Good health depends significantly on what you eat. A registered dietitian nutritionist is an expert on good nutrition and the food choices that can make us healthy, whether it’s a healthy diet or eating to manage the symptoms of a disease or long-term condition. Nutritionists who are registered dietitians make nutrition plans to protect the health, stop allergic reactions, and ease the symptoms of many kinds of disease.

What’s a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is an expert in food and nutrition with training and education in the field. The RDN has met specific requirements, such as 

  • Getting at least a bachelor’s degree from a school that the Accreditation Council for Education accredits in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 
  • Completing an ACEND-accredited internship
  •  Passing a national exam given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). 

Types of Nutritionist

Clinical Dietitians: give medical nutrition therapy to people in hospitals and nursing care facilities. They evaluate the nutritional requirements of patients, design and implement nutrition programs, and assess and report the results. They talk with doctors and other healthcare workers to coordinate medical and dietary needs. Some clinical dietitians specialize in treating obese and critically ill patients, including those with renal (kidney) disease and diabetes. Clinical dietitians may also be in charge of the food service department in nursing care facilities, small hospitals, or prisons.

Community Dietitians: create nutrition programs targeting specific populations to prevent disease and promote health. Dietitians in this area may work in public health clinics, fitness centers, corporate wellness programs, or home health agencies, among other places.

Corporate Dietitians: work in food production, advertising, and marketing. Dietitians analyze foods, prepare literature for distribution, and report on topics such as the nutritional value of recipes, dietary fiber, and vitamin supplements.

Management Dietitians are in charge of meal planning and preparation work in hospitals, schools, prisons, and company cafeterias. They hire, train, and manage other dietitians and people who work in food service. They also make a budget for food, equipment, and supplies, buy them, enforce health and safety rules, keep records and write reports.

Consultant Dietitians: work as consultants either work for health care facilities on a contract basis or run their private practices. They conduct nutrition evaluations for their clients and counsel them on dietary concerns such as weight loss and cholesterol reduction. Further, some work for wellness programs, sports teams, grocery stores, and other nutrition-related businesses. Therefore, they help food service managers by advising on cleanliness, safety procedures, menu planning, budgeting, and making plans.

Job Description for a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Even though each RDN’s job is unique, the profession shares specific characteristics. Here, we’ll talk about what RDNs usually do and how they work in different settings.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) advise what people should eat to live healthier lives or reach a health goal. Some of the things they do on the job, but not all of them, are:

  • Train others about food and diet
  • Check a patient’s nutritional needs
  • Develop dietetic plans
  • Hold group sessions about nutrition and also diets
  • Provide a piece of individual advice about diet and nutrition.
  • Help patients with meal planning
  • Get information, research, and make reports.

Education Required to Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

RDN certification currently requires a bachelor’s degree from an ACEND-accredited program. But after 2024, you will need a master’s degree. These are some examples of approved degree programs :

  • Bachelor of Science in Dietetics
  • Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition
  • Or Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences
  • Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition

The following bachelor’s and master’s degree programs provide career-focused instruction taught by experienced nutritionists with training in the field.

Earn an optional certification

You can get certified in one of two ways: by becoming a registered dietitian through the CDR or by getting certification in food and nutrition courses from a reputed and accredited institution. In this case, the Registered Dietician Nutritionist certification is the same as being a Registered Dietitian.

What Skills Registered Dietitian Nutritionists Need

To do well as an RDN, you should be able to do the following:

  • Good communicating skills.
  • Active listening skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Organizational skills that work
  • Time management skills
  • Also, the ability to work on your own

The Average Salary for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists

As of May 2019, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics said that the average salary for an RDN was $61,270 per year. The average salary for people who worked in outpatient care centers was $68,000. RDNs make the most money in California, paying an average of $77,040 annually. Again in Alaska, where they earn an average of $72,640 per year, and Massachusetts, where they make an average of $72,610 per year. Moreover, Hawaii makes an average of $71,230 per year; in New Jersey, they earn an average of $70,550 per year. And in India, Registered dietitian nutritionists make INR 50000 per month.

How to Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Step1: Get a Bachelor’s degree in dietetics or a related field

To become a dietitian, you must first get a bachelor’s degree. Due to changes made by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ credentialing agency, the Commission on Dietetic Registration, those who graduate after January 1, 2024, will have to get a graduate degree.

If you graduate before 2024, you can get a bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition, dietetics, public health, or foods and nutrition. Besides, the bachelor’s degree courses will focus on evidence-based nutrition, nutritional therapy, community nutrition, fundamental food principles, and food service systems.

Suppose you want to get a master’s degree. In that case, you might look into an ACEND-accredited master’s in nutrition or a coordinated degree program, such as a master’s in public health/registered dietitian (MPH/RD). Make sure to include in your program application any specific background information or work history in nutrition that is needed or that may qualify you for the following steps to become an RD.

Step2: Complete an Internship in Dietetics

To become a registered dietician, you must do an internship after you finish your nutrition program. It gives you hands-on clinical experience. This is true for people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

The length of an internship can be anywhere from 8 to 24 months. You can work either part-time or full-time. Aspirants can also do an internship online or distance. 

Moreover, one can choose an internship based on what one likes and wants to do with your career. Further, many programs focus on clinical nutrition, medical therapy, community nutrition, pediatric nutrition, geriatric nutrition, food systems management, public health nutrition education, and other areas.

Step3: Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) test.

Passing the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam is the most crucial step to earning the RD credential and becoming a registered dietitian. Once you have finished your degree and internship requirements, you can become validated by the CDR and then take the registered dietitian exam.  

There are more than 250 places to take the exam. The test takes two hours and a half and has up to 145 questions. According to the current Registered Dietitian Exam specifications, the test consists of the following:

  • 25% of the basics of nutrition
  • 40% Nutritional care for individuals and groups
  • 21% of the management of food and nutrition programs and services
  • 14% foodservice systems

Step4: Obtain Licensure

Different states have different rules about licensing and credentials for registered dietitians. Some states want you to have a license and a certificate, while others just want you to have a CDR credential. The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists (BCNS), and the Clinical Nutrition Certification Board are the credentialing groups that are known across the country (CNCB).

So, if you want to work as a dietitian, you may need a license or other credentials from your state. Keep up with any continuing education you need to keep your appointment or other certifications.

Step 5: Maintaining your state license and registration

To keep your RD credentials, you must get 75 continuing education credits every five years, one of which is ethics.

You have 120 days to turn in a learning plan and activity log from the time you finish your first activity. CDR has a 120-day calculator that you can use to figure out when you need to turn in your learning plan. You must keep your MyCDR Page up to date and pay an annual registration maintenance fee. 

Is it worth it to become a dietician?

You need to do many things to work in dietetics, but it’s a growing field of study that will keep you employed. Registered dietitians help improve people’s health and stay in public health significantly. Dieticians work to help their communities and make people’s lives better. They perform this in places like hospitals and sports medicine.

So, no matter what you want to do with your life, this is a great field to focus on. The fact that RDs can work in the private, non-profit, and government sectors gives them a lot of ways to learn and a good salary. Registered dietitians can also help people and families live better through nutrition and dietetics.

FAQs

Ques1. What’s the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist?

Ans: The terms “registered dietitian” (RD) and “registered dietitian nutritionist” (RDN) mean the same thing, but there is a slight difference between the two. The word “nutritionist” was added to RD to cover a broader idea of health and wellness and the prevention and treatment of conditions.


Ques2. How long do you have to study to become a nutritionist?

Ans: Certification Nutrition and diet courses – The minimum time is six months, and the maximum is two years. Three years for a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, nutrition, or any other related field. A dietetics master’s degree takes two years to finish.

Ques3. Is it hard to study nutrition?

Ans: It’s more complicated than you might think to study nutrition and dietetics because you have to take classes that are usually part of a medical degree. Learning the human body’s physical and mental aspects is the only way to understand how it works and how it can adapt fully.

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