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What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

is a highly-qualified health professional, recognized as an expert on food and nutrition. Dietitians are employed in a variety of settings.

Management dietitians work in healthcare institutions, schools, universities, and industry. They are responsible for personnel management, menu planning, budgeting, and purchasing. Management dietitians increasingly play a key role wherever food is served.

Clinical dietitians are a vital part of the medical team in hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, health maintenance organizations, and other health-care facilities. They provide medical nutrition therapy to help speed patients' recovery and lay the groundwork for long-term health. Some dietitians choose a particular area of practice, such as diabetes, pediatrics, or nutrition support.

Community dietitians work in public and home health agencies, and in government-funded programs that feed and counsel families, the elderly, pregnant women, children and disabled individuals. Wherever proper nutrition can help improve quality of life, they reach out to the public to teach, monitor and advise.

Educator dietitians work in colleges, universities, and community or technical schools, teaching future doctors, nurses, dietitians, and dietetic technicians the sophisticated science of foods, nutrition, and dietetics.

Research dietitians work in government agencies, food and pharmaceutical companies, and in major universities and medical centers. They conduct or direct experiments to answer critical nutrition questions, and make dietary recommendations for the public.

Consultants work full or part-time as management, clinical, or community dietitians, usually under contract with a healthcare facility or in their own private practice. They perform nutrition screening, assessment, and counseling. They consult regarding disease management, weight loss, sports nutrition, wellness, and foodservice management.

Business dietitians work in food and nutrition related industries. They work in product development, sales, marketing, advertising, public relations, purchasing, and in many other capacities that enable companies to satisfy consumers' growing interest in nutrition.

Steps to Becoming an RD

Dietitians require a strong knowledge base and excellent skills. To become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, a student must 

  1. Complete a bachelor's degree and receive a verification statement from a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a specialized accrediting body recognized by the United States Department of Education.
  2. Complete an ACEND-accredited Dietetic Internship and receive a verification statement from an ACEND-accredited internship. Click here for more information about internships.
  3. Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration's Registration Examination for Dietitian NutritionistsClick here for more information. Starting in 2024 students must also have a graduate degree to meet eligibility requirements for the the RDN exam.
  4. Obtain state certification/licensure. Each state has different regulation. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic provides and overview of professional regulation of dietitians.

Other pathways to become and RDN can be seen here.

BYU Didactic Program in Dietetics

Successful completion of the BYU Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) and university requirements qualifies the student to receive the ACEND Verification Statement and prepares the student for the post-baccalaureate Dietetic Internship. Students completing the BYU DPD program may apply to the BYU Dietetic Internship, which accepts eight interns per year, or to any of the more than 250 Dietetic Internships across the country. Click here for more information about internships. Completion of the DPD also allows students to meet the eligibility requirements to take the examination for Nutrition and Dietetic Technician Registered (NDTR)Click here for more information about the NDTR exam.


BYU Combined Dietetic Internship and Master's Degree

Successful completion of The Brigham Young University combined Dietetic Internship and Master's Degree prepares students for entry level competence as a dietitian and qualifies the student to receive the ACEND Verification Statement for eligibility to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians and Nutritionists (RDN) . Click here for more information about the RDN exam.