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Dietary Aide

Education and Training: High school
Average Salary: $9.22 per hour
Job Outlook: Excellent

Dietary aides assist dietitians and other nutritional professionals in preparing and serving meals to a wide-variety of clients who have different needs, ranging from youth to elderly. Dietary aides have to plan and produce meals based on a particular patient’s nutritional needs. There are also opportunities to teach nutritional classes.

Education and Training Requirements

In most cases, a high school diploma is required to hold a position. Students should take math, science, and customer-service classes to prepare for a career as a dietary aide. Other classes like food preparation and health could also add valuable perspectives on the job. On-the-job training is a norm in this career, though many of the duties are universal from job to job. Those include recipe preparation, diet orders, and other tasks associated with the job, including clean-up, preparation, etc.

Getting the Job

There is no required training or education to become a dietary aide, so it is possible to show up to an employer and apply. Employers do sometimes require previous work in an institutional dietary setting, such as a hospital or nursing home, however, this is not a mandate. Often times, one can intern as an aide at an institution like a hospital, which could lead to favorable opportunities for full-time employment.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Outlook for a career as a dietary aide is projected to grow faster than average. There are a number of factors influencing this positive growth, including an aging population that requires assistance with eating. Dietary aides have a number of career choices. Those who demonstrate potential managerial or supervisory traits can move on into managerial jobs. There are also opportunities to teach about food and nutrition principles or obtain work in a home setting rather than at an institution. Dietary aides also will have the background to become dietitians or nutritionists if they choose to go back for further education. Also, some state health departments have certain certifications for specific dietary aide positions that can lead to higher wages. For example, the state of California recognizes nutrition assistants for its Women, Infants, and Children program.

Working Conditions and Environment

Dietary aides assist the serving of food in institutions, homes, and other places where there are patients in need of help eating. This requires a number of physical tasks, including standing, walking, reaching, stooping, bending, and lifting. The job requirements of a dietary aide are repetitive, and one must be able to perform the same tasks throughout the shift. Dietary aides are expected to work flexible hours, including nights and weekends, and during emergency situations. Dietary aides must deal with the stress of caring for elderly and physically-challenged patients. They must also interact with other staff and family members on a daily basis. This can be a stressful position because of the need to multi-task by caring for multiple patients at once. There is often high turnover in these positions because of the low pay and potentially long hours.

Salary and Benefits

Dietary aides earn between $15,000 and $25,000 per year, or between $7 and $12 per hour. Depending on the employer’s offerings, a full benefits package is sometimes available. Dietary aides are not usually members of unions.

Where to Go for More Information

American Dietetic Association
120 S Riverside Plaza, Ste. 2000
Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995
(800) 877-1600
(312) 899-0040

Commission on Dietetic Registration
120 S Riverside Plaza, Ste. 2000
Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995
(312) 899-0040

Dietary Managers Association
406 Surrey Woods Dr.
St. Charles, IL 60174
(800) 323-1908

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine