I graduated from Leeds Beckett last year after studying BSc (Hons) Nutrition and then I progressed onto MSc Dietetics in September. After graduating from BSc (Hons) Nutrition, I came out as a qualified nutritionist with a registration with the Association for Nutrition (AfN) – a voluntary regulator for nutritionists and nutrition scientists in the UK. This meant that I am now qualified to provide evidence-based information about food and healthy eating.
What’s dietetics and what does a dietitian do?
Dietetics is the application of nutritional science to the development of diets and food selection and preparation in both health and disease. A dietetics degree is the only route to qualifying as a dietitian in the UK. They are approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and are accredited with the British Dietetic Association (BDA).
Dietitians are qualified and regulated healthcare professionals that assess, diagnose, and treat dietary and nutritional problems. They work with both well and unwell patients, providing them with personalised support based on their lifestyle and medical history.
What does a nutritionist do?Nutritionists are qualified to provide information about food and healthy eating. They tend to work in non-clinical settings such as in Government, research, the food industry, private practice, and the media etc. The title ‘nutritionist’ is not currently regulated or protected by law, however, there are talks about it becoming chartered.
What’s the difference between a registered nutritionist and registered dietitian?
Registered nutritionist’s and registered dietitians are both educated in biochemistry, physiology, applied sciences, research methods, and social and behavioural sciences, however, their scope of practice varies.
Once graduated, a registered nutritionist can provide support around healthy eating, but they are restricted in that they cannot provide information on special diets for medical conditions (i.e. renal diet). A dietitian, on the other hand, has access to patient medical records and can provide treatment for patients with medical conditions.
My career path journey: what career path have I have chosen and why?
Before starting university, I had a growing interest for nutrition and eating disorders. Whilst my passion for both of these continued to grow, I realised that I wanted to pursue a career within this area. When I looked into how I can achieve this, I discovered that I must become a registered dietitian to work with individuals with eating disorders. With this in mind, I looked into the entrance requirements for BSc (Hons) Dietetics and realised that I lacked the chemistry A-level which they required. This was not a problem to me, as I was happy to apply for BSc (Hons) Nutrition and then choose a different pathway to achieve a career I desired.
As I was a mature student when I began first year (23 years old), I was eager to begin my career ASAP. I wanted to find alternate ways that I could work with people who have disordered eating without having to study another 4-year undergraduate degree. I was aware of add-on courses that enabled me to work with some individuals, however, I still needed more guidance.
I arranged a meeting with an eating disorder specialist dietitian (a fantastic and highly admirable dietetic lecturer at Beckett) and expressed my interests. The dietetic lecturer advised that my best option is to study the postgraduate dietetic course. It was quite an empowering moment when I thought to myself, am I actually going to do this? Did I just decide I am going to apply for a postgraduate? And that was it, it changed my whole career path and essentially my whole life.
Now I am studying dietetics, I am enjoying the whole journey as well as excited for what the future holds. This course has provided me with more opportunity than what my UG did, even if I chose to do the ‘add-on’ courses.
Once I graduate, I won’t be able to work with individuals with eating disorders just yet, but by undertaking this PG, it has given me the initial stepping-stone towards the next chapter of my career in dietetics.