Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why should you choose a career in dietetics?
There's never been a better time to consider a career in nutrition and dietetics. People want to be healthier and more fit, yet obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and heart disease are rampant in our country.
What is a Registered Dietitian?
The Registered Dietitian (RD) is nationally recognized as an expert in the field of food and nutrition. To become a Registered Dietitian, you are required to meet eligibility requirements established by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) and pass a national registration examination.
What is the difference between a registered dietitian (RD) or dietetic technician, registered (DTR) and a nutritionist?
The “RD” and “DTR” credentials can only be used by dietetics practitioners who are currently authorized by ACEND to use these credentials. These are legally protected titles. Individuals with these credentials have completed specific academic and supervised practice requirements, successfully completed a national registration examination, and maintained requirements for recertification.
All RDs and DTRs study nutrition and applications to food and health. Some RDs or DTRs call themselves nutritionists. However, the definition and requirements for the term “nutritionist“ vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice for someone using the designation nutritionist.
What is the difference between a RD and a DTR and what career opportunities are available for each?
A RD is a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential “RD.” To obtain this credential you must complete at least a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. accredited college or university, required course work and at least 1200 hours of supervised practice accredited by ACEND. In addition, you must pass a national RD examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
A DTR is a food and nutrition practitioner who has completed at least a two-year associate’s degree at a U.S. accredited university or college, required course work and at least 450 hours of supervised practice accredited by CADE. In addition, you must pass a national DTR examination administered by the CDR and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. The majority of DTRs work with RDs in a variety of employment settings including health care (assisting RDs in providing medical nutrition therapy), in hospitals, HMOs, clinics or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of DTRs work in community and public health settings such as school or day care centers, correctional facilities, weight management clinics and WIC programs as nutrition counselors.
Check out information on career opportunities, salaries, and job outlook for RDs and DTRs.
I have a degree in another field and would now like a career in nutrition; do I need to start all over?
If you already have a degree from a U.S. accredited college or university that is not in dietetics and are interested in a nutrition career, you can choose to become a RD or a DTR. In either case, you will need to have your college transcripts evaluated by a director of a dietetics program accredited or approved by ACEND. The director will evaluate your previous academic preparation and identify the courses that you would need to complete at that institution to meet the dietetics requirements. The number of courses you need and the college’s degree requirements will determine whether you need to complete another degree or not. It may be possible to complete the required dietetics coursework while enrolled in a graduate program. Because the policies, procedures and costs for the transcript evaluation may vary from one institution to another, you may want to contact more than one dietetics program for further information. The dietetics program director can advise you of your options.
Will getting my master’s degree in nutrition meet the requirements to become a RD?
Not unless the program is accredited or approved by ACEND. ACEND does not accredit or approve graduate programs except for those designed to meet entry-level educational requirements. Currently, there are a few DPDs and CPs that grant only master’s degrees; others may have both bachelor’s and master’s tracks. Sometimes, one can complete the coursework requirements for becoming a RD and take graduate course work at the same time if there is a ACEND-accredited or approved program and graduate school in the same university that work together. The lists of ACEND-accredited DPDs and CPs on this Web site include the degree(s) granted by each program. Contact the schools you are interested in attending. You will need to check with the Dietetics Program Director before starting graduate coursework if you choose this route.