How to become a UK dietitian from overseas

Union Jacks in London

Transferring credentials and moving to a different country can be a daunting process. Additionally, while there is an abundance of information online for other health professionals looking to work abroad, there is not a lot available for dietitians, which is why I have compiled a guide based on my experience.

Registering with the Health Care Professions Council (HCPC)

You’ll first need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council. This is the UK regulatory body for dietitians, as well as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and other allied health professionals. I’ve written more about the application process here.

Applying for jobs

Most dietitians in the UK work in the NHS, either directly for the NHS or as an agency worker (contractor). You can also work privately for other companies, or in food service, marketing, sales, or universities, but there are fewer of these positions, and those who need sponsorship may not be eligible for some of these roles. NHS dietitians typically work in acute or community settings. Acute dietitians are mainly inpatient, and may or may not have some outpatient responsibilities, while community dietitians work with outpatients and may visit patients at a clinic, in nursing homes, or their own home.

NHS jobs are separated into bands. Dietitians can work at Bands 5, 6, 7, and 8.

  • Band 5 – Entry-level, similar to a dietitian I position in the US – most Band 5 dietitians are generalists and see lower acuity patients
  • Band 6 – Similar to a dietitian II position in the US – most Band 6 dietitians are specialized
  • Band 7 – Similar to a clinical nutrition manager in the US, or may just be highly specialized in their niche
  • Band 8 – This would be a highly advanced and specialist dietitian – you would likely be a leader in your specialty or oversee a very large department

Specialties are similar to those in the US, and include stroke, renal, oncology, critical care, home enteral tube feeding, gastroenterology, pediatrics, NICU, diabetes, eating disorders, mental health, and weight management. I have even seen the odd position for dietitians specializing in pediatric allergies, metabolic disorders, cystic fibrosis, or ARFID. I have noticed that dietitians seem to specialize more in the UK than in the US. NHS Jobs is likely the best place to find a job in the NHS, as the postings will be more up to date, but you can also look on Indeed, LinkedIn, Reed, the BDA website, and the Association for Nutrition website. While many nurses register with overseas recruitment agencies, I am not sure how helpful these are for allied health professionals.

Can you apply for jobs without HCPC registration?

Many jobs will not even let you begin an application before you have registration. However, others specifically note that they are happy to have candidates who have not yet registered with the HCPC, like the one below:

These are typically for entry-level Band 5 positions. I applied and interviewed before my HCPC registration was complete, and worked as a Band 4 for a few months before the HCPC approved my application. However, I have also spoken to someone who was hired from overseas as a Band 4 Dietetic Assistant until her HCPC registration went through, when she was able to work as a Band 6 Dietitian.

Interviewing as an internationally-trained applicant

As some jobs allow you to apply without having HCPC registration, I applied to any job that would allow me to select “applied for but do not yet have HCPC registration.” I was very shocked that I was even able to get one interview before my HCPC registration had gone through, but I was invited to interview for many of the jobs I had applied for.

My interviewees were often a dietitian lead and a dietitian or allied health professional manager. They began with general questions, then followed up with more specific questions.

Right to work

Unless you have UK or Irish citizenship, are eligible for a family or spouse visa, or have refugee status, you will likely be applying for the Health and Care Worker Visa. As a dual UK/US citizen, I luckily did not need to apply for a visa, so I would recommend reading what other people have to say about the process. Lexi of The Roaming Nurse has a very thorough post detailing the visa process as a nurse moving from the US to the UK.

Getting hired in the NHS as an internationally-trained applicant

After accepting my conditional offer letter, I completed the following:

  • an identity check – this involves providing multiple forms of proof of identity, usually a passport, bank statement, and an ID card or driver’s license
  • contacting references – as with any job, it is important to let past employers know that they will be sent a reference request
  • a DBS check – this is an enhanced criminal records and convictions check which you have to pay for. If you have lived in a country other than the UK in the past 5 years, you will also need to provide an overseas police check. If you are already in the UK when applying, I would recommend doing this while you send out applications, as it took weeks to get a digital copy of my police check back, and another week for the mailed copy to come through.
  • an occupational health check – it is important that you keep track of all your previous vaccination record information. The NHS may also suggest that you get the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis, if you have not previously had it

If you have gone through the process yourself, or have any questions, feel free to drop them below and I will do my best to help!

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  1. Very helpful, thank you! I”m making the big move from Perth, Australia in a couple of weeks and hope to pick up some locum work after a few months of travelling.

    1. Hello Amy, that sounds very fun! I’m glad this was helpful and I hope you have a safe move. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions!

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