Registered Dietitian vs. Dietetic Technician, Registered

Those who are interested in the dietary profession might question the differences between a Registered Dietitian and a Dietetic Technician, Registered. While both jobs are involved in nutrition and dietetics, the requirements one must fulfill in order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) differ from those required to become a Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR). 

Both jobs are regulated by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). However, the duties, expectations and responsibilities of each job vary, sometimes according to the setting in which the RD and/or DTR works.

Educational Requirements Compared

The education that one must complete in order to become a Registered Dietitian differs from those required to become a Dietetic Technician, Registered.

  • A Registered Dietitian (RD) must complete a bachelor’s degree program from a school that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the ADA. The program must include food, nutrition and dietetics coursework and a 1200-hour minimum supervised internship.
  • A Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) must complete a minimum of an associate’s degree program from a school that is accredited by ACEND. This includes coursework as mentioned above and a 450-hour minimum internship, usually supervised by a RD.

Coursework that both RD and DTR students will take includes:

  • Nutrition and diet therapy
  • Medical nutrition therapy
  • Food safety and sanitation practices
  • Food management systems
  • Meal management and food preparation

The following bachelors and Master’s programs offer career-focused instruction delivered by trained nutritionists with experience in the field. Find out more what each individual course of study offers through the locations below.

Featured Nutritionist Programs

Comparison of Job Descriptions and Duties

A Dietetic Technician, Registered usually works for or under the supervision of a Registered Dietitian. While the duties of each job are similar, a RD has more autonomy to work individually in a self-directed manner. A DTR works more as a part of a team under the supervision of a RD. Each may function in the following job settings:

Clinical Settings: Both a RD and a DTR may counsel clients by offering food and nutritional advice. A DTR may work on producing a meal plan for the client, while the RD signs off on and presents that meal plan to the client. The DTR performs much of the legwork with clients, gathering data, running tests and performing screenings necessary for the RD to develop a treatment plan for that client.

Food Service Settings: In places such as school, corporation and hospital cafeterias, DTRs often manage other food service workers and may help to prepare food, budget for money to purchase food, and participate in the food purchasing process. RDs usually oversee the entire program, supervising the DTRs who manage the rest of the employees, developing the meal/food service program, and managing the costs and work associated with that program.

Community Health Settings: Both RDs and DTRs may teach the public about good nutrition and food safety practices. A DTR may help to develop a curriculum for these types of classes, while the RD may present the classes to the community.

Licensure and Certification Requirements Compared

Both RDs and DTRs must be registered through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). This means that they each must fulfill the educational, experiential and examination requirements set forth by the CDR, and must maintain their registration through completing continuing professional education as required.

State Licensure and Certification

Each state has its own requirements for licensure and/or certification of RDs and DTRs. Some states do not require either profession to be licensed, while others may require licensure of one but not the other. State statutes regarding licensure/certification processes for DTRs and RDs are published by the CDR here.

Income Comparisons and Job Outlooks

Because an RD requires more schooling than a DTR, it makes sense that the RD would be paid a higher annual salary than the DTR. As of May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average salary of $65,620 for nutritionists and dietitians and an average salary of $31,180 for dietetic technicians.*

States that require RDs or DTRs to be licensed or certified in order to work often pay higher average annual salaries than states that do not regulate these professions.

The job outlook for both RDs and DTRs is quite favorable, according the BLS. Between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs among dietitians and nutritionists is expected to grow by 11 percent, while the number of jobs for dietetic technicians is expected to grow by 7 percent.*

&2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for dietitians and nutritionists and dietetic technicians reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Salary statistics representing entry-level/early career = 25th percentile; mid-level= 50th percentile; senior-level/highly experienced = 90th percentile. Data accessed April 2022.

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