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How to Become a Registered Dietitian

Are you a health-conscious person who is interested in the role food plays in human health? A position as a registered dietitian may be right for you. Registered dietitians use nutrition and food science to help people improve their health. Each registered dietitian has met the strict educational and experiential standards set forth by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

The critical role of food and diet in affecting human health is well-documented in scientific studies. Changing a person’s diet can have a substantial effect on a plethora of health problems, including cancer, diabetes, hypertension, eating disorders, and heart disease. Some registered dietitians provide care and consultation to patients directly; others have a focus on public health and education, with a commitment to educating the general public about making proper dietary choices. Others work in the corporate world, or the research realm.

Registered dietitians typically work for large institutions such as hospitals, clinics, prisons, nursing homes, schools and colleges, and for state and local governments.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is searching for a professional and knowledgeable registered dietitian. The registered dietitian will be responsible for consulting with clients and advising clients on proper dietary plans and measures. This position is full-time with benefits. During the course of your work, you may be required to travel to different offices in the state to consult with locals and develop and critique meal plans. The registered dietitian will also be required to manage data and documentation for clients and management. This will include inputting data, modifying data, and presenting occasional reports. This position is not for someone who is unable to complete these tasks. Please consider carefully before applying. If this does sound like you, though, we would love to have you join our team at [Your Company Name].

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Provide dietary services following state and federal laws and regulations
  • Develop nutrition plans and implement interventions based on knowledge of patients’ current health
  • Design plans to address specific health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, eating disorders, or hypertension
  • Develop facility-wide nutritional programs for educational, correctional, healthcare, and other institutions
  • Complete monthly, quarterly and yearly assessments of clients and adapt nutrition plans as needed
  • Implement personalized, age-specific, and culturally appropriate nutrition strategies
  • Deliver client nutrition recommendations to physicians, nurses and aides
  • Provide nutrition education and counseling for patients
  • Increase public awareness of healthy nutritional standards and habits

Education and experience

  • This position requires a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a related field. A candidate must also be a registered dietitian with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

Required skills and qualifications

  • Stay current of, comply with, and model national, state and local legislation, policies, and standards for food safety
  • Apply knowledge of biological, physical or chemical properties that may cause food to be unsafe for human and animal consumption
  • Develop and provide education and counseling on safe food-handling and sustainable practices to prevent and minimize contamination
  • Educate the public on the role and the benefits of receiving care or services from a registered dietitian
  • Educate patients and the general public on the availability of nutrition services
  • Increase public awareness of the importance of nutrition and public welfare
  • Apply knowledge of hygienic food preparation practices and causes of foodborne illness in food preparation
  • Demonstrate proficient use of technical operating systems and software to communicate and disseminate information; to collect, track and retrieve data; and to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • Use standardized terminology to describe nutrition assessment data, nutrition diagnoses, nutrition interventions, and nutrition monitoring and evaluation
  • Identify and promote sustainable, resilient, healthy food to staff, customers and the public
  • Recognize the environmental implications of infectious diseases, compromised health conditions, and outbreaks, and identify and implement required preventive action for public safety

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in nutrition or related field
  • 5 years experience writing health plans
  • Bilingual
  • Strong written skills

Typical work environment

Registered dietitians are nutritional professionals who have been certified by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. These professionals will work in a variety of fields, from medical care to schools or hospitals. Registered dietitians will be required to consult with patients and advise them on proper dietary and nutritional plans. A registered dietitian needs to have good problem-solving skills and fantastic communication skills. Registered dietitians will oftentimes be consulting patients and clients, so the ability to instruct and educate others, as well as solve any interpersonal issues which may arise are required. This position is full-time and often takes place in a clinic environment. The ability to keep a work area clean and sanitary is a large benefit to a registered dietitian as well.

Typical hours

The work hours for a registered dietitian are typically from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office setting.

Available certifications

The registered dietitian field is one that requires a lot of training and certification upkeep. Because of this, a registered dietitian can benefit immensely from having the proper certifications. Some of these include:

  • Registered Dietitian (RD). The Registered Dietitian certification is offered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration and is what defines a registered dietitian. This certification is crucial to any registered dietitian, and is required before one can go into the field.
  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). The Registered Dietitian Nutritionist certification is an extension to the default certification for a Registered Dietitian. This certification can be immensely useful to any registered dietitian in order to expand their certification portfolio and stand out from other applicants to a job or position.

Career path

The career path for a registered dietitian starts by first earning a bachelor’s degree in one of the sciences — chemistry, physiology, or, especially, food and nutrition sciences.

Students are required to complete a collegiate educational program in dietetics and nutrition that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

After graduation, a candidate must pass the CDR’s Registration Examination for Dietitians. Once registered dietitian credentials have been earned, one must then fulfill the licensing/certification requirements of the state in which he or she plans to work. State laws regarding licensing processes may be found here. Registered dietitian credentials are renewed on a five-year cycle.

The registered dietitian role can begin as an entry-level position. Still, it can have numerous opportunities for growth and advancement, based on experience, performance, and keeping up with new trends and information.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-1031

2020 Employment73,000
Projected Employment in 203080,800
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 11% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift7,800 increase

As more and more Americans become aware of the importance food and diet can have on their health, registered dietitians will become increasingly valued.

Trends gaining momentum in the dietetic field include incorporating cannabis into relevant patients’ medical nutrition therapy, internal corporate wellness programs, plant-based nutrition, product development, sustainability in farming techniques, and food allergy research.