask for additional credentials, and applicants can benefit by fully reading all job qualification requirements prior to applying for the position.

Students must complete a national certification program to become a hospital dietitian.
Students must complete a national certification program to become a hospital dietitian.

The type of certification necessary to become a hospital dietitian is typically available from a national dietitians association and can be obtained by completing an approved list of classroom course work and a set number of practical application hours. The practical application is designed to allow students to shadow existing dietitians and gain a real world perspective of food management and nutrition counseling. The purpose of the certification is to create a common standard in regards to health care education so that hiring employers can feel confident that those who possess such credentials have been adequately and competently trained.

Students with a desire to become a hospital dietitian can apply to universities which offer an accredited course work program. Two types of programs exist to help students along the way to their goals. The first type of nutrition program is designed to meet all course work and practical experience required by the certification program. Students who graduate with this type of degree are usually able to immediately take the final certification exam and become a registered dietitian. The second type of nutrition program available only provides students with the necessary classroom experience, requiring students who graduate with this type of degree to obtain a dietitian internship for practical experience prior to applying for their written examination.

Once they have completed the certification program necessary for their particular country, students can then begin searching for jobs to become a hospital dietitian. Hospitals may choose to post for this type of position through an external dietitian's association. Registered dietitians can often benefit by become members of local or national dietitian's associations and searching for work through such sites.

Some local regions require that dietitians hold a secondary license in addition to national certification. This license is usually issued by a local dietitian agency, and is not necessary in every country or region. Hospitals that require this secondary license may allow qualified candidates to obtain this within a specified amount of time after they have been hired to become a hospital dietitian.

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