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Requirements to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is a health professional that assists people of any age to attain optimal nutritional status. A career in nutrition requires significant formal education.

The minimum requirement for a career in dietetics is a bachelor's degree; however, some dietitians hold graduate degrees. The bachelor’s degree should be from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

Colleges and Universities across the US with accredited Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Nutrition & Dietetics programs must include didactic curricula approved by ACEND. Curricula include courses in nutritional biochemistry, human nutrition, developmental nutrition, exercise physiology, metabolism, medical nutrition therapy, food service management and organization, social sciences, education, business, management, and food production. The last two years of a dietetics education are called a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). Students completing a DPD program receive a verification statement upon graduation, required to enter an accredited supervised practice program – Dietetics Internship (DI).

Upon successful completion of a DI, graduates are eligible to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) credentialing exam, to become Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN). Most states require RDNs to be licensed.

After January 1, 2024 students/interns will need to have a Master's Degree in order to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) credentialing exam to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN).

A career in dietetics can be very rewarding and lead to many different job opportunities like:

Clinical Nutrition

  • Clinical Dietitian in cardiac, diabetes care, weight management, eating disorders, oncology, renal disease, critical care, pediatrics, long term care, or other areas 
  • Outpatient dietitian in cardiac rehabilitation, diabetes care, pediatrics, weight management, or other areas
  • Pediatric/neonatal dietitian

Food Management

  • Clinical Nutrition Manager
  • Director of Food and Nutrition Services
  • School Food Service Director

Community/Public Health Nutrition

  • Nutrition coordinator for health programs
  • Nutritionist for food banks or for other food assistance programs
  • Public health nutritionist
  • School/child-care nutritionist
  • WIC nutritionist
  • Non-profit organizations

Education and Research

  • Didactic Program in Dietetics director
  • Dietetic Internship director or Assistant Dietetic Internship Director
  • Instructor/Lecturer
  • Research dietitian

Consultation and Business

  • Consultant in food/nutrition
  • Corporate dietitian
  • Private practice dietitian - patient/client nutrition care
  • Public relations and/or marketing professional
  • Health journal editor
  • Food company spokesperson
  • Sports nutritionist
  • Nutrition/food communications

Salaries for RDNs range from $47,000 to $104,000 (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Compensation & Benefits Survey, 2015) depending on the field, experience, and position held. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dietitian jobs were predicted to increase 16% from 2014-2024.

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