Registered dietitians assess, diagnose, educate and treat dietary and nutritional problems.

Dietitians translate their expert nutritional and dietetic knowledge into practical guidance to help prevent disease and enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. They also advise those who need a modified or special diet to treat medical conditions.

Dietitians work as part of a team caring for people in hospital or in the community. Other career opportunities include working in the food industry, public health, education, sports nutrition or in the media.

My name is Leanne and I'm a Paediatric Dietitian and I work for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

The main skills I feel I bring to my job are communication and counselling skills. The main reason being, a lot of the patients and families that we see can often find it difficult to accept or make changes to their diet.

So, the main reason I became interested in the profession of dietetics started off when I had a friend at school who had a condition that required her to make changes to her diet. At the same time at school, I was learning about nutrition that stemmed my interest in nutrition and I later applied for a nutrition and dietetics course at university.

My job is very varied. It can consist of ward work, where I see children on the ward. It can also consist of outpatient clinics, which can include a clinic on my own or with other health professionals. And it can also consist of group work, in which I do educational sessions with families, parents, and other health professionals.

My job is extremely rewarding. I would say the most rewarding part is when you see a child's growth and condition improve due to the changes I've helped them to make.

Dietitians understand how different foods affect the body and use this expert knowledge to help people plan diets and to motivate them to change their eating habits.

You will work with people who have diet-related disorders, providing practical advice, using the most up to date public health and scientific research on food health and disease. As a dietitian you’ll also educate and advise people who require a special diet as part of their treatment plan. You may also support patients who are trialling dietary interventions, such as exclusion diets, or supplementation by reviewing, planning and organising their nutritional care.

In NHSScotland, you could work with people of all ages who:

  • have long term conditions such as diabetes or kidney failure
  • need to lose weight for health or medical reasons
  • need to put on weight to promote recovery after illness
  • have an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa
  • have food or other allergies

You could work with other professional colleagues such as medical, nursing, allied health professionals (AHPs) and carers in the community or hospital setting. You may also train, support and advise your colleagues, support workers, and dietetic students.

To work as a dietitian, useful skills include:

  • an interest in people, nutrition and food science
  • assertiveness
  • strong communication skills
  • good leadership skills
  • being able to work as part of a team

Useful abilities include:

  • able to relate to people with different backgrounds and cultures
  • able to explain complex ideas in a simple way
  • able to motivate others
  • compassion and sensitivity

To work as a dietitian in NHSScotland, you must have gained a qualification in dietetics either at BSc level (undergraduate) or PG diploma/masters level (postgraduate). The course you choose must be approved by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). In Scotland, you can study at 3 universities towards a career in dietetics:

The minimum academic entry requirements for undergraduate degrees vary, but most universities in Scotland require SQA Higher BBBC grades, including English, Chemistry and another science subject. A pass in National 5 English and Maths grade A - C is also required, if these subjects are not achieved at SQA Higher grade.

Medical screening, evidence of immunisation and satisfactory Protecting Vulterable Groups (PVG) clearance may also be required.

Entry requirements vary depending on the university, college or provider. You are advised to contact each individual provider to find out its specific requirements.

Degree programmes are usually 3 or 4 years, although some universities offer shortened postgraduate degrees if you have a relevant first degree. For information about all approved programmes for dietitians in the UK, please visit the HCPC website. Applications for all approved programmes are made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) – Access to Dietetics (SCQF Level 6)

This programme is for adults returning to education, perhaps changing career or seeking to gain the equivalent university entry qualifications needed for dietetics. There are no formal entry qualifications, but applicants should have a good standard of general education and have been away from formal education for a minimum of 2 – 3 years.

Successful completion of the course could lead to:

  • A degree in dietetics by applying to universities that participate in the SWAP partnership programme
  • HNC Food Science and Technology (SCQF Level 7)
  • HNC Applied Sciences (SCQF Level 7)

Please visit the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) website for more information or you can view the following videos:

The job title ‘dietitian’ is protected by law and can only be used by qualified professionals who have registered with the HCPC.  After graduation, you will be entitled to register with them. As a registered dietitian, you can also become a member of the British Dietetic Association (BDA).

During your career, you must undertake continuing professional development (CPD) so you can keep your knowledge and skills up to date and continue to meet the HCPC CPD Standards to remain registered.

The BDA offers a 5-year programme to support your CPD activities. Find out about the BDA Professional Development Toolkit on their website.

Most dietitians in NHSScotland start at band 5 of the agenda for change pay scale. Through experience and additional training, you could progress to specialist dietitian roles at band 6 and advanced roles at band 7.

You could also choose to specialise in a clinical area, such as cancer or diabetes. Or, you could work with particular groups, such as the elderly or those with learning difficulties. Teaching and health education are also options.

Find out more information from these professional bodies:

Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC)

The HCPC is an independent, UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards for health, psychological, and in England; social work professionals. It maintains a public register of qualified professionals and works to improve industry standards and education. Visit the HCPC website to find out more.

British Dietetic Association (BDA)

Founded in 1936, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) represents dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. They are a trade union and professional body and their role is to inform, protect, represent and support its members.