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
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 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RDNs earned an average salary of $65,620 as of May 2021. Entry-level professionals in this field earned about $49,490, while those with extensive experience earned about $93,640 during this time. The BLS projects job growth in this field to outpace the national average for all jobs between 2020 and 2030. During this time, number of jobs for RDNs is expected to increase by 11 percent.*
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
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.
American University offers two different programs focused on Nutrition and Health. Their 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. Or Earn your Master of Science in Health Promotion Management from AU’s award-winning program in just 20 months with $10K available in scholarships upon enrollment (qualifier is a 3.0 GPA).
UNC's MPH Nutrition concentration prepares students to provide, evaluate and communicate nutritional and dietary guidance that improves individual and population-wide health outcomes. In addition to developing their knowledge of nutrition science, students will explore behavior change, communication, counseling and the effects of dietary culture on individuals and communities.
Arizona State University - Online offers an Online Master of Science in Nutritional Science - Dietetics. Along with an Online Masters in Medical Nutrition
Bay Path University's health and wellness certificates build the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to upskill your abilities in your profession or to provide a robust concentration to your degree program for a specific role. Learn more about the Certificate in Food Science and Safety certificate.
If you want to work in fitness and nutrition, take the first step toward a new career with one of Penn Foster's accredited, online fitness and training programs. These affordable programs are all offered online, and can be taken at your own pace.
Grand Canyon University offers an M.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Winthrop University offers an Online Master of Science in Human Nutrition and an Online Master of Science in Sport and Fitness Administration
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
*2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for dietitians and nutritionists 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.