Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Degree
Per the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are experts in food and nutrition who have met certain criteria. This includes completing at least an approved bachelor’s degree, participating in an approved supervised practice program, and passing a national examination given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). While RDNs may hold certification in other, specialized areas of practice, the RDN is the credential that is nationally recognized and will help you to find employment in a wide variety of settings, ranging from hospitals and health care facilities, sports and wellness programs, businesses and industries related to food and nutrition, private practice, community health, university medical centers, and research.
To enter into the RDN field, you need a bachelor’s degree in an area related to food, nutrition and dietetics. Once you have earned the degree, complete the requisite internship and pass the CDR exam, you will possess the knowledge required to be called an RDN. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2019, RDNs working in the US earn an average salary of $61,270 per year, translating to $29.46 hourly. With a projected employment outlook of jobs increasing by 11 percent from 2018 to 2028, the RDN field is looking quite bright.
Note: as of 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration is changing the entry-level eligibility requirements for RDNs from a bachelor’s to a master’s degree.
Accreditation for Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Degrees
No matter what college or university you choose in which to pursue your RDN degree, that institution must be accredited by an accrediting organization that Is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education (USDE). The most common CHEA-recognized regional accrediting organizations (updated May 2020) for these institutions are:
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC)
In addition to accreditation by regional organizations, institutions may be accredited by other types of organizations, including, but not limited to, career and technical and faith-based accrediting organizations. This accreditation counts in lieu of the regional accreditation listed above. Some examples include:
- Transnational Association of Christian Schools and Colleges (TRACS)
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
- Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) is the accrediting agency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Any RDN degree program you choose should hold ACEND accreditation. This type of accreditation is the “gold standard” for RDNs nationwide.
Undergraduate Degrees for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists
As mentioned above, you can currently enter into the RDN profession with a bachelor’s degree. The bachelor’s degree program you choose should hold accreditation through ACEND. There are two types of ACEND-accredited bachelor’s degree programs for RDNs:
- CP: A Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP) is a comprehensive RDN educational program that offers the class work and dietetic internship together. After completing a CP, you will be qualified to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) examination to become a RDN. ACEND maintains a database of CP in dietetics programs by state here.
- DPD: A didactic program in dietetics (DPD) is an RDN educational program offering just the classroom work portion of the degree program. ACEND maintains a database of DPD programs by state here.
- After completing a DPD, you must then complete a Dietetic Internship (DI) in order to be eligible to take the CDR exam and become an RDN. You can find an ACEND-accredited Dietetic Internship here.
Names of Degrees in an Undergraduate Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Program
When you choose an ACEND-accredited bachelor’s degree RDN program, it will be in an area that is related to food, nutrition, and/or dietetics. Whether your approved program is a CP or DPD, it may go by many different names, some of which include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition
- Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics
- Bachelor of Science in Dietetics
- Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutritional Sciences, Concentration in Dietetics
- Bachelor of Science in Nutrition: Dietetics Option
Purdue University Global's Bachelor of Science in Nutrition Program is an approved holistic nutrition education program through the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP).
Arizona State University's Nutrition Bachelors and Masters level programs online prepare students for careers in Health Education, Community Health, Food Analysis and more.
UNC's Online MPH With Nutrition Concentration. UNC's top-ranked public health school offers an online MPH with Nutrition concentration. Complete in 20 months. Bachelor's degree required. No GRE required. Enroll in our January or May 2022 cohort and receive a $12,000 scholarship..
George Washington University's Online Master's in Integrative Medicine with a Concentration in Nutrition specialize in promoting health and wellness through nutrition.
American University’s online Master of Science in Nutrition Education will prepare you to become an influential leader in nutrition education and advocacy while promoting nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices in your community and beyond.
Liberty University's Master of Science in Human Performance - Nutrition combines two areas that are a natural fit in the field of health and wellness to give you a deep understanding of the role nutrition plays in optimizing athletic performance.
Courses in an Undergraduate Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Program
Whether you take a CP or DPD, the classes that you can expect to take in a bachelor’ s degree RDN program will remain constant, with topics including:
- General chemistry
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Human nutrition
- Medical nutrition therapy
- Nutrition practice
- Community nutrition
- Food service systems
- Physical education and activity
Internship for an Undergraduate Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Program
The Dietetic Internship that you take, which is either included within your CP or taken after your DPD, will consist of a minimum of 1200 hours of supervised practice training at a variety of locations, (which you may rotate among, depending upon your program). These include, but are not limited to:
- Clinical dietetics
- Food service
- Food systems management
- Dietetic research
- Community health nutrition
- Specialty rotation
Graduate Degrees for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists
As of 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration is changing its entry-level requirements for RDNs form a bachelor’s to a master’s degree. All other requirements (i.e., CP vs. DPD with DI, passing the CDR exam) will remain the same. Currently, names of some of the ACEND-approved master’s degree programs include (but are not limited to):
- Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics
- Master of Science in Nutrition Sciences
- Master of Science in Nutritional Science
- Master of Science in Nutrition, Healthspan and Longevity
- Master of Science in Human Nutrition & Dietetics
- Master of Public Health in Nutritional Sciences