Becoming a registered dietitian is one of the most rewarding careers that a person can choose. As a registered dietitian, you will assist your clients in meeting their nutritional needs, usually by educating them about proper nutrition and developing easy to follow meal plans. However, before you can begin your career as a dietitian (also spelled dietitian), you will typically need to earn a licensure and certification.
Forty-six out of the fifty states require that dietitians become licensed before being eligible to work, which means that you need to learn some of the steps for becoming a licensed and certified dietitian. Read about registered dietitian licensure and certification, and find out how the state you live in determines how you will become licensed as a dietitian.
The first step to receiving a licensure or certification to work as a registered dietitian is to complete a dietetic education. Most states require that you earn at least a bachelor’s degree from either a regionally accredited institution or complete a program that has been accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
While enrolled in your accredited degree program, there are several courses that you will need to take related to dietetics. This can include food and nutrition, clinical nutrition, food services management, biology and chemistry. Once you complete your bachelor’s degree, you can continue to the next step of the licensing process.
Another requirement for most states that offer licensure as a registered dietitian is to complete a certain amount of work experience. If you are pursuing the Registered dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) designation from the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), you will need at least 1,200 hours of supervised dietetic work experience. However, you may only need 900 hours depending on the state you live in and if you are seeking state certification instead of CDR certification.
The most common way to earn your experience is during a coordinated degree program, which features an internship requirement. If your degree did not require an internship, you can enroll in an accredited dietetic internship program.
To receive a license to work as a dietitian in many states, you must earn your RDN from the CDR. This requires meeting the previously mentioned requirements and earning a passing grade in the CDR exam. In states that require CDR registration, proof of a passing exam grade will entitle you to your license or certification.
Depending on the state where you are planning to practice as a dietitian, you may need to also pass a state level certification exam before receiving your license. The Commission on Dietetic Registration maintains a list of state level agencies that regulate dietetic practice. Consult with your state’s regulatory board to make sure you have complied with any and all licensing and certification requirements.
Although the process can be time consuming and sometimes difficult, earning your license or certification to work as a registered dietitian is well-worth the effort. After becoming licensed, you will be a valuable resource to anyone seeking to follow nutritional guidelines, improve their health and their overall quality of life. Whether at the state or national level, becoming a registered dietitian is a rewarding career choice.