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How to Become a Registered Dietitian

What Does a Dietitian Do?

nutritious foods on a table

Registered dietitians share the increasingly important goal of improving health through good nutrition. As experts in human nutrition, these professionals work in a variety of settings to help people prevent and manage disease by eating the right foods. They often work closely with nurses, physicians, chefs, business owners and others to promote good health in people’s lives.

Registered dietitians’ expertise in food chemistry, disease process and metabolism helps them to create personalized nutrition plans for patients and clients with a wide variety of nutritional goals. In medical settings, they help patients:

  • Gain or lose weight (obesity, pregnancy, elder care)
  • Prevent and reverse common diseases (cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis)
  • Manage chronic conditions (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity)
  • Withstand the rigors of treatment regimens (dialysis for kidney failure)

Registered dietitians (RDs) can take many different career paths. Some work in hospitals providing medical nutrition therapy to the sick and injured. Agencies such as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program employ these professionals to assist with client education, planning and policy-making. Other dietitians oversee food service programs at hospitals, schools and correctional facilities.

Many diseases and their life-altering consequences are preventable through small daily adjustments to diet. Certain diseases like cardiovascular disease can even be reversed through guided healthy eating. RDs play a large part in helping people make the important nutritional changes that improve their health and quality of life now and in the future.

Workplace Details

Registered dietitians work in many settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Physician offices and group practices
  • Cancer care centers
  • Retail pharmacies
  • Surgery clinics
  • Public health agencies
  • Hospice and palliative care services

Dietitians who provide medical nutrition therapy to patients are called clinical dietitians. In this role as an integral part of the medical team, they work closely with physicians and other professionals to treat patients with special nutritional needs. Their role often involves adjusting the person’s intake of vitamins, fluids, nutrients or calories. Clinical dietitians are expected to be highly proficient in human physiology and critical thinking, as their treatments often must take into account various disease states along with medications and other factors.

Many dietitians work outside the health care industry too, in a vast range of settings, especially where food is being served. Corporations, school systems, correctional facilities and other large institutions employ these professionals to help them meet the nutritional needs of the people they serve. RDs in these roles often oversee kitchen staff, manage ordering, balance budgets and continually ensure that balanced meals are being served. These settings are preferred by dietitians who have a particular passion for working with food. Furthermore, there’s a growing body of RDs with training in culinary arts.

With the high rates of chronic disease such as obesity and heart disease, many dietitians now provide health coaching to individuals making lifestyle changes. This requires additional training in communication modalities such as motivational interviewing or positive behavior support in order to encourage healthier behaviors. RDs who provide health coaching need to be good listeners and exude patience in their roles, as they counsel their clientele.

In almost all work environments, RDs will be educating the people with whom they work. Community-involved roles require teaching the public about healthy nutrition practices; RDs in medical settings train patients to manage their diseases; and managers will be informing staff of healthy procedures that affect customers. If a dietitian earns an advanced degree, he or she often teaches at colleges, performs research or works with the government to shape public health policy. RDs are natural teachers.

Lastly, with the large expanse in job diversity, dietitians now find job opportunities in new and exciting areas. Some of the most recent opportunities include working with customers in grocery stores, partnering with chefs to create healthier menus or developing health-related products to be sold.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$71430
New York
$64900
Texas
$59010
Florida
$57430
Pennsylvania
$56300

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$50,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$27,660$47,080$66,700
Huntsville$40,260$53,890$73,740

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$69,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$52,690$69,850$93,820
Fairbanks$45,600$69,680$77,760

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$53,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$28,030$52,480$74,310
Tuscon$36,970$55,820$84,240

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$51,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $33,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$34,150$51,020$72,220
Fort Smith$34,570$52,540$70,280

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$72,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$51,860$73,210$95,930
San Francisco Bay$37,930$83,190$114,210
San Diego$44,820$67,970$88,400
Sacramento$51,500$74,260$98,320

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$58,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$43,400$59,500$87,180
Colorado Springs$40,490$58,560$75,470

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$64,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $84,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$41,490$60,720$79,360
Bridgeport$30,160$65,840$86,320
New Haven$47,900$69,090$96,260

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$61,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$39,410$59,880$81,210

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$60,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $87,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$30,120$59,520$96,650

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$55,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$34,120$57,220$84,120
Orlando$31,260$53,370$74,760
Tampa$37,010$55,280$81,900
Jacksonville$35,310$48,630$68,840

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$50,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 21%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$35,230$55,020$80,470
Augusta$16,110$21,170$70,440

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$65,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$45,350$65,680$81,390

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$51,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,000

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$33,760$51,070$73,430

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$57,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$37,240$59,320$80,260
Rockford$23,230$53,720$74,240

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$53,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$29,190$54,650$76,150
South Bend$42,060$54,080$66,260
Fort Wayne$41,800$53,280$76,130

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$53,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$40,190$49,580$72,760
Cedar Rapids$41,160$54,260$69,400

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$54,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$36,080$57,240$85,940
Kansas City$34,820$52,750$73,190

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$53,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$41,060$54,150$72,510
Lexington$41,490$55,360$72,770

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$49,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$36,680$55,890$76,650
Baton Rouge$17,360$44,130$70,910
Lafayette$31,330$44,860$61,450

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$57,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$36,840$57,670$78,040

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$62,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$41,460$64,780$87,450
Frederick$31,870$58,290$100,370

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$59,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $86,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$42,480$61,070$89,820
Worcester$35,970$54,250$74,530
Springfield$44,170$60,790$79,160

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$54,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$40,660$54,000$69,200
Grand Rapids$40,720$55,490$74,090

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$58,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$42,040$57,600$77,010
Rochester$46,500$61,250$76,290

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$44,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $28,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$31,560$48,760$70,290
Gulfport$24,880$59,960$77,220

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$47,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$18,220$47,920$72,240
Kansas City$34,820$52,750$73,190

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$46,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Missoula$27,710$41,080$59,920

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$53,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$40,720$56,100$74,180
Lincoln$30,940$49,510$61,970

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$64,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$43,620$64,640$82,950
Reno$30,720$58,630$76,150

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$66,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$54,860$69,860$80,960
Nashua$41,260$55,460$75,180

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$65,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $85,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$51,570$67,620$85,080
Trenton$39,890$68,260$92,580

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$49,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$39,180$56,220$77,250
Las Cruces$32,240$45,450$76,110

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$61,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $86,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$45,420$64,120$89,710
Buffalo$36,520$59,070$76,630
Rochester$40,560$56,230$77,390
Albany$40,520$60,730$90,630

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$51,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $71,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$30,390$48,750$63,530
Raleigh$39,010$55,280$75,580
Greensboro$30,810$47,470$62,100
Winston - Salem$37,410$50,730$64,720

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$51,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $37,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $70,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$35,220$48,880$69,050
Bismarck$41,890$53,810$64,770

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$56,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $75,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$35,770$56,970$77,010
Columbus$40,700$55,310$77,400
Cincinnati$42,410$57,080$77,240
Dayton$40,990$54,620$77,150

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$52,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$36,730$54,990$74,390
Tulsa$36,690$52,140$73,310

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$66,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $85,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$49,960$69,770$92,670
Salem$42,380$59,520$74,920

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$55,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$28,040$61,300$81,110
Pittsburgh$38,090$50,700$69,780
Harrisburg$28,940$54,060$76,960
Allentown$42,780$58,910$79,320

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$65,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $84,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$33,990$63,880$84,010

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$47,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $69,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$29,060$46,760$67,940
Columbia$29,950$53,650$72,210
Charleston$21,110$44,350$70,290

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$52,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $39,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Rapid City$42,360$55,670$72,240

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$52,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $38,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$40,790$50,980$72,550
Memphis$41,600$55,500$76,150
Knoxville$38,530$52,570$72,670
Chattanooga$34,790$51,500$71,560

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$56,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$41,740$57,010$78,000
Houston$39,880$58,720$77,990
San Antonio$30,890$57,010$75,550
Austin$34,480$54,570$78,260

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$45,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $72,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 32%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$27,380$46,340$72,040
Ogden$28,690$41,580$71,470

VERMONT

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$43,950$59,470$85,950

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$54,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $29,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$27,620$50,730$64,180
Richmond$40,950$63,140$78,280

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$64,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $83,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$49,920$66,940$87,730
Spokane$40,620$58,870$78,240

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$55,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $32,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $82,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$27,200$54,480$83,480
Charleston$34,530$54,130$108,560

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$55,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $31,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$41,840$57,610$75,980
Madison$26,740$55,950$78,190

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$60,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics report, the median annual salary for registered dietitians is $58,920. Among the industries with highest employment of RDs, dietitians in outpatient care settings tend to earn a higher average salary ($65,860), while RDs tend to earn lower average salaries in local government positions ($51,980).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of registered dietitians will increase by 16% from 2014 to 2024, a rate that is significantly higher than the average for other occupations. The growing rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, along with the expanding elderly population, are factors driving demand for qualified RDs.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$64120 Per Year

$30.82 Per Hour

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$73210 Per Year

$35.19 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Registered Dietitian

1

Earn a bachelor's degree, at minimum.

Becoming credentialed as a registered dietitian requires a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, nutrition or a related field from an accredited university. Those aspiring for certification will take high-level courses in biochemistry, physiology, food chemistry, anatomy, culinary arts and nutrition science. About half of all dietitians hold a master’s degree or doctorate; even though this is not currently required for certification, it’s strongly encouraged.

Show Me Schools »

2

Complete an internship after undergraduate education.

To be eligible for the RD credential, students must complete a 1,200-hour post-bachelor’s internship under the supervision of a licensed dietitian. This training takes six months to a year. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) maintains a list of approved dietetic internships on its website. Students often complete these 1200 hours in different sectors of medical care, community outreach and food service.

3

Pass an exam to become a registered dietitian.

Candidates who hold a relevant bachelor’s degree and have met the internship requirement are then qualified to sit for the national RD exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Some states may also require additional certification or licensure to practice locally.

4

Advance your career.

RDs with advanced degrees command higher salaries and have a more diverse choice of career paths. (A doctorate in nutrition, for example, opens up careers in research and academia.) Those working in food service and clinical care often advance into management positions with higher salaries as well. RDs can also increase their advancement opportunities by relocating to an area with a shortage of health care professionals.

Established professionals can also earn higher wages by becoming proficient in their chosen field. The Commission on Dietetic Registration provides several continuing education opportunities including becoming a certified sports specialist dietitian, a specialist in pediatric nutrition or a specialist in gerontological (older adult) nutrition. Many dietitians use these additional training opportunities to obtain higher wages and advancement.

Exploring Degree Paths

BACHELOR'S DEGREE AND DIETETIC INTERNSHIP

4-5 years

There are two basic pathways to becoming a registered dietitian.

  • Complete a 4-year Didactic Program in Dietetics leading to a bachelor’s degree followed by a 1-year Dietetic Internship (5 years)
  • Complete a Coordinated Program in Dietetics, which integrates the bachelor’s degree and internship programs (4 years)

Show Me Schools »

In order to meet the requirements for Registered Dietitian certification, all educational programs must be accredited by ACEND, the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Didactic and coordinated programs in dietetics can be found at many four-year colleges and universities. Dietetic internships are sponsored by universities, hospitals, and public health districts. For a searchable list of accredited programs, visit ACEND’s website.

No matter which pathway you choose, your first two years of study will focus on courses in general education, natural sciences, math, and writing. At some schools, students must apply for admission to the dietetics program at the end of Year 2.

Beginning in Year 3, the instruction shifts to diet and nutrition. Common dietetics courses include:

Nutrition through the life span

Study human eating patterns and nutritional requirements at each stage of life.

Food systems management

Learn about facility design, operations, technology, and regulations affecting food services.

Medical nutrition therapy

Study the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of nutrition-related medical conditions.

Community nutrition

Understand how nutrition concepts can be used to prevent disease and promote health on a population level.

In coordinated programs, students complete their clinical rotations during Years 3 and 4. When possible, these experiences are integrated with coursework. (For example, the medical nutrition therapy class and clinical are completed during the same semester).

Students who graduate from a didactic program spend an additional year completing a 1,200-hour Dietetic Internship. Interns rotate through areas like food service, clinical nutrition, and community nutrition. Their responsibilities and independence increase with experience.

Keys to Success as a Registered Dietitian

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Interpersonal skills

Strong communications skills, warmth and compassion are invaluable assets for dietitians who provide direct care to patients. Many roles will involve providing education and counseling to their populations on a daily basis.

Science-loving and tech-savvy

Because the field of dietetics combines elements of biology, chemistry and physics, aspiring registered dietitians should have a passion for science as well as technical aptitude. As technology continues to develop, being technologically savvy is also a growing necessary skill for dietitians.

Additional Credentials

To become certified as a registered dietitian (RD) by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), you must hold a bachelor’s degree from an ACEND-accredited program, complete 1,200 hours of accredited clinical experience, and pass an exam. CDR also offers five specialty certifications for registered dietitians. Candidates must document clinical experience in the specialty and pass a knowledge exam.

Specialty certifications available for RDs:

  • Oncology nutrition
  • Renal nutrition
  • Gerontological nutrition
  • Pediatric nutrition
  • Sports dietetics
Dylan Jones, MS RD, CD, CES

Dylan Jones is a registered dietitian and clinical exercise specialist in the Pacific Northwest. He works in long-term care and bariatric settings, helping radically change the health of patients through whole food interventions and reducing reliance on medications. He also partners with private business owners to launch health programs around the globe. Dylan’s mission is to re-cultivate the philosophy that food and exercise are medicine. These simple concepts are ones that a majority of the world’s cultures know and use for good health. For questions, Dylan can be reached through his website at JonesHealthCorner.com.

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