Dieticians, also known as nutritionists, apply the science of human nutrition to influence the eating behaviour of individuals, groups and communities, and select food to promote and maintain health and to prevent and treat illness and disease. Nutritionists are usually limited to advising the general public about correct eating habits for health. Dietitians use their skills and knowledge to modify diets in order to treat medical conditions.

Career channels for dieticians are fairly varied and include the areas of employment listed below:

Hospital work, which includes:

  • Administrative dieticians plan meals, train supervisors and perform administrative tasks
  • Therapeutic dieticians plan special diets according to the doctors’ prescriptions
  • Clinical dieticians plan diets for outpatients
  • Educational dieticians instruct nurses, medical and dental students
  • Quantity catering: Industries, government departments, orphanages, old age homes, etc. where quantity cookery is undertaken making use of the knowledge of dieticians
  • Research dieticians do intensive research work at the Medical Research Institute, SABS, CSIR, universities, and Food Control Boards
  • Teaching: they may be appointed as teachers, giving instructions in Home Economics
  • Educational dieticians lecture at universities, universities of technology, and training colleges and are also responsible for the practical training of food production personnel
  • The media: dieticians can be employed as journalists to write articles for newspapers and magazines, perform demonstrations on radio and television or represent firms
  • Health authorities formulate policies concerning nutrition and plan and monitor strategies to execute official policy.
  • Community nutritionists render an advisory service to state-subsidised institutions in providing the public with information on good health and the prevention of nutrition-related diseases
  • Food service managers compile menus and catering services for industries, government departments, orphanages, old age homes, etc. where quantity cookery is undertaken.
  • Consulting dieticians: work in private practice and are available to doctors, hospitals and the public.
  • Some dieticians have much contact with the public.

Personal Requirements

Dietitians need to possess a mature, confident and caring manner. The ability to interact well with people from a wide range of backgrounds, together with good interpersonal and communication skills are essential – as is an understanding of biochemistry / human physiology.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

What to Study

Degree: All dieticians must be registered with the HPCSA before they are allowed to practise their profession. The 4-year integrated degree in Dietetics or Nutrition as well as a BSc (Med) Hons Dietetic degree are recognised for registration.


  • hospitals, nursing homes, clinics etc.
  • educational institutions
  • industrial concerns
  • government departments
  • nutrition research laboratories / units
  • medical research councils
  • food industry
  • hotels
  • self-employment, consultant in private practice

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
P O Box 205
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 338 9300 Fax: (012) 328 5120

Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) P O Box 868
Ferndale, 2160
Tel: (011) 789-6621 Fax: (011) 789-2116

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time employment with food services or restaurants
  • talk to dieticians about this type of career and ask to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

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