How can I become a Registered Dietitian?
Hey! I was wondering if anyone on here could tell me the process of how to become a registered dietician!
Nutrition has always been something I've been interested in, and it would also be helpful if I was informed of other career paths I could take in this field other than an RD.
I was also wondering what I could do in high school, such as volunteering and organizations that I can join, that are related to dietetics or nutrition. I can't seem to find any :( Thanks a lot!
Caitlyn Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LDN/CDN, EDRC
Great question- I definitely remember being confused about how to get into dietetics early on. To answer the part about what you can do now as a high school student- if you have any community food pantries/food banks or soup kitchens near you, those are great places to start volunteering. You can get both community nutrition and food service experience. You may also want to check hospitals near you- there may be some that allow diet aide volunteers or patient ambassadors so you can get some hands on experience working with different populations in a clinical setting.
Becoming an RD is an intense process that takes investment of time and finances and it is absolutely worth it! The “traditional” path to becoming an RD is (1) attend an accredited university program in dietetics-typically takes 2-4 years and involves both nutrition, social sciences and life science courses; (2) apply and be accepted/matched to a rigorous dietetic internship and complete a minimum of 1000 hours of supervised practice in clinical, community and food service nutrition (and often other specialties-those are the primary ones you need); (3) take the RD licensing exam given by the Commission for Dietetic Registration (CDR), and receive a passing score of 25 or above.
That being said, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND- they accredit dietetics programs and internships) is realizing that this pathway is not feasible for everyone and they have created several new pathways for students to follow to achieve the RD credential including the future education model (FEM) where you can do your supervised practice at around the same time as your class work so that when you graduate you can sit for the exam right away. Each program is different though so I would encourage you to check out the Academy’s program directory here for further detail: https://www.eatrightpro.org/acend/accredited-programs/about-accredited-programs
*Starting in 2024, the Academy is requiring anyone wanting to sit for the RD exam to have a minimum of a Master’s degree (can be in anything), so keep that in mind when searching for programs.
In terms of jobs without the RD credential, there are many! Often students sit for the Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR/NDTR) exam after finishing coursework in dietetics (Master’s degree not required). Diet techs work in many positions in food service and retail grocery stores and beyond and often work closely with RDs so it is a great stepping stone to becoming an RD or as a stand-alone career. If you are interested in the DTR career vs RD career, check out this page:
You can also work as a nutritionist-non-RD- in programs like WIC or USDA. Other options include research and food service management. The dietetics and nutrition knowledge can serve you in many areas even without an RD credential.
Lastly, I would be amiss not to mention the financial burden that degree and internship programs place on students. Luckily, there are scholarship opportunities available, either from individual programs or organizations. One place to look is the Academy Foundation: https://www.eatrightfoundation.org/foundation/apply-for-funding/scholarships
If you are a student of color or other non-white minority group, Diversify Dietetics also has scholarships and mentor opportunities: https://www.diversifydietetics.org/
If you are looking for other mentoring and coaching on the whole process from applying to passing the exam, you can also check out All Access Dietetics*: https://www.allaccessdietetics.com/ and RD2Be**: https://www.rd2be.com/
*Many options are paid. I did use their Pass the Exam class to study for the RD exam, in full disclosure. Very useful!
**I have been a mentor for this program in the past.
I hope you find this information useful and I wish you the best of luck on your dietetics journey, wherever that takes you!
Caitlyn recommends the following next steps:
I recommend looking for schools that offer nutrition and dietetics first. Not all schools offer this as a major so it can make where you go more limited. Once you picked your schools read through the nutrition and dietetics majors they offer. To become a RD you have to apply for an accredited program by ACEND. If you’re more interested in being a public health nutritionist then any nutrition major will work!
I chose my major program because I knew I wanted to be a RD and wanted to focus on medical nutrition therapy.
Once you’re about to graduate it’s time to apply for a dietetic internship. Unfortunately, you can’t just graduate college and be a registered dietitian. I wish someone told me that in the beginning of my college career. Now that it’s 2024 you have to receive a masters degree and complete a dietetic internship to sit for the exam. This takes 2 more years on top of the 4 undergrad years.
I am not a RD yet, I’m actually about to take my exam. The stage between your internship and waiting to take the test is awkward. No where will hire me as a dietitian since I’m not credentialed and lots of places think I’m overqualified to work for them.
Jobs I recommend in high school and college are becoming a diet clerk at a hospital or nursing home, working in a hospital or nursing home kitchen, coming a RDs assistant.
Volunteering I recommend would be at a local food pantry or schools.
There are many other things you can do with a nutrition degree besides becoming an RD. You can become a public health nutritionist, food service manager, Nutrition educator for non-profit organizations, and so much more!
It’s important to think how you want to use your knowledge to help others and where your interests are. If you’re interested in the more medical side of nutrition. There are plenty of things out there!
A registered dietitian is a step to specialization in the field of nutrition. To become certified you are expected to start and complete a 1year compulsory clinical experience in a government approved (federal teaching Hospital) after which you would take a board exam, only those that pass the exam qualify to be licensed as registered dietitian. Thanks.
James Constantine Frangos
James Constantine’s Answer
Becoming a Registered Dietitian
A career as a Registered Dietitian (RD) involves providing nutrition education, dietary counseling, and nutritional therapy to individuals, groups, and communities. To become a Registered Dietitian, you must follow a specific educational and professional path. The process can be broken down into the following steps:
Obtain a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field: Aspiring dietitians must first complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Many schools offer programs specifically designed for dietetics, while others may require a degree in nutrition, food science, or a related field.
Complete an accredited supervised practice program (internship or dietetic internship): After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, you must complete an accredited supervised practice program, which typically lasts about 12 months. This program provides hands-on experience in various nutrition-related settings, such as hospitals, public health clinics, and foodservice management.
Pass the Registration Examination for Dietitians: Upon completion of the supervised practice program, you must pass the national Registration Examination for Dietitians, administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). This exam tests your knowledge of nutrition and dietetics, as well as your ability to apply that knowledge in real-world situations.
Obtain state licensure (if required): Some states require dietitians to obtain a state license in addition to national registration. Licensure requirements vary by state, so be sure to research the specific requirements for your state.
Maintain continuing education: As a Registered Dietitian, you must complete ongoing professional development to maintain your registration and licensure. This typically involves attending conferences, workshops, and other educational opportunities to stay current with the latest research and best practices in nutrition.
Alternative Career Paths in Nutrition
In addition to becoming a Registered Dietitian, there are several other career paths in the field of nutrition. Some alternatives include:
Nutritionist: A nutritionist is a professional who provides nutrition education and counseling to clients but may not be licensed or registered. This can be a good option for those who want to work in nutrition but do not wish to complete the full RD educational and credentialing process.
Nutrition Researcher: If you are interested in advancing the field of nutrition through research, you may consider pursuing a career as a nutrition researcher. This can involve working in academic or government settings, conducting studies and analyzing data to answer questions about the role of nutrition in health and disease.
Dietary Manager: Dietary managers oversee foodservice operations in healthcare, educational, and other institutional settings. They are responsible for managing staff, creating menus, and ensuring that meals meet the nutritional needs of the clientele.
Food Scientist: Food scientists study the properties, composition, and production of food to develop new products, improve existing ones, and ensure safety and quality. This can be an interesting alternative for those who are passionate about both nutrition and the science behind food production.
Public Health Nutritionist: Public health nutritionists work to improve the overall health of communities by addressing nutrition-related issues on a larger scale. They may work in government agencies, non-profit organizations, or public health departments to develop and implement policies, programs, and interventions related to nutrition.
High School Preparation for a Career in Nutrition
To prepare for a career in nutrition, it is important to take advantage of opportunities in high school that can help you gain exposure to the field and develop skills that will be useful in your future studies and career. Some ways to do this include:
Joining nutrition-related clubs or organizations: Participate in clubs or organizations related to health, nutrition, or food science to learn more about the field and develop your interests.
Volunteering at local health or nutrition-focused organizations: Gain hands-on experience by volunteering at hospitals, clinics, or other organizations that focus on nutrition and health.
Taking advanced courses in biology, chemistry, and other related subjects: Strengthen your foundation in the sciences by taking advanced courses in biology, chemistry, and other related subjects. This will help you succeed in college and prepare you for a career in nutrition.
Shadowing dietitians or other nutrition professionals: Shadowing professionals in the field can provide valuable insight into the daily tasks and responsibilities of a dietitian or nutritionist.
Participating in internships or externships: Look for opportunities to gain experience in the field through internships, externships, or job shadowing. These experiences can help you determine if a career in nutrition is the right fit for you.
Authoritative Reference Titles
“Accreditation Standards for Didactic Programs in Dietetics (DPACDE)” - This document, published by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND), outlines the requirements for accrediting didactic programs in dietetics, providing guidance for aspiring dietitians on the educational path they need to follow.
“Guidelines for Supervised Practice Experiences in Dietetics (SACNDE)” - Another resource from ACEND, this document provides guidance on the requirements for accrediting supervised practice programs in dietetics, ensuring that aspiring dietitians receive the necessary hands-on experience to become competent professionals.
“Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) Registration Examination for Dietitians” - This resource, maintained by the CDR, outlines the requirements and process for taking the national Registration Examination for Dietitians, which is necessary for becoming a Registered Dietitian.
Don't forget to read my autobiography, paying attention to the foods that provide all the essential nutrients for effective studying. You might discover that you can accomplish twice as much academic work in half the time. Your performance in exams and assignments could also improve, especially if your diet has significantly improved. Replenishing missing nutrients can do wonders.
GOD BLESS YOU,
[BECAUSE HE CAN AND WILL]
You can do MS in Nutrition and master in integrative nutrition or integrative psychiatry as well
Best of Luck