If you have a passion for food, health and helping people, becoming a registered dietitian (RD) might be for you. There are intensive requirements to become an RD in the U.S., but this profession is well worth the effort. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the employment of nutritionists and dietitians will grow by 16 percent until 2024.
To learn more about what it takes to become a registered dietitian, we’ll walk through the necessary educational and professional requirements to earn this credential. Depending on your state, additional regulatory licensure may be needed in order to become a food or nutrition practitioner. However, the RD credential is accepted among all 50 states.
At minimum, RDs must have a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. regionally accredited college or university. Foreign equivalents are also acceptable. Dietetics students can study several different subjects, such as food and nutrition sciences, microbiology, biochemistry, food service systems, business, culinary arts and more. However, completed coursework must be obtained through an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredited program or through a Coordinated Program in Dietetics.
In addition to a bachelor’s degree, RDs must also complete 1200 supervised practice hours through a Dietetic Internship that is ACEND-accredited. These hours may also be completed through a Coordinated Program in Dietetics or an ACEND-accredited Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway.
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The final step to become an RD is to pass the national examination. This exam is administered by the Commision on Dietetic Registration and will make sure you are prepared to work and assist others in both private and public sectors of nutrition. After completing the education and experience requirements and passing the exam, you will earn the RD credential. In order to maintain this title, however, you must complete your state’s continuing education requirements.
Employment Opportunities as a Registered Dietitian
Achieving the status of an RD is a significant accomplishment. Depending on your interests and any additional specialized certifications you may have earned, there is a variety of different settings you can choose to work in. Some specialized areas of practice include pediatric nutrition, renal nutrition, gerontological nutrition, diabetes education, sports dietetics and more.
RDs can work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, administering nutritional therapy, managing foodservice operations or educating patients about proper nutrition practices. They may also choose to work in schools or daycares to oversee food purchasing and preparation.
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Some RDs choose to work for nutrition and food-related businesses, private practices, public health organizations or higher education institutions. The role of an RD will vary greatly depending on the setting they’re in.
For example, an RD interested in working for a specific business may focus on the communications, public relations and marketing side of things. However, an RD who wants to work directly with the community will likely be involved in educating and monitoring the public’s eating habits in order to improve their quality of life.
RDs must stay up-to-date on the latest research and developments regarding nutrition, or they can choose to conduct research themselves, finding alternative foods and answering critical nutrition questions.
Whatever area of practice you decide to pursue as an RD, it is sure to be a rewarding profession that can help improve people’s lives and overall health.