Yes we all know that every member of the general public could probably benefit from a consultation with a dietitian – I am sure I could probably teach something to even the most well educated member of the public. And with the obesity epidemic and all the other related and unrelated nutritional issues we are facing in Australia you would think there is a need for more dietitians to help them right? WRONG.
Here’s why you should quit your nutrition degree.
1. A math lesson.
In South-East Queensland alone, there is approximately 160 new graduates from Nutrition & Dietetics degrees coming out each year. There is approximately 5 new graduate jobs in the same SEQ area. You got that?
160 new graduates:5 new graduate jobs.
This is simple math – that means that only 3% of students graduating as Accredited Practising Dietitians in SEQ are receiving full-time work straight out of uni in SEQ. So what do the other 155 graduates then do? The smart and dedicated ones will look for jobs ANYWHERE they can. Many of whom end up taking underpaying jobs with employers looking to take advantage of the motivated dietitians desperate for work, others accept roles in “similar” roles like health promotion, others move across the country to bumfuckidahoe (like I did) and some get lucky. But for the most part,
the sad thing is that many of the dietitians actually end up going back to work at a bar, or pack shelves at a grocery store – never getting the opportunity to use their degree they spent all that money, time and effort on.
2. If all else fails start a business…
The others (which I am seeing more often than I would like) try to go it alone and start a dietetic business…..idiots. Most do not realise the actual work that goes into not only starting a business but keeping it running. Most don’t know what rules/laws/legislations that needs to be followed, that they will have to negotiate contracts/room rent/fees and more with people far more trained in these skills than they are. That they will have a bunch of overheads they never budgeted for and that they will end up working for far less per hour than what they would have got packing shelves.
But the worst part is that their actual dietetic work suffers – not all, but many of the new grads that come out simply aren’t fully equipped to work autonomously in private practice. I don’t give a shit if you have a mentor or not, it could be the best dietitian in the world and your work still won’t be where it should be at the start. This not only hurts your reputation but hurts dietitians everywhere.
Any experienced dietitian working in private practice will tell you that customer satisfaction and word of mouth is everything. That one bad experience a client may have had with you could mean they never see a dietitian again and end up telling their friends that it is a waste of time seeing any dietitian – this is not an exaggeration.
As well as that, because you are trying to get market share you also bulk-bill. And because you need more time, you do 1hr appointments. These are business decisions that wouldn’t be made if you were adequately trained in business, but you aren’t, so you do. And since society as a whole always looks for the cheapest way to get what they need, you will take the business from other services charging a gap or those doing smaller size appointment. Most people don’t see that there is any difference between dietitians – and boy are they wrong.
3. Who’s to blame.
I am not blaming new grads though, they did the study, they want to work as a dietitian. They feel they have no other choice so they try to go it alone. The blame, in my humble opinion, may rest with the universities.
Universities are businesses, they see a demand for the nutrition & dietetics degree, so they supply student places. And boy do they get rich of you! But it seems, they give zero fucks about you once you graduate. They couldn’t care less if you get a job or not after, that’s on you, their transaction has been completed. There is no ethics here.
What can we do about it? Not sure. Maybe the Dietitians Association of Australia could do something about it?
Stop accrediting these degrees would be a start. However they are bound by their obligation to accredit any degree that meets their standards, or be prosecuted for restraint of trade. Maybe the government could put more funding into nutrition and dietetics, allowing greater rebates for clients seeing dietitians, injecting more jobs in government and private organisations – but I don’t see that happening on any level that will make a difference either. Hell the new budget just released last week once again didn’t increase the Medicare rebates for Allied Health services – what a joke.
4. Let me tell you a story (n=1).
Among my peers at uni I was probably in the top 30% of those who were thought to be successful in dietetics after the degree – this is not ego, this is fact. Since then it is pretty much played out like that, with some underachievers and some overachievers.
Now this wasn’t just about getting the marks, I certainly didn’t score as high as many, I think I had a GPA of 5.7. Which is exactly why I was never even considered for an interview for a new grad hospital job – I didn’t make the GPA 6 cut off. It was also about having the required personality and skills that we all saw as being required to make it. FYI: I have never and will never hire a dietitian based on their GPA, I will always hire based on personality and skills. I work in both a hospital and private practice so don’t hate the stereotypes peeps.
Even being in this imaginary “top 30%” it has taken a lot of hard work and long nights to get where I am (see more here) and probably would have given up a few times if I wasn’t so stubborn. After graduation I moved to and worked in rural town in Western Australia (bumfuckidahoe) . Thankfully it was a full-time contract but when I got there the job wasn’t what I was told it was (1 clinic/month instead of 4 clinics/week), it was incredibly isolating, and I was working for a boss who wasn’t really aware of what a dietitian did, was incredibly unprofessional, discriminatory, misogynistic and probably a narcissist. But I coped it, as it was a resume builder. When I returned I picked up casual work and after about 12 months I was working 7 different jobs for 7 different organisations between Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast in an attempt to make up full-time hours simply because I wanted the experience that badly. Sometimes I would drive 2 hours to the Gold Coast and 2 hours back, just for 1 hr of work. Does that sound like something you are interested in?
5. What’s the point?
Yes I got treated like shit by many, yes I worked for less than I should of and no I didn’t make much money with all of that travel. And that was fucking 5 years ago! 800 more Nutrition and Dietetics students have graduated since then. If you are early in your degree, it is likely that another 500 will graduate before you do. Further saturating a market that really hasn’t had any room for new grads for years. I really don’t know if I would make it if I graduated today, hell, I don’t even think 30-40% of those who graduated in my degree still work in dietetics.
I have told every single person in the last 12 months that has asked me for advice about their own study, or their daughter or son contemplating it to choose something else. If your goals was to help people, there is always work for nurses and there always seems to be work for physiotherapists, go do that.
Get out now. Quit your nutrition degree.
The ones who feel they are in too deep or have recently graduated I will of course continue to attempt to support in any way I can, offering advice and work experience for those who are keen. But fuck, if you have any choice or are have had any moments of second guessing the degree, jump now. Jump quick, because this ship sailed a long time ago.
I know most won’t listen, but maybe I will save a few.
If nutrition is your only passion in life, you have wanted to do it forever, never wanted to do anything else, have done work experience with dietitians, know dietitians who might give you a graduate job, have a business degree and have money behind you to support you not making enough money for the first 3 years – you may have a slither of hope, you might just make it….
P.S I didn’t even bother to mention all the competition dietitians have with other sources like instamodels, social media celebrities, sterotypical celebs, nutritionists, self-proclaimed nutrition experts, naturopaths, chiropracters, natural healers, “snake-oil” salesmen and more.