Dietitian Pūkenga Whakaita Kai (Ngā Tohunga Mātai Kai)

Dietitians provide advice and counselling about diet, food and nutrition to individuals and communities. They also design nutrition programmes to support health and wellbeing.

Dietitians need to be registered with the New Zealand Dietitians Board.

Nutritionists who meet specific criteria, such as having relevant work experience, may:

  • register with the Nutrition Society of New Zealand
  • become associate members of Dietitians New Zealand.

Dietitians may do some or all of the following:

  • counsel clients about their lifestyle and eating habits
  • plan special diets or provide specialised nutrition support for clients
  • do research and present findings at seminars
  • lecture at universities/polytechnics on the topics of diet and nutrition
  • provide nutritional information to food industry organisations
  • provide nutritional information to sports and fitness centres, and athletes
  • market specialist nutritional products.

Physical Requirements

Dietitians need to be reasonably fit and healthy as they are role models for the people they advise.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for dietitians includes:

  • work in a hospital kitchen or restaurant
  • food preparation work
  • teaching or staff management experience
  • working with people of different ages and cultural backgrounds.

Personal Qualities

Dietitians need to be:

  • outgoing and motivated
  • able to inspire confidence in others
  • patient
  • able to relate to a wide variety of people
  • good at communicating
  • organised and good at planning.

Skills

Dietitians need to have knowledge of:

  • food and its nutrients, including the nutrients needed for human health
  • how food is digested and absorbed
  • science, including physiology, biochemistry and nutrition
  • how patients may respond to advice and treatment
  • health and nutrition research techniques
  • food preparation techniques
  • different cultures' beliefs and behaviours relating to food
  • public health systems.

Dietitians who are self-employed need to have business and management skills.

Conditions

Dietitians:

  • work regular business hours, but may work after hours or weekends if they are based in hospitals and private clinics
  • work in hospitals, private practices, food service settings, and in the wider community
  • may travel locally to visit clients in rest homes or their homes.

Dietitians can earn around $55K-$113K per year.

Pay for dietitians varies depending on experience and where they work.

Pay for dietitians working for a district health board (DHB):

  • Unregistered dietitians with a relevant degree usually start on $55,000 a year.
  • Dietitians with a graduate qualification and registration usually earn between $64,000 and $80,000.
  • Dietitians in senior positions can earn between $83,000 and $113,000. 

Pay for dietitians working in private practice depends on their experience and the success of their business.

Source: APEX, 'APEX and Northland, Taranaki, Mid Central and Whanganui DHBs, Dietitians' Collective Agreement, 1 February 2021 to 31 May 2022', 2022.

Dietitians may progress into:

Dietitians may specialise in one of the following roles:

Clinical Dietitian
Clinical dietitians work in an area of dietetics such as allergies, irritable bowel syndrome or paediatrics.
Food Industry Dietitian
Food industry dietitians help companies to reformulate foods, and package and market foods so that healthy foods are available for purchase.
Food Service Dietitian
Food service dietitians work in kitchens at hospitals, rest homes, boarding schools or hostels. They are often employed by large catering companies to assist with menu planning for people with different dietary needs.
Public Health Dietitian
Public health dietitians promote public health by developing and implementing community nutrition programmes, and advising on food and nutrition guidelines. They may also work with retailers and manufacturers to improve access to healthy food options.

Years Of Training

5 years of training required.

Becoming a dietitian

To become a dietitian (to work at a DHB) you need to have a:

  • Bachelor of Science majoring in human nutrition, or food science and nutrition, and
  • Master's degree in dietetics, or nutrition and dietetics.

Once qualified, you also need to be registered with the New Zealand Dietitians Board.

Becoming a nutritionist

There are no specific requirements for becoming a nutritionist. However, if you want to register with the Nutrition Society of New Zealand, it is recommended that you have:

  • a Bachelor of Science from University of Otago, Massey University or Auckland University
  • two to three years of experience in the field of nutrition.

You may still be able to register if you have a different degree that includes relevant science and nutrition courses.

Nutritionists can become associate members of Dietitians New Zealand if they have a science degree in human nutrition approved by Dietitians New Zealand, or have gained considerable work or research experience in nutrition or dietetics. 

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children. 

Dietitian