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 RDN
Dietitians require a strong knowledge base and excellent skills. To become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), a student must
- Complete a minimum of a bachelor's degree and receive a verification statement from a program (e.g. Didactic Program in Dietetics) 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.
- Complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program (e.g. Dietetic Internship) and receive a verification statement. Click here for more information about internships.
- Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration's Registration Examination for Dietitian Nutritionists. Click here for more information. Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master's degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). In addition, CDR requires that individuals complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
- Obtain state certification/licensure. Each state has different regulations. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic provides and overview of professional regulation of dietitians.
- Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
For more information about educational pathways to become an RDN click here.
BYU Didactic Program in Dietetics
Graduates who successfully complete the BYU Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD)requirements are eligible to apply to an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program. 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. Students who complete the BYU DPD program also 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
Graduates who successfully complete The Brigham Young University combined Dietetic Internship and Master's Degree are eligible to apply to take the CDR credentialing exam to become an RDN. Click here for more information about the RDN exam.
It is ACEND’s considered opinion that the program is designed to and does meet all state dietetics licensure and certification laws as some states may interpret their statutes differently. More information about state licensure and certification is available at this link: State Licensure.