Becoming a Registered Dietitian
Happy Hump Day! I am enjoying this snowy April morning with some warm coffee and waffles!
As you may know, I am a registered dietitian. Even though I often post recipes desserts and other not-so-healthy recipes, nutrition is at the forefront of my day-to-day eating. Over the coming months, I am going to start sharing nutrition posts too! I want to share my professional opinion on nutrition topics that I believe are worthwhile. Do not worry; I will still be sharing recipes since it is a passion of mine.
Scrolling social media or the Internet, there is an alarming amount of misinformation being posted and even worse, shared. It is exhausting to see “health influencers” posting false information, using scare tactics, and ultimately causing harm. This is often with the intent to gain followers, make a profit, or both. So, how do you know who is credible?
Look for nutrition information from a registered dietitian! Just as you would see a dentist for your dental needs or a doctor for a health condition, you should only seek nutrition advice from a registered dietitian (not the internet or a “nutritionist”). More on “nutritionists” below. The credentials for a registered dietitian are RD or RDN, which are synonymous. RDN is newer and stands for Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. If you see LD or LDN, this indicates a dietitian is licensed in his or her state. For the sake of my posts, I will simply use RD when referring to registered dietitian. If you see someone only claiming to be a “Nutritionist,” this is an undefined credential that you should stay away from.
On a positive note, many RDs have a presence on social media. Business and marketing are skills that were skimmed over in my education. As a lifelong learner, I am forging my own path and gaining knowledge as I go with this blog. Rest assured that when you see a RD, you are talking to an intelligent and passionate individual with extensive scientific training in nutrition. We are also a group who want to help inspire you to achieve your health goals! I'm reminded regularly of this with my one of my favorite coffee mugs!
Steps to Become a Registered Dietitian
Like most professions in the health field, it takes some time and lots of effort to earn the RD credential.
First, you must complete a bachelor’s degree* in dietetics from an accredited university. The coursework for dietetics is predominantly science-based, including biology, chemistry and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and human anatomy and physiology. There is also an emphasis on medical nutrition and disease, nutrition in growth and development, foodservice management, metabolism, nutrition counseling, and scientific study of food.
Secondly, complete a dietetic internship. The dietetic internship consists of 1,200 supervised practice hours with rotations in clinical, community, and foodservice management. Rotations may include work at a hospital, outpatient clinic, long term care facility, school or hospital foodservice, grocery store retailer, and WIC clinic. Dietetic internships are costly and only a handful of programs offer a small stipend. Some are combined with a Master’s Degree program. Internships are extremely competitive due to a shortage of internships. In 2012 when I applied, only 51% of applicants were matched to a Dietetic Internship. Thankfully, I was in the 51% that matched. The most recent statistic from 2018 shows that 61% of applicants matched. This is an improvement, but there is still a concerning shortage of Dietetic Internships.
Next, you must pass the Dietetic Registration Exam. You are only eligible to sit for the exam once proving completion of the steps above.
Finally, to maintain the RD credential and practice, RDs must complete 75 credit hours of continuing education every 5 years and obtain state licensure for most dietetic jobs.
*Please note that effective January 1, 2024, all new dietitians will be required to earn a Master’s degree. I earned my Master's in 2019, but it is not a requirement of current RDs.
Why RDs are so Great!
Long story short, myself and other RDs have worked our tails off to earn our credentials to ultimately better the lives of others! As you can see from the information above, the path to get there is time-consuming and costly. It requires intelligence, tenacity, and perhaps even a bit of madness. We are a passionate group of people who love food and helping people. Please do not fall prey to inaccurate claims on the Internet. If something seems too good to be true, this should raise a red flag. Your health is your greatest asset, so only work with an RD on nutrition-related matters.
With that, I hope you have a better understanding of what it means to be an RD and why you should only come to us for nutrition advice. I am so proud of my degrees and my profession for the incredible work we do. Please send me a message if you have questions about the content of this post or any nutrition question. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can send me a DM on Instagram @mitch8blog.
Thank you for reading! -Lauren, RD, LD, MPP-D
For additional information, see the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website here.