A registered dietitian (RD) is an expert in health and nutrition. They use their skills to help people come up with a diet that aids them in a variety of ways, whether to help improve their overall health, avoid allergies, or to protect them from an illness or disease they have. If you want to learn how to become a registered dietitian, continue reading for a step-by-step guide on how to reach your goals.
What Is a Registered Dietitian?
A registered dietitian is an expert in nutrition and food. They’ve earned their registered dietitian credentials and can work as a professional in their field.
What Does a Registered Dietitian Do?
A registered dietitian’s duties vary based on where they work. These duties can be general food and diet work or something much more specific based on their client.
Counsel Others on Nutrition
In most cases, a registered dietitian is a health and food counselor. They explain nutrition problems to clients and counsel them on the foods they need to eat and what they can do to improve their overall nutrition.
Develop Meal Plans for Clients
For many people, it can be difficult to develop a balanced diet, especially when they have an illness or health issue they must consider. A registered dietitian uses their knowledge to develop meal plans for their clients so that they meet their daily nutritional requirements.
Promote Nutritional Health
Beyond working with individuals, many RDs also go out and find ways to promote nutrition and health through community programs, public speaking, and staying on top of the latest in nutritional and food science.
Essential Registered Dietitian Skills
Good Judgment and Decision Making
As a dietitian, you have to have good decision-making skills when it comes to developing a diet and nutrition plan for others. It’s a difficult task as you must factor in a person’s allergies, health, and specific tastes.
RDs work with people in a group or one-on-one setting. Nutrition habits can be a difficult subject to approach and sensitive for many people. As a dietitian, it’s your job to communicate with people and guide them to a healthier diet by promoting healthy behavior changes.
Dietitians do work that goes beyond the typical 9-to-5 workday. You have to create workshops, have meetings, research, write papers, and even perform lectures. It’s a varied position. With each client, you must organize and structure a meal plan that suits them best as well.
Dietitians must stay up to date on the latest in food and nutrition science. With each client, you need to research what they can do to improve their overall health. This can take an extensive amount of time, especially if people have a particular diet or struggle with certain foods.
Empathy and Understanding
An RD’s goal is to help people make better health and nutrition decisions. This means listening to people and having an open mind about their health choices. You then use that information to help them and adjust their eating habits. Every person has a different experience and history and it’s your job to aid them to make healthier choices.
Registered Dietitian Salaries and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a dietitian is around $60,000. Factors that impact a dietitian’s salary include location, experience, education, and additional skills.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that job growth for registered dietitians is estimated at 11percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than other occupations. This is due to the rising knowledge that food plays a major role in treating and preventing diseases.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Registered Dietitian?
It takes four to seven years to become a registered dietitian. This includes the four to six years it takes to earn your bachelor’s and/or master’s degree and the required 1,200 hours of supervised practice at an approved worksite. Some degree programs provide internships so that students meet this requirement by the time they graduate.
How to Become a Registered Dietitian: A Step by Step Guide
A career as a registered dietitian requires a lot of study and practice. If you’re willing to put in the hours and work, you can have a career helping people make better decisions in their life to become healthier. Below is the step-by-step guide on how to become a registered dietitian.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s Degree
The first step in becoming a registered dietitian is earning your bachelor’s degree from a program that has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Currently, you can earn either a bachelor’s or master’s degree to begin a career as a registered dietitian. However, in 2024, a master’s degree will be the minimum requirement to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration exam.
Step 2: Complete Your Internship
After you’ve earned your degree or while you’re earning it, you must earn clinical experience through an internship. You can do this through a dietetic internship, an individualized supervised practice pathway, or a coordinated program. Whatever program you choose, it must consist of 1,200 hours of completed work done under the supervision of a licensed dietitian or nutritionist.
Step 3: Take the CDR Exam
After you’ve completed the above requirements, you can take the CDR registered dietitian exam. Keep in mind that the rules for RD exam eligibility are very strict. Make sure you meet all of them before taking them. The exam consists of 145 questions and is two and a half hours long.
Step 4: Get Your State License
After you’ve passed the exam, you can apply for your state license as a registered dietitian. In some cases, you may be eligible for a license with your exam results, degree, and experience. However, some states do have additional requirements. Look up the state you want your license in before proceeding.
Step 5: Continue Your Education
Once you’ve earned your license, you have to continue your education. This means completing 75 continuing education credits over five years to maintain the status of your license.
Should You Become a Registered Dietitian?
If you have a passion for food and health science, then working as a registered dietitian is a good career path to pursue. The time it takes to become one is long compared to other fields, but it’s a stable career that’s expected to grow as the concept of food health becomes more common.
Registered Dietitian FAQ
Is a registered dietitian the same as a nutritionist?
There is no difference between the two. However, a dietitian has more formal education and training than a nutritionist.
Do I need a master’s degree to become an RD?
No, but in 2024 you cannot become an RD without a graduate degree.
How long does it take to become an RD?
It takes four to seven years to become an RD, which includes earning your degree, internship work, and studying for your exam.
Where do RDs typically work?
RDs typically work in clinics, long-term care facilities, hospitals, and other health institutions.
How much can an RD earn?
A senior dietitian can earn as much as $87,310 per year.