What Is A Registered Dietitian?

What is a Registered Dietitian (RD)?

A Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) is THE food and nutrition expert. RD’s have met the minimum academic and professional requirements listed below. The majority of RDs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, often part of medical teams), in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of RDs work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of RDs work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition, and corporate wellness programs.

  • The highest level of nutrition counseling: Anyone can call him- or herself a nutritionist, but only a registered dietitian (RD) or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) has completed multiple layers of education and training established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree, an RD or RDN must fulfill a specially designed, accredited nutrition curriculum, pass a rigorous registration exam, and complete an extensive supervised program of practice at a health care facility, foodservice organization or community agency. What’s more, roughly half of all RDs and RDNs hold graduate degrees and many have certifications in specialized fields such as sports, pediatric, renal, oncology or gerontological nutrition.
  • Personally tailor nutrition advice to meet individual needs
  • Prevention and management of chronic diseases
  • Guidance navigating food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances

Path To Become An RD:

  • Complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a US regionally accredited university or college and course work accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency, or a foodservice corporation or combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, a practice program will run six to 12 months in length. Competition for Dietetic Internships is extremely fierce.  Below is a graph representing the dietetic internship shortages in the U.S. from the eatright.org website.
  • Pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
  • Continuing professional educational requirements. A minimum of 75 continuing education credits must be obtained every 5 years to maintain registration.

Registered Dietitian VS. Nutritionist

The “RD” credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Some RDs may call themselves “nutritionists,” but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.

The definition and requirements for the term “nutritionist” vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the range of practice for someone using the designation “nutritionist,” but in other states, virtually anyone can call him- or herself a “nutritionist” regardless of education or training.

REMEMBER: all registered dietitians are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians.

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