How you can become a dietitian
Choosing subjects at school
To get on a course that could lead to a career as a dietitian, useful subjects include:
- Human Biology
- Health and Food Technology
Work placement and volunteering
You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college, or a new job with NHSScotland.
A Foundation Apprenticeship could be a great way to start your career journey towards becoming a dietitian.
Learn about relevant Foundation Apprenticeships in:
College and university
Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first. At college, you could do an HNC in a science-based subject before applying to university to do an undergraduate programme.
Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
Three universities in Scotland offer undergraduate programmes in Dietetics, approved by the HCPC:
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- Queen Margaret University
- Robert Gordon University
Pre-registration undergraduate programmes take 4 years full-time.
If you already have relevant qualifications and healthcare experience, you can do a postgraduate diploma or a master's in Dietetics. Postgraduate programmes usually take 1-2 years.
For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work.
What does a dietitian do?
Dietitians understand how different foods affect the body.
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.
You could work with people who have:
- long term conditions such as diabetes or kidney failure
- an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa
- food or other allergies
You’ll also help people who need to:
- lose weight for health or medical reasons
- put on weight to promote recovery after illness
You may also train, support, and advise your colleagues, healthcare support workers, and students.
What you’ll do
- motivating people to change their eating habits
- helping people to plan diets
- giving advice to people who need a special diet
- supporting patients trialing dietary interventions, including exclusion diets or supplementation
- reviewing, planning, and organising a patient’s nutritional care
- accepting referrals from other health professionals
- health promotion
You’ll need these skills:
- persuading and motivating people
Who you’ll work with
Dietitians work with other healthcare professionals, including:
- occupational therapists
- healthcare support workers
You could work in:
- the community
- health centres
To work as a dietitian in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
Did you know?
There are around 10,000 registered dietitians in the UK and over 800 working in the NHS in Scotland.
Learning and development
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 British Dietetic Association (BDA) offers a 5-year programme to support your CPD activities. Visit their website to find out more about the BDA Professional Development Toolkit.
Through experience and additional training, you could progress to a specialist or advanced dietitian role within the health service.
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.
When you complete your degree, you'll become registered with the HCPC.
Once you've qualified as a dietitian, you can also join: