Ten-year follow up of graduates from the Aspiring Dietitians Study: Implications for dietetic workforce development

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Journal Article

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Plint, H., Ball, L., Hughes, R., & Desbrow, B. (2016). Ten-year follow up of graduates from the Aspiring Dietitians Study: Implications for dietetic workforce development. Nutrition and Dietetics, 73(3), 241-246.

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To explore the career pathways and practice experiences of dietitians in the first decade following graduation to identify factors influencing workforce development.


A qualitative, follow up study was conducted on a previously recruited cohort of aspiring dietetic students who had graduated as dietitians over the preceding decade. Participants completed an individual, semi-structured telephone interview which focused on retrospectively exploring factors influencing career pathways, perceptions of career success and satisfaction and the competencies required for effective practice. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, and underwent qualitative descriptive and triangular analysis.


Career pathways were opportunistic rather than planned, influenced more by actual employment opportunities and lifestyle preferences (particularly location) than initial career preferences and plans. Most acknowledged that initial unfamiliarity of the profession, employment realities and pragmatic career decision-making explained the misalignment of plans with actual career pathways. Participants rated competencies of communication, teamwork, counselling and specific disciplinary knowledge as most relevant to effective practice. Despite some participants acknowledging that their career was not as originally anticipated, there was a consistent theme of career success and satisfaction determined more by intrinsic factors (helping people, effective in job, being acknowledged as a specialist) than extrinsic variables (remuneration level, management progression). Retention in the dietetic work-force appeared to be high, particularly when opportunities to specialise or undertake research were realised.


Workforce preparation that facilitates graduates to be flexible to employment, continuing professional development opportunities and support specialisation and research in practice are likely to be important for nutrition and dietetic workforce retention.

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This document has been peer reviewed.