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From: Mark Rifkin (rifkin.vegsource.com)
Subject:         Re: shortages and salaries
Date: March 8, 2007 at 10:33 pm PST

In Reply to: Re: shortages and salaries posted by eri on March 8, 2007 at 11:35 am:

Hi Eri,

Congrats on your desire to return to school and thanks for your questions.

The general demand for RDs is expected to grow about as fast as most careers (see the article on the ADA website at
http://eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/career_748_ENU_HTML.htm), but I think the demand will grow faster in some parts of the US, and for RDs focused on nutrition education and prevention. As employers try to reduce the impact of increasing health care costs, they will continue to place more responsibility on employees, as well as provide incentives for healthy lifestyle change. Add in the impacts of an aging population, obese children, the diabetes epidemic, and the increasing prevalence of eating disorders, and thus I am optimistic that the demand for RDs in non-clinical settings will rise faster than the average career.

Geographic location will play a role: RDs in areas such as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston and NYC can expect more prevention-oriented demand than RDs say, in Baltimore (where I am).

Other websites from which RD demand can be determined include:
careerbuilder.com
state/local dietetic associations
nutritionjobs.com
jobsindietetics.com
alliedhealthcareers.com
dietitiancentral.com

Yes, I think the forward-thinking RD will create their own job---at least in the short term----since few for-profit companies are providing this service. I, for one, would not mind working for a local company with similar opinions and approaches, but I haven’t found such a position as yet. If hospital executives are smart, they will offer the service—it would be excellent marketing for them. However, few hospital CEOs seem to recognize this. However, as the market conditions change as described, RDs will benefit. Some progressive RDs are already hiring other RDs to provide these services on a larger scale. Another opportunity is being created by companies which offer prevention-oriented health services to employers—for example, organizing health fairs, finding practitioners of various modalities (RDs, LAc’s, etc) to conduct presentations, etc. I have an arrangement with one such company.

RE: non-clinical work, RD positions in other settings (in the ADA article) are generally limited to a few positions. But RDs as a rule have traditionally done a poor job marketing their skills, so few companies recognize the need for an RD. Even hospital CEOs think of RDs as just another part of the hospital service: patients pay for housekeeping, the lights, and for dietitians—these services are not separately billed, thus the public is unaware of the role of the dietitian, except as the “cafeteria lady” or the person to complain to about the meals. Thus, a hospital will have more of almost every other type of allied health professional, but only have 3-5 RDs for 200-400 beds. The best way to change that is by demonstrating the value of RDs to the larger community.

By clinical, I am referring to assessing the nutrition needs of inpatients in a hospital or long term care facility. Dietitians without a Phd credential can work in research, but may need a person with a Phd to sign on.

Yes, RDs of color are too few, although the ADA is supposed to be working on programs to address this.

In conclusion, your decision may depend on how far ahead of the curve you like to be. Right now, the progressive RD is slightly ahead of the curve, but in a few years, I suspect we’ll see a much improved RD market.

I know it was long, but I hope that helped!
Mark Rifkin, MS, RD, LDN


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