By Chris Lee, Senior writer, 17, Walnut HS
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Netty Levine, a registered dietitian at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Nutrition Counseling Center in Beverly Hills, displays some of the plastic food models she uses to demonstrate correct portion sizes and balanced meals.
Photo by Chris Lee, 17, Walnut HS

Registered dietitian Netty Levine of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center spoke to L.A. Youth about the job opportunities in her field.

What do dietitians do?
A dietitian educates people on how to eat right. I help them change their eating habits.

What kind of patients do you treat?
There are inpatients such as patients who have a gun wound and need a special diet and outpatients such as patients who need or want to change their eating habits.

What problems do your patients encounter?
Some patients are overweight or anorexic and need or want to change their eating habits, and others may have diabetes and need a special diet. I also get some patients who are pregnant and want to know how to properly nourish their child.

What is difficult in solving these problems?
Different people have different needs. Some may be taking diet pills and not losing weight. Others may be going to Souplantation to eat too much salad. One challenge is that patients are culturally diverse. They all have the same basic problem, but they involve different ethnic foods. It is a bit of a challenge solving the problem [when there are so many different factors].

Do dietitians only work in hospitals?
Dietitians can work in hospitals, clinics, health clubs or spas. Dietitians can also work at health magazines or general magazines because health and diet are popular topics.

Does this field have good job opportunities?
Sometimes I get to work with celebrities or other famous people. You can even become an administrative dietitian who manages budgets, staffs the floor or decides what’s on the menu.

How do you treat a patient? Do you set up an eating plan?
I do not make a calorie plan or a schedule in the beginning. First I figure out the problem [causing obesity, malnourishment, etc.]. Sometimes I feel like I am a psychologist or marriage counselor because eating problems come from other problems, such as different eating habits when a patient lives with divorced parents. After I find out more about the patient, I start making changes such as portion control and meal control depending on the patient.

What kind of training is needed to become a dietitian?
It usually takes four years of college and one year of internship. Some colleges like Cal State L.A. offer special dietitian programs. I was a biology major and easily switched into being a dietitian by taking some nutrition classes and finishing my internship.

How much do dietitians make?
According to the American Dietetic Association, dietitians make $35,000 to $46,000 per year in the first five years and can increase to incomes above $72,000.

Is the job flexible?
Yes, it is. When I was pregnant I asked to work four five-hour work days. Some people work part-time or full-time.

Are dietitians predominantly female?
Yes, dietitians are mostly female. It would be nice if there were more males. There are a few males in the field, and they usually rise to the top.

What is the best part about being a dietitian?
When a pregnant patient comes back to me and asks if I want to see their healthy baby or babies. Or when someone who has diabetes comes back with a healthy blood sugar level.

Would you like to know more about how to enter this field? The California Dietetic Association Web site at offers listings of two-year and four-year colleges that have degree programs for registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, along with internships, a scholarship application form and questions and answers about the field. Click on “For Our Students.”

What are you doing with the rest of your life?

The health care industry needs you! Health care offers a variety of jobs and careers, with great pay and flexible schedules. Whether you plan to start working right out of high school, or go to trade school, community college or a university, you can follow a path directly to a great future.

For more information, check out
Funded by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation.

Other stories by this writer:

What’s for dinner? One fun and crazy evening, Chris, 16, taught his friends to cook. (Nov. – Dec. 2006)

Movie review: Borat. (Nov. – Dec. 2006)

A cool medical job. As a 23-year-old junior pathologist’s assistant, Jerry’s work is critical in helping doctors make the right diagnosis. (Nov. – Dec. 2006)

Downloading dilemma. Chris, 16, thinks record companies can make money and give kids free music. (May – June 2006)