Read as Dietetic Technician Domenica Toscani talks about her career.  She can be found at www.appetite101.com and on her Twitter feed in the sidebar of this interview.  

What do you do for a living?

I am a Dietetic Technician, Registered. This means I obtained an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (with a concentration in Dietetics) and became registered to work as a DTR. Currently, I am a Nutrition Educator and Evaluations Consultant with a local non-profit organization. I am also a food and nutrition blogger and founder of the website Appetite101.com.

How would you describe what you do?

As a nutrition professional, I aim to share my passion and knowledge in a way that is easily understood and applicable to anyone’s life. I work to my fullest to motivate interest and change in others to better their lives with food and healthy habits.

What does your work entail?

As a DTR, I am able to provide screenings to assess nutritional status by age, sex, weight, BMI, lifestyle and other related factors. I can offer support and counsel to promote optimal health status. In my current role, I write and teach about the benefits of healthy living and how to apply simple, accessible ways to make long-term change for the better. As an education evaluations consultant, I conduct focus groups and perform research to analyze student learning retention and behavioral change as a result of nutrition education courses.

What’s a typical work week like?

I work in several positions that call for me to work remotely. Therefore, my work week varies day by day. My combined hours weekly may range from 35-45 hours a week, depending on what projects I am working on. Some weeks I spend much of my time writing, planning a lesson or compiling research data. Other times, I am on the road throughout the week, teaching or conducting focus groups at partnering sites of the organization I work for.

How did you get started?

When I was in school for my associate’s degree, I interned, shadowed and networked A TON. I shadowed (and was hired by) my professor as a Dietitian’s Assistant at a long-term care home doing clinical work. By networking at a state conference for dietetic professionals, I eventually obtained my role as nutrition blogger for The Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (better known as A&P) stores. I also volunteered for some time as a Nutrition Educator with the non-profit organization I currently work for before being offered the position as an Evaluations Consultant.

What do you like about what you do?

I like (scratch that- LOVE) that there are many different opportunities in this field. Want to work in a hospital? Go for it. With kids? Sure, why not. Teach? Write? Cook? Become an entrepreneur? Yes, yes and yes. Though nutrition is a niche field, the career possibilities available are literally endless.

What do you dislike?

There is nothing I particularly dislike, but there are some challenges. Clinical positions, especially full-time ones, come few and far between for DTRs. This is why it is crucial to build a network with professors, colleagues and other DTRs and RDs. One must be proactive and prepared to work a lot. Many DTRs are self-employed or work part-time in several positions to make a more substantial income. Many people advise DTRs to continue schooling for the full credentials to work as a Registered Dietitian, because the salary and demand are higher for RDs.

How do you make money/or how are you compensated?

Given that I am a consultant, I invoice clients and organizations that request my services.

How much money do dietetic technicians make?

It varies based on experience, your employer, your services, job demand, location, and the list goes on. I want to say that a DTR employed in a full-time clinical role might start at $27,000-$30,000 a year. Hourly/per diem positions tend to offer anywhere between $13 and $17 an hour. Income may increase up to $45,000 per year provided that the institution leaves room for promotion.

How much money did/do you make starting out as a dietetic technician?

As a Dietitian’s Assistant, I was making $10/hour; however, this was before I obtained my DTR accreditation. Since then, I have been offered positions that have ranged from $12 to $15 per hour. As a consultant, I make more money per hour, but my income is project-based.

 What education, schooling, or skills are needed to do this?

To become a Dietetic Technician, one must obtain an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science (with a concentration in Dietetic Technology), perform 450 hours of supervised practice (interning), and sit for the Dietetic Technician, Registered exam, which is accredited by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. For more information or to find schools that offer the DTR program near you, use this resource: http://www.eatright.org/BecomeanRDorDTR/content.aspx?id=8474.

What is most challenging about what you do?

The vigorous work ethic of a DTR can be wearing at times, though this is nothing a deep-rooted passion for the field can’t cure!

What is most rewarding?

Every day I get the joy of inspiring people to want to eat healthy. I enjoy the challenge of motivating change. Working with individuals, especially children and adolescents, that are inspired by my lessons and recipes makes all the hard work worthwhile. In addition, as an educator and nutrition advocate, I am contributing to the fight against obesity and its epidemic in America; that is rewarding in it of itself.

(I also get to play with recipes, cook and eat delicious foods often, while watching others enjoy the healthy foods I make. That is fun and rewarding, too.)

What advice would you offer someone considering this career?

HAVE PASSION and stay involved. I can’t say it enough. Someone said it to me when I first began studying nutrition and it gains more truth each day. Any nutrition professional will attest to the perseverance that is required to make change. The last thing this field needs is an apathetic dietitian.

How much time off do you get/take?

I am fortunate that I get to make my own schedule as a consultant; therefore, when the work load is light, I enjoy taking a long weekend. I also try to take advantage of my time off between projects.

What is a common misconception people have about what you do?

I often hear that all dietitians are vegetarian or of a certain weight status; therefore, they are unable to give accurate advice or cannot relate to those seeking counsel. All RDs and DTRs are experts trained in nutrition and “customized” counseling based on a patient or client’s lifestyle and preference. Personal opinion and judgment are not included in medical nutrition therapy.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

I hope to expand Appetite101 and have my own consulting firm in the future. I aim to further my career and education, while remaining steadfast in my involvement as a public policy and nutrition advocate.

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

It is an absolutely exciting time to join this field, with nutrition being a hot topic in political, scientific, educational and communications realms! With that said, stay knowledgeable, stay motivated, stay involved and, most importantly, stay healthy!