CAREER GUIDE Friday, August 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India

Want to be a dietician? Some food for thought
Can dietary modifications reverse the course of a disease? What micro-nutrients are essential, and in what measure? How does food alter one’s mood? Are some foods positively harmful? Do certain foods react negatively with a particular medication? How much salt is permitted on a low-sodium diet? Can aging be delayed by consuming certain nutrients? What food should a person suffering from renal dysfunction avoid?

What is DNA fingerprinting?



Want to be a dietician? Some food for thought

Can dietary modifications reverse the course of a disease? What micro-nutrients are essential, and in what measure? How does food alter one’s mood? Are some foods positively harmful? Do certain foods react negatively with a particular medication? How much salt is permitted on a low-sodium diet? Can aging be delayed by consuming certain nutrients? What food should a person suffering from renal dysfunction avoid?

If these questions intrigue and interest you then you could well consider making nutrition and dietetics your profession.

As a dietician you will assist infants, the elderly, the sick, the hospitalised, the obese, nursing mothers, sportspersons and a host of others either in a clinical setting (hospitals and nursing homes) or as a consultant in a speciality clinic i.e. — for diabetics, coronary patients, etc.

Many people confuse dieticians with nutritionists — but there is a difference. Both are aware of the nutritional values of foods (and they extol the virtues of the same), besides supervising food preparation and its service. But there is a difference — dieticians guide the clueless on healthy eating habits and draw up a personalised food plan that meets dietary restrictions, occupational constraints, fitness and stress levels, etc. Other than planning meals, dieticians also look into the day-to-day functioning of the organisation.

The nutritionist, on the other hand, studies the effect of food (on humans) and the effect on food (when it is cooked/served). A nutritionist’s work mostly consists of preventing illnesses and rehabilitating patients after an illness (by showing them what they can eat to hasten their recovery).

Quality control managers are quite different (no confusion there). They work in the commercial food industry and concentrate on hygiene, nutritional content and the safety factor (i.e. does the product adhere to international standards and government regulations).

What you’ll learn

At the bachelor’s level (BHSc) your course will cover subjects like food science, biochem, physiology, bio-statistics and research methodology, food microbiology, human advanced nutrition, institutional management and dietetics. Each of these will be dealt with at length at the PG level.

Where you’ll work

If you enjoy working with people, you can plumb for hospitals, nursing homes and special clinics where you will chart out individual diet plans for the patients. This is not always easy because along with the various clinical factors that you must take into account, you also need to take the patient’s lifestyle, eating habits, social set-up, age, metabolism, etc into consideration.

You may also choose to work with large institutional canteens like those in defence establishments, educational institutions, residential schools, factories or old-age homes to oversee the quality of the bulk-cooked meals. You will assist the kitchen staff in planning tasty, varied and nutritionally balanced meals within the allocated budget.

In health and fitness centres and spas you will treat obese clients, or sports and fitness buffs and those with specific health problems. Along with the gym or fitness instructor who will chart out the appropriate workout, you will suggest a practical and manageable diet plan to achieve the desired weight loss or fitness level. Subsequently, you will monitor their progress at regular intervals and suggest modifications if necessary. With people becoming increasingly health conscious and unable to exercise adequately, thanks to sedentary lifestyles, urban cities have begun to sport well-equipped fitness centres in virtually every neighbourhood. Today no model or Miss India/Universe hopeful can afford to ignore the advice of a professional dietician if she hopes to compete at the national or international level.

Star hotels also have dieticians on their rolls to plan out meals for clients with specific health problems in consultation with the chef. They also help ensure that meals served in the various speciality restaurants are as nutritionally balanced as they are palatable.

Demonstration and sales promotion of nutritive, ready-to-serve foods, beverages and health snacks is also entrusted to people specializing in this field.

Similarly, you could even be working with NGOs and government agencies involved in educating specific segments of the population.

Research is yet another option you could consider.

Since home science is also taught at the school level, you could be teaching the subject at the school, polytechnic or the college level, depending on your academic qualifications.

With increasing health concerns amongst the population at large and a growing awareness about fitness and preventive care, writing on health and nutrition and suggesting innovative recipes with a focus on healthy and balanced eating, both for regular meals as well as for special occasions, can be a good journalistic spin-off if you have a flair for writing, but no stomach for working in a clinical or industrial setting.

After you gain sufficient work experience, you may even set up your own practice or work as a consultant to hospitals, clinics, sports teams, etc.

What it takes

Over and above the requisite academic qualifications, it helps to have a scientific temper. That you must be really interested in health and nutrition and in genuinely helping people goes without saying. Good communication skills are equally essential as you will have to convince and motivate your clients in understandable layman terms.

How to train

Although some specialized courses in applied nutrition are now available at the BSc level in Delhi University, the University of Mysore, South Gujarat University and Osmania University, Hyderabad (BSc with Appl Nutrition or Appl Nutri & Public Health as optional), and as a subject in BA/BSc home science, nutrition and dietetics is generally offered as a specialisation in MSc home science. Typically, graduates in any of the following: home science, microbiology, chemistry or medicine are eligible. Some courses also admit students from other streams like hotel management and catering technology, etc. You can even do a PhD in the subject if you are more inclined towards R & D, teaching or consulting.

PG diplomas in nutrition and dietetics and in applied nutrition are also offered by a number of leading universities and are well recognised by the industry.

Some universities require 10+2 (science) as a pre-requisite for admission to the BHSc course, particularly in agricultural universities.

Getting started

You require to intern with a hospital or clinic on completion of the course to gain relevant work experience. While getting your first job may be a bit tricky, career opportunities are varied and plentiful for those with some experience.

You can start as a trainee — the minimum requirement is a BSc in home science plus a diploma in food science. You will have to work under a qualified dietician/nutritionist for at least a year before you are considered a professional!

To become a nutritionist (or a dietician) you need to have done reasonably well at the BSc level. Postgraduate candidates can command higher salaries, (it pays to struggle through your MSc). While hospitals and private clinics absorb PG candidates willingly, you can also set up your own practice. However, that entails a crummy exam called the RD exam (or the Registered Dietician exam).

Alternatively, you can opt for the 1-year PG Diploma in Dietetics and then work your way up! This course also has a compulsory three-month internship that entails working under a qualified dietician and gaining some useful insights!

Quality control managers are normally those who have done microbiology, both at the graduate and the postgraduate levels.

Best & worst bits

Since no two human beings are alike, the dietician’s job can be quite varied and interesting. It’s always a challenge to chart out a specific diet plan based on the doctor’s diagnosis and the patient’s condition and lifestyle. There’s no point suggesting a regimen that is tedious and complicated even if it’s clinically appropriate. And that’s where the real challenge lies.

On the flip side, the only factor that can be called a ‘con’, if at all, is the time it takes for results to show up. Although in some cases, i.e. post or pre-surgical care or management of diabetics and renal failure, they can be pretty dramatic.

Also your work, particularly in a clinical setting, will involve a lot of cajoling and convincing. Customary eating habits acquired over a lifetime are hard to change. Careful monitoring is also required in handling the critically ill and those with complex problems.

In hospitals, trainees generally receive a starting salary of Rs 3,000 per month, which may go up (after three months of service) to about Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000. Nutritionists, quality control managers and dieticians are in great demand and the pay depends on the organisation you are working for – it generally hovers in the range of Rs 12,000/- per month! If you set up your own practice or start your own restaurant – you could be on your way to richesville!!

Where to study

A number of universities offer a 3-yr BSc in nutrition/ dietetics / food technology. Both Delhi University and Bombay University also have a BA with nutrition and health education course. Delhi University’s BA(Pass) in food technology is available in five women’s colleges — Aditi Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Bhagini Nivedita College, Lakshimibai College for Women, and Vivekananda College. The BA (Pass) course in nutrition and health education are offered at Aditi Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Bhagini Nivedita College and Daulat Ram.

MSc (home science) with specialisation in food and nutrition

Food and nutrition is offered as a specialisation in MSc home science courses at over 45 universities. While some like the University of Delhi, require BSc (home science), others like the MS University of Baroda, also admit students with BSc in related subjects.

Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science & Higher Education for Women, Coimbatore 641043. Course: Food Science & Preservation.

Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, Agra — 282004. Course: MHSc (Gen/Spl)

Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, Naini Tal district, Pantnagar — 263145

Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar — 143005. Course: Food & Fermentation Technology

Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar — 143005. Course: Food & Fermentation

National Institute of Nutrition, Jamai Osmania, Hyderabad — 500007 (Indian Council of Medical Research). Ph: 701823 Fax: 7019074.

Email: [email protected] Course: MSc (Applied Nutrition) (9 months). Elig: MBBS/MSc (Biochem/ Physiology). Notification Feb Deadline 30 April.

Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya, Jabalpur — 482001

Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University (SNDT), Mumbai — 400020. Course: Food Service Management

University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad- 580005.

University of Delhi, Institute of Home Economics, New Delhi — 110049 & Lady Irwin College, New Delhi—110001.

University of Madras, Chennai — 600005. Course: Food Science & Preservation

University of Mysore, Mysore — 570005. Course: Food Analysis & Quality Assurance

Osmania University, University College for Women, Koti. Course: MSc in Nutrition & Dietetics (self-financing).

Postgraduate Diplomas in Nutrition & Dietetics


Institute of Home Economics (Delhi University), New Delhi — 110049.

Course: Diploma in Dietetics & Public Health Nutrition

Delhi University, Lady Irwin College, New Delhi - 110001.

Diploma in Dietetics and MSc (Home Sc).


University of Bombay, MG, Rd. Fort, Mumbai -400032

Course: 1 yr Diploma after BSc Home Science.


Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science & Higher Education for Women, Coimbatore (TN).

Course: 1-yr PG Diploma after BSc. Home Science.

Madurai Kamraj University, Madurai (TN).

Course: 1-yr PG Diploma in Applied Nutrition & Dietetics

Sri Padmavati Mahila Vishwavidyalayam, Tirupati, (AP).

Course: 1-yr PG diploma in Nutrition & Dietetics after BSc. Home Sc (50%).

Pervin Malhotra



What is DNA fingerprinting?

Q. I am a student of BSc. I am interested in working in the area of forensic sciences, especially DNA fingerprinting. Can you give me some idea what this technique is about. Are there any courses available?

Gagandeep Dhingra

A. DNA fingerprinting is based on the principle that the genetic makeup of every person is different from the others, but is unique and distinctive to an individual. Practically every function of human body is controlled by the DNA and its sources include blood, saliva, sperm, tissue, hair, nails and even pulp left in the teeth of the body which has been burnt!

DNA fingerprinting tests in India are mainly carried out at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and now also at Guru Nanak Dev University, Punjab. DNA fingerprints are used in pedigree analysis and establishing paternity and maternity. DNA profiling is also used by immigration authorities for establishing family relationships. The RFL patterns are a great help in identifying homicidal victims. DNA fingerprinting can help in diagnosing inherited disorders like cystic fibrosis, haemophillia, etc. It is also applicable to animals for livestock breeding and in plants for authentication of seeds and germplasm.

No university offers a full-fledged BSc in this subject While, Dr. Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar (MP), and Karnatak University, Dharwad, offer criminology & forensic science as an optional subject, the University of Madras, Chennai, offers criminology as a main subject at the Bachelors level. However, you can pursue Forensic science at the MSc level after completing your BSc.


Q I am a first year LLB student. In view of the Internet and e-commerce boom, I am keen on specialising in cyber law. Are such courses offered in India?

Sweta Jain

A The Internet’s ability to span borders, demolish distances, and unite the world’s computer networks into a seamless whole may look wonderfully elegant to IT professionals, but awfully messy to lawyers.

Previously cut-and-dried questions of legal jurisdiction — such as in which country a particular transaction took place — have now become horribly murky. Of late, disputes on cyber properties such as domain names, copyrights and patents have become more common than property disputes in the real brick and mortar world.

Cyber laws, the traffic rules for the information highway, are governed by the general principles of civil or criminal law, depending on the case.

India is the second country in Asia and the 12th in the world to have a separate Information Technology Act.

Cracking down on cyber crime will see the need for cyber-savvy legal eagles specialising in techno-legal aspects like digital signatures to safeguard business transactions on the Net, encryption codes, hacking and electronic records.

You could start off as an assistant or a junior practitioner or you could opt for a corporate career in the legal department of large companies. Or else you could join a law firm and assist in research.

Some institutes and universities like Indian Law Institute, New Delhi; NALSAR, Hyderabad; Amity Law School, New Delhi; Vivekananda Instt of Professional Studies (affl to GGSIPU, Delhi), Delhi; Symbiosis Law College, Pune; NLSIU, Bangalore ( and the University of Pune have introduced specific courses in cyber law and also incorporated this element in their existing courseware.

Others like offer short-term (6-8 wk) online courses for both law professionals and anyone interested in cyber laws.