- What does being a Registered Dietitian mean?
- What educational and professional requirements are needed in order to become a Registered Dietitian?
- What does the college coursework look like for a dietetics student?
- Can I get a masters’ degree while completing the dietetic internship?
- When do I take the Registration Exam to become and RD and what does it entail?
- What services do RDs provide?
- How is an RD different than a Nutritionist?
- If I already have an undergraduate degree, do I need to get another degree in dietetics in order to become an RD?
Q: What does being a Registered Dietitian mean?
A: Registered Dietitians are food and nutrition expert who are leaders in the field of dietetics and someone who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to quality for credentials of an “RD”.
Q: What educational and professional requirements are needed in order to become a Registered Dietitian?
A: Registered Dietitians (RDs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria:
- Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a United States accredited college or university with coursework through an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) or Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP). A list of eligible programs at the following website: http://www.eatright.org/BecomeanRDorDTR/content.aspx?id=8472#.ULg0hIanx7s
- Completed 1200 hours of supervised practice through an ACEND accredited Dietetic Internship, Coordinated Program in Dietetics or an Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) offered through an ACEND accredited program. A list of eligible programs can be found at the following websites: Dietetic Internship: http://www.eatright.org/BecomeanRDorDTR/content.aspx?id=8473#.ULgyX4anx7s Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP): http://www.eatright.org/BecomeanRDorDTR/content.aspx?id=8471#.ULgzXoanx7s
- Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). For more information regarding the examination, refer to CDR’s website at www.cdrnet.org.
- Maintained credentials through continuing professional educational requirements (CPRs).
Some RDs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice. These are awarded through CDR and are recognized within the profession but are not required. Some of the certifications include pediatric or renal nutrition, sports dietetics, oncology, nutrition support, and diabetes education.
Along with this, many states have regulatory laws (for example, licensure) for food and nutrition practitioners. All states accept the RD credential for state licensure purposes.
For more information, visit www.eatright.org.
Q: What does the college coursework look like for a dietetics student?
A: The coursework involves a variety of subjects, including food and nutrition sciences, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, foodservice systems, business, pharmacology, culinary arts, behavioral social sciences and communication.
Q: Can I get a masters’ degree while completing the Dietetic internship?
A: Some extended programs combine an internship experience with coursework to complete a Master’s degree. More information on which programs offer this type of duel program can be found on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
Q: When do I take the Registration Exam to become an RD and what does it entail?
A: The RD exam is usually taken soon after successfully completing the dietetic internship program. The exam is a computer-based test with a $200 registration fee and ACT administers it at various college testing sites throughout the United States. If you fail to pass on the first try, you have 45 days to retake the exam after your most recent attempt.
Q: What services do RDs provide?
A: There are many routes that a Registered Dietitian can take once passing the RD exam. A large majority of RDs often work in the prevention and treatment of disease in either the hospital, Health maintenance organization, private practice or other health care facilities. Treatment is a combination of counseling and administering medical nutritional therapy and involves other medical teams.
In addition, there are many RDs seeking careers outside of the clinical setting. There are many serving in the community in areas of public health, academic and even research. Non-traditional work settings also include: food and nutrition industry, journalism, sports nutrition, corporate wellness, marketing, and social media.
Q: How is an RD different than a Nutritionist?
A: The title “RD” is a credential protected legally and therefore can only be used by practitioners who have met the criteria by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Those who have RD credentials have completed the requirements of: earning a bachelor’s degree completed a supervised practice program and passed a registered exam. RDs must also apply for recertification annually and meet a standard number of continuing education.
There are some Registered Dietitians who refer to themselves as “nutritionists”, but not all nutritionists are certified RDs. Licensure laws for each state may vary, so some states may a defined range of practice for someone wanting to use the term “nutritionist” while other states may allow any person to use the term regardless of education and practice.
Q: If I already have an undergraduate degree, do I need to get another degree in dietetics in order to become an RD?
A: If you already have a bachelor’s degree that is not in dietetics and are interested in becoming a registered dietitian, you should have your college transcript evaluated by a director of a Dietetics program accredited or approved by ACEND.
The program director will evaluate your previous academic preparation and let you know which courses you will need to complete at that school to meet the educational requirements for dietetic registration. Once the required coursework is completed, you are eligible to apply to an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program.
Tips to Increase Your Competitiveness for a Dietetic Internship:
Currently there are more applicants than positions available for a Dietetic Internship. Nationally, only about 50% of the applicants are placed each year. Here are some tips to increase your chances of obtaining a Dietetic Internship:
- Investigate programs early to identify their admission criteria. Some helpful websites include: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website (http://www.eatright.org/BecomeanRDorDTR/content.aspx?id=8473) and All Access Internships (http://www.allaccessinternships.com).
- Maintain a GPA over 3.0- Most programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher before even being considered for admission.
- Demonstrate leadership by participating in extracurricular activities and clubs.
- Obtain dietetics-related experience through work, internships, or volunteering.
- Apply to more than one Dietetic Internship- a good rule of thumb is to apply to 5-7 internships.
- Check to see if the program that you are applying to requires a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score. If so, make sure that your GRE score is above the minimum.
- Make sure that your letters of recommendation and references are from individuals who really know the quality of your work and your character, and are willing to positive recommendations. Give them enough time to fill them out, too.
- Find ways to make yourself stand out. For instance, obtain unique work or volunteer experiences.
Questions for Sarah-Jane
Q: Why did you decide to become an RD?
A: In college I became anemic while running cross-country for the university. I visited an RD who taught me about food and nutrition. She opened my eyes to a world I was not exposed to and I started my journey towards nutrition and health.
Q: What do you love about being an RD?
A: Number 1 is FOOD! I love food! Understanding and respecting food is a passion of mine that flows through my daily life. Being an RD also gives me tons of opportunities in the nutrition and food world to go places or experience new things.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being an RD?
A: The hardest thing I deal with on a consistent basis is not the lack of information, but the lack of good information. Much of the information out there is not based on sound, evidence-based research. I constantly have to debunk myths about food and nutrition.
Q: How did you make yourself competitive for a Dietetic Internship?
A: When preparing myself for the dietetic internship process, there were three things I focused on: 1) I actively sought out my first choice by shadowing for a day at the institution. 2) I focused on my grades. 3) Most importantly I followed directions to the smallest degree when filling out the applications. TIP: If it says “hand-written” letter, then it better not be anything but a “hand-written” letter.
Q: How did you prepare for the RD exam?
A; I actively studied for 2 months leading up to the exam as well as take a prep course in Atlanta, GA.
Q: Is it beneficial to get a masters degree as an RD?
A: It is all based on your individual career goals. For me, it is not important to get my Master’s degree in nutrition at this point in my career. For those in the clinical and academic world, it may be a good plan.
Q: What are some of your job responsibilities?
A: The bulk of my time is spent writing for my blog or book, speaking to groups and organizations, and doing media work on television, print, or online platforms.
Q: How do you create and manage a work/life balance?
A: Some guidelines I try to follow to maintain balance in my work/personal life is: 1) No working on Saturdays. 2) My husband is involved and an active part of my business. This helps take some of the administrative burden off of me. 3) I exercise and prepare meals daily. This is a form of stress relief for me.
Q: What motivates you as an RD?
A: Trying new foods and experiences. Coming up with new and innovative ideas.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who is entering the nutrition field to become an RD?
A: Always be asking questions and seeking information. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be when making decisions. Be sure to get involved and join local chapters of dietetic associations. Relationships are key to opening doors in the future. When possible, volunteer or shadow somebody who’s job/career interests you. This will help you to gain a better understanding of the details of a job.
Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
A: First and foremost, you have to be self-motivated. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and take some calculated risks. Have a vision of what you want to do and where you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years from now. Network and join nutrition entrepreneur’s dietetic practice group (www.nedpg.org). Finally, know your own strengths and weaknesses and find ways (opportunities) where your strengths are emphasized.
Q: Is it possible to interview, shadow, or intern for Sarah-Jane?
A: Due to Sarah-Jane’s busy (and sometimes erratic) schedule, her time is very limited for interviews or shadowing. At this time, there is no need for an intern. We hope these FAQs can help in place of an interview.