What Is a Registered Dietitian?

A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential “RD.” In addition to RD credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. State requirements frequently are met through the same education and training required to become an RD.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

  • What are the qualifications of a registered dietitian?
  • What services do RDs provide?
  • How is an RD different than a nutritionist?

Get answers

BECOMING AN RD:

Educational and Professional Requirements

Registered dietitians must meet the following criteria to earn the RD credential:

  • Bachelor’s degree with course work approved by the Academy’s Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics. Coursework typically includes food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, sociology, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and chemistry.
  • Complete an accredited, supervised, experiential practice program at a health-care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation.
  • Pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
  • Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

Curriculum

Students wishing to become registered dietitians study subjects including food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, culinary arts, sociology, communications, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy and chemistry.

Some RDs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice, such as pediatric or renal nutrition and diabetes education. These certifications are awarded through CDR, the credentialing agency for the Academy and other medical and nutrition organizations and are recognized within the profession but are not required.

Employment Outlook

The majority of registered dietitians work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, often part of medical teams), in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of dietitians work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of registered dietitians work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition, corporate wellness programs and other non-traditional work settings.

According to the Academy’s 2007 Dietetics Compensation and Benefits Survey, half of all RDs in the US who have been working full-time in the field for five years or less earn between $42,000 and $55,000 per year. As with any profession, salaries and fees vary by region of the country, employment settings, scope of responsibility and supply of RDs. Salaries increase with years of experience and many RDs, particularly those in management, business and consulting, earn incomes above $86,000.

By: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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