Career Development

Education and Professional Requirements for Becoming a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

January 11, 2017   /

If you are pursuing a career in nutrition and dietetics, you should become familiar with a few educational and professional requirements in order to earn the registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential.

You must complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a regionally accredited university or college in the United States. It is necessary to take course work that is accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition, you must complete 1200 hours of an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency, or a food service corporation, or combine it with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, the supervised practice program will last 8 to 24 months. Finally, you must pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

In order to maintain registration, you also must complete continuing professional educational requirements throughout your career. In addition to having the RD or RDN credential, 46 states have enacted legislation regulating the practice of dietetics. Although not required, some RDs or RDNs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice. For more information about specialty certifications or state licensure, visit http://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/.

The course work required to become an RD or RDN consists of a variety of topics and a strong foundation of science courses, such as chemistry, biochemistry, biology, anatomy, and physiology. Other classes focus on food service management, business strategies, economics, communication, sociology, culinary arts, and cultural competency.

If you are interested in becoming an RD or RDN, but already have a bachelor’s degree that is not in dietetics, you should follow these steps:

  • Contact the dietetics program director at an ACEND-accredited school and have your transcripts evaluated to determine what courses you need to meet the educational requirements for dietetic registration
  • Meet with the program director, who is your best source of information and can advise you of your best options
  • Complete the required course work, and then you are eligible for an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program

  References and recommended readings

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dietetic internships. EatRight.org website. http://www.eatright.org/ACEND/content.aspx?id=10760. Accessed June 30, 2014.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Registered dietitian (RD): educational and professional requirements. EatRight.org website. http://www.eatright.org/BecomeanRDorDTR/content.aspx?id=8143. Accessed June 30, 2014.

Certifications. Commission on Dietetic Registration website. http://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/. Accessed June 30, 2014.