Make the World a Healthier Place: How to Become a Registered Dietitian

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Published
Jan 8, 2019

Jan 8, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

Registered dietitians are professionals responsible for addressing today's complex issues surrounding food. They help counsel patients on appropriate eating habits. They partner with us to prevent chronic diseases and promote better health.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that dietitians earned a median salary of $59,410 in 2017. Jobs will grow by 15 percent between 2016 and 2026.

Did these stats grab your interest? Are you ready to learn more on how to become a registered dietitian? Then this article is for you!

What Does a Registered Dietitian Do

Registered dietitians lead a busy workday. They might counsel senior citizens, professional athletes, and pregnant women on healthy choices. Some dietitians test food products or do nutrition research for food companies.

You'll also find dietitians in health care facilities like hospitals or nursing homes. Sometimes you'll find these professionals working for food manufacturers or health clubs. Some dietitians will go into private practice and work with clients by themselves.

How to Become a Registered Dietitian

The first step on the road to becoming a registered dietitian is to earn a bachelors degree. An undergraduate dietetics degree may focus on nutrition science. Other programs concentrate on the wellness industry.

Common majors for dietitians might be food science or microbiology. Most students enroll in a degree program called a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD).

DPD students study topics like home economics and sociology. They study physiology and how diet influences our body structures. You can find more info here on how specialized diets reduce the risks of chronic disease.

You can become a registered dietitian even if you have a bachelors degree that's not in the nutrition field. Contact the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). They will check your transcripts and recommend classes to become a registered dietitian.

Some students may wish to pursue a Master of Science in Nutrition (MS). A Master of Science in Didactic Program in Dietetics degree is another program. There are eight schools in the U.S. accredited by the ACEND that offer these two advanced degrees.

Both masters programs offer advanced classes in research and medical sciences. They also give students the skills they need to apply for dietetic internships.

Internships

The next step to completing your dietetics degree is to apply for an internship. Internships can last between eight and 24 months on a full- or part-time basis.

Internships include approximately 1,200 hours of supervised practice. These internships usually last around 8-24 months long. Internships are available at either hospitals, clinics or other community or city agencies.

Certification

Most US states want certification to become a registered dietitian (RD.) Certification exams cover areas such as clinical physiology, food science, and nutrition screening. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) standardizes the testing for certifying Registered Dietitians.

The RD certification is a recognized designation of expertise in the nutrition field. Most employers will look for job candidates that have an RD certification.

Further Professional Certifications

Some professionals may want to specialize in specific areas to make themselves marketable. These certifications need extra training to expand your skills and knowledge. Some examples of these professional specializations include:

Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS)

These professionals perform advanced research and therapy in medical facilities and educational institutions.

Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN)

The CCN focuses on gastrointestinal health. They are also trained to tailor diet plans based on a patient's individual genetics.

Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG)

This specialization refers to expertise working with older adult populations.

Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition (CSP)

Pediatric nutritionists counsel children on healthy food choices. They assist kids with or without special needs of all ages.

Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (CSO)

These specialists help cancer patients develop healthy diets while they undergo professional treatment.

Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition (DACBN)

This certification is for professionals who have a doctorate degree in Nutritional Sciences. DACBN professionals also have over two years of experience in the nutrition field.

Continuing Education

Registered Dietitians must complete 75 hours of continuing education credits every five years. This continuing education is necessary to keep their certification.

There are five continuing education steps that registered dietitians complete every five years. These steps include:

Professional Self Reflection

Professionals assess their current career status and what their future goals are. Students create short and long-term goals used to develop a professional learning plan.

Learning Needs Assessment

Dietitians assess their own professional abilities. This includes identifying their own professional weaknesses and areas for improvement.

Learning Plan

Candidates create a five year learning plan. These plans contain the list of goals that is the dietitian's career road map for the next five year period.

Professional Development Evaluation

Candidates assess themselves to see if they're on track with their learning plan. They review their new skills learned in the last five years and how they have applied this learning.

Ethics

Registered dietitians are also required to complete ethics courses. They are responsible for knowing the Dietetic Code of Ethics. This code has 5 categories and 19 principles of ethical behavior.

Next Steps

Feel like you know more on how to become a registered dietitian? Then your next great career is waiting for you right around the corner.

Check the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. They have plenty of information on education programs for food and nutrition professionals.

Be on the lookout for dietitian internships as they come advertised. Internships will help you learn the skills you need to master the certification exam.

Don't forget to check our blog for more helpful advice on how to become a dietitian. This next, great career move is waiting for you right around the corner. It's time for you to be that nutrition superhero!