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.
Qualified dietitians usually earn
$58K-$86K per year
Senior dietitians usually earn
$87K-$119K per year
Source: Te Whatu Ora/DHBs, 2022.
Pay for dietitians varies depending on experience and where they work.
Dietitians working for Te Whatu Ora Health NZ (former DHBs)
- Qualified dietitians usually earn $58,000 to $86,000 a year.
- Senior dietitians who supervise staff can earn $87,000 to $119,000.
Pay for dietitians working in private practice depends on their experience and the success of their business.
Sources: Auckland Region District Health Boards/PSA, ‘Allied, Public Health, Scientific & Technical Multi Employer Collective Agreement, expires 30 June 2023’, 2022; and District Health Boards/PSA, ‘Allied, Public Health, Scientific & Technical Multi Employer Collective Agreement, expires 30 June 2023’, 2022.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
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.
Skills and knowledge
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.
- 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.
What's the job really like?
Maia Lingman talks about life as a dietitian – 2.32 mins.
And that is what I call a balanced plate .
A dietician is trained to look holistically at someone's
lifestyle, health conditions, and diet.
And from there, pinpoint different items that if they made some small
changes, we might be able to see a better quality of life.
Kei te pēhea koe?
We do a lot of client- or patient- facing work where we go and we
see people face to face.
One of the fun ways we like to communicate with patients and make sure that
we're all on the same wavelength and all understanding is using food props.
So this is a steak and you might think, okay,
a portion of steak for me might be this whole portion.
What we typically recommend is about this much.
It's a little bit more like this. . Dieticians can work anywhere.
We can work in food services, we can work in kitchens,
hospitals, clinics. We can work in public health.
I do a lot of project work,
designing and developing resources and materials for patients to learn the
skills to look after themselves as best they can. To be a dietician,
one of the first things you need to do is get a Bachelor of Science and Human
Nutrition. From there, you need to get a Master of Health,
Science and Nutrition and Dietetics. Probably one of the biggest subjects that
was really helpful for what I do now was biology.
Learning all about the human body system and how things work was really
beneficial. So there's a few skills that are definitely needed when you're
talking with patients.
One of them is being able to empathise with them because the people who come and
see us have been through a lot. They really need a lot of awhi - support,
understanding, kindness. It goes a long way,
building a really good relationship with someone. My favorite thing about my job
would have to be seeing people change over time and seeing someone come
in who's feeling really, really rotten and nasty and seeing them feel better.
I've been working in this position for 9 months now but I have been
studying for many, many years, so it's really,
really rewarding to finally be doing the work that I want to do.
Becoming a dietitian
To become a dietitian (to work at a Te Whatu Ora Health NZ) 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.
- University of Auckland website -Master of Health Science in Nutrition and Dietetics
- Massey University website - Master of Science (Nutrition and Dietetics)
- University of Otago website - Master of 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.
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, maths, home economics (food and nutrition), and health education.
Dietitians need to be:
- outgoing and motivated
- able to inspire confidence in others
- able to relate to a wide variety of people
- good at communicating
- organised and good at planning.
You have to be adaptable because you can’t always plan everything - there can be interruptions like doctors needing to take patients away for tests.
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.
Dietitians need to be reasonably fit and healthy as they are role models for the people they advise.
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.
Find out more about training
- Dietitians New Zealand
- 021 1044 416 - email@example.com - www.dietitians.org.nz
- Nutrition Society of NZ
- firstname.lastname@example.org - www.nutritionsociety.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Not enough jobs for graduating dietitians
Chances of getting a job are good for experienced dietitians.
However, opportunities for graduates are limited due to a lack of new dietitian positions in district health boards.
You can increase your chances of getting work by:
- joining Dietitians New Zealand and attending their branch meetings, conferences and professional development workshops
- using your clinical placement to work with a senior dietitian in an area of interest (such as diabetes)
- volunteering at district health boards or with Dietitians New Zealand to help run professional development workshops, or produce newsletters
- approaching private businesses that employ dietitians.
Skilled dietitians in demand
Dietitian appears on Immigration New Zealand's Green List. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled dieticians from overseas to work in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 609 dietitians and 270 nutritionists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Types of employers varied
Dietitians may be employed by:
- district health boards
- primary health organisations
- government organisations such as the Ministry of Health or New Zealand Food Safety
- non-governmental organisations such as the Heart Foundation or Cancer Society
- universities and polytechnics
- commercial or industrial organisations.
Dietitians may also work in private practice or be self-employed.
- Linge, C, chief executive officer, Dietitians New Zealand, careers.govt.nz interview, June 2018.
- Immigration New Zealand, Green List, April 2023, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- New Zealand Dietitians Board, 'Newsletter to Practitioners', April 2018, (www.dietitiansboard.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Dietitians may progress into:
- policy or advisory work in the public sector
- private practice
- the food industry
- food service settings such as aged-care facilities
- teaching and research.
- Policy analyst job information
- Public relations professional job information
- Tertiary lecturer job information
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.
Last updated 22 August 2023