Feed your ambition
The work opportunities for dieticians and nutritionists have gone truly global. The time is ripe to figure out a role for yourself in calorie counting, writes Gauri V. Singh
IN an age when staying fit has become a fad among the young, middle-aged and old alike, dietetics holds out bright career prospects. Whether one wants to be a full-time or part-time practitioner, there are different offshoots of dietetics to suit individual preferences and aspirations. Flexibility is the buzzword in this field, which is so full of challenges.
First and formost, comes the role of giving care to the sick and healthy alike. An M.Sc or a postgraduate diploma in food and nutrition coupled with a formal training from a reputed hospital and institute like the PGIMER, Chandigarh, AIIMS, New Delhi, or CMC, Ludhiana, etc. is a must, if one is serious about adopting dietetics as a full-time career.
On completing the mandatory training of six months after M.Sc and nine months after a P.G diploma in food and nutrition, one can practice as a full-time, part-time or visiting dietician in any hospital. Though the trend to employ regular dieticians is slowly catching up in several hospitals of the region, yet most big private as well as government hospitals use the services of consultant dieticians according to the bed strength, mostly those having 150 beds or above. In private hospitals or nursing homes, a dietician is given salary according to the bed strength and experience, but the start is usually around Rs 4500 per month. In government hospitals, the salary is equivalent to that of a Class-I officer i.e a doctor.
All leading nutrition divisions supplying various types of ready-to-use tube feed formulae and various kinds of food supplements for different diseases need the services of dieticians. All these are calculated, balanced and managed by the dietician in-charge.
The food industry also holds ample scope for a dietician or nutritionist (someone who does not have formal training from a hospital and cannot work in a hospital). The dietician calculates the nutrient content of the food product to be mentioned on the carton for consumers. Prestigious hotels also use the services of a dietician or a nutritionist as their customers and people in general are becoming more and more aware about their health and its direct relation to food.
Teaching has a lot of scope for those armed with a dietetics-related qualification.
In schools, the B.Ed degree is a must along with an M.Sc or P.G. Diploma in Food and Nutrition. On the other hand, it is mandatory to clear the UGC test for the post of a lecturer in a college or a university.
Schools, colleges, universities and industries that run in-house cafetarias for their students and employees need the services of a dietician to help serve healthy and wholesome food.
Various community centers like "Baalwadis", "Aanganwaadis" and Old Age Homes have a basic requirement of a dietician, who helps co-ordinate healthy, wholesome meals and impart vital information regarding any meal or food-related health programme. A Jalandhar-based paediatrcian, Dr Puja Kapoor, makes it a point to put all her patients, from birth onwards, under the expert care of a dietician as she opines that an unhealthy child will turn into an unhealthy adult, leading to a sick nation. Similarly, Dr Anil Sud, a senior paediatrician and consultant, Pushpa Gujral Nari Niketan, feels that a balanced diet is a must for one and all.
The fitness clubs and slimming centers mushrooming all over offer new job opportunities as these cannot run without a dietician.
There are opportunities galore for dieticians in countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, the USA and Australia, etc. Says a London-based immigration consultant Harjap Singh Bhangal, "In England, there is a huge demand for dieticians.
Sports & space
With the increasing awareness about the role that food and nutrition play in increasing the stamina of sportspersons and curing their injuries, the role of dieticians in sports nutrition is increasing at a tremendous pace.
Also, to counter the unsettling effects of space travel astronauts too need the guidance of a nutritionist.
The minimum eligibility for becoming a dietician or a nutrition expert is a plus two degree in the science stream, followed by a three-year degree course — B.Sc in Home Science and finally a M. Sc or a PG diploma in Food and Nutrition.
— The writer is
Consultant Dietician and Head, Department of Dietetics,