Thursday, June 23, 2011

Career development as a Dietitian

Since May, I have been receiving several emails from young reader (this 2 months are the "season" for high school leavers to choose courses for their university) who wish to know more about the career path as a dietitian. They mostly need information about job scope, opportunities and market demand as a dietitian. Honestly speaking, the resources that explain the career of dietitian are limited especially when it comes to real work life sharing from a dietitian. Well, I wish to take this opportunity to explain it, but take note that my thought and information mostly regarding to the career development of a dietitian in my country Malaysia. I compile all question into few Q&A for readers to understand:

a) What is the scope of job for dietitian in Malaysia?
They are few kind of dietitians - Clinical dietitian (that's me, normally work in hospital), community dietitian, food service dietitian, research dietitian (R&D on the hidden usefulness of food) and business dietitian (Marketing but requires dietitian knowledge). 

b) Any advice how to become a good dietitian?
 It is really a need of interest, good communication skill and be patient in doing your job (You are not doctors or pharmacist, so sometimes not every patient or medical specialist will follow your order) . Besides providing dietary consultation, you may deal with some critical illness patient for feeding regime. It is actually quite challenging, critical thinking is a need and good conversation skill with patient (especially speak in different language with people from all sort of race). 

c) Is dietitian a lower class of medical professional?
There is no such thing as who is more important or non-important for medical professional from my opinion, a medical center needs various expertise of people to manage all patients and increase the level of healthcare industry.

d) I heard not every people aware of seeking consultation from a dietitian, so could it be a boring job?
This is very subjective, it depends on area and which type of hospitalization. Normally, government hospital has lots of patient and therefore the case refer from doctors to dietitian increase as well (you can get around 8 patients daily), private hospital is different, not every patient will be refer to dietitian and one main point is patients are not paying to see dietitian, some charges include in the hospitalization package. Once again, it depends on the size of your hospital and area too. If you are working in non-city and non-central hospital, yes, sometimes dietitian is quite free in office. Clinical dietitian needs to give talks to community or any special events once a while (probably once in a month), so it is not easy to become a clinical dietitian. 

e) How to become a successful dietitian?
I can only give opinion from a scope of a clinical dietitian, you can continue pursue study to obtain a phd degree and  get a title of Dr, based on your research knowledge and specific domain, you can get a very well recognizable profile in industry for certain knowledge. Business dietitian earns the most from my opinion (not to compare with a dietitian with phd degree), they sell products and get commission as well, but you need to have marketing skills too.

f) Is clinical dietitian job achieves lowest vacancy compare to other types? 
As mention, each hospital needs few dietitian only and that also applies to larger organization. You must know what kind of dietitian you want to be, work in a hospital/medical center or you have a better social skill which I suggest you to work as nutritionist or consultant. Working in a hospital requires great responsibility.

g) Is it frustrating when people do not listen to your medical advice?
This is a very common question I received. My answer would be no. You have try your best, leave the rest for the will of the patient whether they choose to follow or not. You must always be prepare and well study to provide good explanations in supporting your advice. That's the responsibility.

h) Is it dietitian getting a low paid and appreciation in Malaysia?
This is a tricky question. It depends on whether you value your job most or your paid first. Business dietitian (for example, consultant that sells healthcare package) receives low basic paid too when entering the field, but with hard work and experience, they are gaining the most plus the experience working with hospital party and community side. The entry paid for dietitian in different countries are almost similar except you might take into account of currency.

i) In short, what is the advice for fresh nutrition/dietitian student?
Your path may varies on the road of your studying in degree and you may not know what will you end up after graduate, so my advice is plan well on your study, read more on medical professionals research work, and you will get a clearer picture of what you want to end up in. For me, I didn't really look on salary and burden of work when I join as clinical dietitian. I took a helpful and caring heart to dive into this area than anything.

I am welcome for any dietitian to share with me their career path and their thought of a job as a dietitian/nutritionist. Cheers.


  1. I had just graduated in dietetics. I find your article really helpful..However, still feeling disappointed as why dietitians are not being prioritized in Malaysia. I have a great passion in clinical dietitian, but the job opportunity is so so low :(

  2. Thanks. I wasn't aware of your comment, sorry for late reply. I knew how you feel about the dietetic field :), hope you can find your favorite job as well.

  3. Im very interested in dietetics.
    I wish to further my tertiary education in this field, but my parents said dietitian sounds like low paid job although seems professional. It is not necessarily i can enter the government hospital after i becoming a dietitian.Is it true?
    How about the private hospital?
    Is dietitian very demanding in malaysia?

    1. Hi Honggi, you can choose to enter different kind of areas and not restricted to work in government hospital. The posting for clinical dietitian in Malaysia is limited, but there are still companies hiring graduates with dietitian degree. About the demand, it is generally higher demand for supplementary companies hiring as sales executive or nutritionist. Hope I answer your questions.

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  5. Hi, my name is Grace, I have just graduated as a second upper honour from International Medical University as a dietetian, may I know of your hospital is still hiring diettians, or do you have friends who are looking for clinical dietetians? Thanks so much

    1. Hi Grace, congratulations on your graduation. If you're interested to enter Government hospital, you might need to apply from JPA government website rather than through hospital Human Resource department. I believe there are still open positions for dietitian fresh graduate. Or you can apply private hospital as well. Let me know if you need more information. Good luck.

  6. Hello, Im Pera. Your article as well as your blog really amazing :).I wished to continue my tertiary education in dietetics. So, can you please suggest any good plus trustable private university for me to further Bachelor of Dietetics? I've found quiet many universities out there such as IMU, Taylor,MSU,and USCI are available but its little bit confusing when it comes to BSc(Hons)Food science and Nutrition compared with BSC(Hons) Dietetics with Nutrition. I need your guidance. Thank you in advance.

    1. Hi Pera, I am glad for your interest. If you're decided to further your study on Dietetics and Nutrition, of course you can select IMU, MSU or USCI, I would suggest you to ask the respective university the details and the course structure of the program offered. It is important to understand their course structure and the recognition of their structure by Malaysia Dietitian Association (MDA) The are huge difference between Food science and dietetics profession, the first is more towards food processing or technology behind and the following is more towards diet control and planning. Hope you're clear with it. Good luck.

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  9. Assalamualaikum. I'm looking forward to pursue my study in Medical field and currently doing several research on it. I hope you'll be fine to answer all of my questions. How long it takes to complete a study as a Dietitian? How is the demand in Malaysia towards Dietitian? Can Malaysian students who majoring in Dietitian proceed his study abroad? If yes, which country offer the course best? Do dietitian also get involves in "On Call" phase? Sorry but I have to ask this, how much is the range do Dietitian get paid? And how is the working time for a Dietitian? Last but not least, would you prefer me to go for this field. Thank you :)

  10. that requires special attention from both the organization and the employee, yet employees are often left to their own devices and rarely have frank and regular exchanges with management when it comes to developing their career plans.

    bright career changing

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  12. HI I am doing bachelors in clinical dietetics from Pakistan, i want to do internship in Malaysia. so is there any facility or chance? and if yes so where i contact or apply?
    please reply

  13. Two years ago, doctors diagnosed me gastritis. So I stick to a strict diet. And diet program has developed for me by the dietitian from this site . The main requirement was that I didn`t lose weight, and didn`t fall in with depression from the lack of carbohydrates. In general, I live a full life and had become accustomed to healthy food.