Anyone interested in nutrition can find plenty of information through books, magazines, television shows, newspapers and the Internet. But understanding the difference between good information and bad information takes education and training. Registered dietitians have that training, and draw on their knowledge to educate consumers on proper nutrition or create meal plans for weight loss or therapeutic reasons. Their salaries are comparable to those of other healthcare professionals, but vary by workplace and region.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that dietitians and nutritionists earned an average annual salary of $55,460 as of May 2011. Those in the top 10 percent of earners made $76,400 a year or more, while those in the bottom 10 percent made $34,300 or less. The median salary, or midway point between the highest and lowest incomes, was $54,470.
The BLS data are for all nutritionists and dietitians rather than for registered dietitians specifically. A 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that the median salary for registered dietitians was $59,300 a year. Only 10 percent of RDs reported in that survey earned $42,000 or less, while the top 10 percent reported salaries of $92,200 a year. Figures collected for the ACEND survey excluded nutritionists.
Both the ACEND survey and the BLS identify a number of variables that affect compensation. For example, ACEND notes that the median salary rises to $78,610 for RDs who hold a doctoral degree. Experience also plays a large role. RDs with 20 years of experience or more enjoyed a median salary of $68,125, while their colleagues with five years of experience or less reported a median of $47,153. The BLS reports that hospitals are the largest employer of RDs and paid an average salary of $55,240 as of May 2011. The highest wages were paid by companies that provide management, scientific and technical consulting services, at an average of $72,580 a year. Maryland was the highest-paying state, at an average of $77,400. Montana was the lowest at $45,460.
Becoming a registered dietitian requires a significant investment in time and training. Candidates must complete at least a bachelor's degree in nutrition, foodservice management or a related field. They must also complete a program of course work approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which can be incorporated into the degree program or taken separately. Candidates are also required to gain six to 12 months' supervised clinical experience with a registered dietitian, and pass a national certification examination. The BLS projects 20 percent job growth for dietitians and nutritionists from 2010 to 2020, higher than the 14 percent average projected for all occupations.
- American Medical Association: Health Care Careers Directory -- Dietitian/Nutritionist
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics -- Dietitians and Nutritionists
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Compensation and Benefits Survey 2011 -- Moderate Growth in Registered Dietitian and Dietetic Technician, Registered, Compensation in the Past 2 Years
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Registered Dietitian (RD) -- Educational and Professional Requirements
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Dietitians and Nutritionists
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images