Registered Dietitian Career Overview
A Registered Dietitian (RD) is a trained nutrition professional who has met the strict educational and experiential standards set forth by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Registered dietitians may work in a variety of settings, including (but not limited to) schools, long term care facilities, hospitals, community/public health facilities, corporate nutrition programs, the food and nutrition industry, sports nutrition, business, and research.
Registered Dietitian Job Description
The job description for a Registered Dietitian (RD) varies depending upon the setting in which the RD works. Generally, RDs advise and counsel others on food and nutrition. They may explain nutrition issues to clients, assess the dietary and health needs of clients, develop meal plans for clients, gauge the effects of these meal plans, promote nutrition through public speaking and community outreach programs, and keep abreast of the latest research in nutritional and food sciences. Specialties within the Registered Dietitian profession include:
- Clinical dietitians – these RDs are specially trained to provide medical nutrition therapy in settings such as hospitals and long term care facilities
- Community dietitians – these RDs primarily educate the public on food and nutrition issues and topics. They may work in government agencies, non-profit organizations, public health clinics, and HMOs.
- Management dietitians – these RDs work in planning meal programs in food service settings, including hospitals, cafeterias and food corporations. Their duties may involve overseeing other dietitians and/or kitchen staff, buying food, and performing the business tasks of managing a dietary/meal program.
Registered Dietitian Skills Required
In order to be a good, effective Registered Dietitian, one should possess the following skills:
- Good decision making and judgment capabilities
- The ability to instruct others
- The ability to identify and solve complex problems
- Being socially perceptive; that is, aware of the reactions of others and understanding those reactions
- Good reading comprehension skills
- Good coordination skills and the ability to adjust one’s actions in relation to others’ actions
- Effective logic, reasoning and critical thinking skills
- Effective writing skills
- Effective speaking skills
- Active listening skills
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The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) requires that students complete a college/university educational program in dietetics and/or nutrition that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Educational programs may be in one of the following categories:
- Coordinated Program in Dietetics – This type of program combines bachelor degree classroom coursework with a required internship, all in one program.
- Didactic Program plus Dietetic Internship – If one chooses a Didactic Program, this provides only classroom coursework. After completion of the bachelor’s degree course requirement, one must complete a Dietetic Internship of at least 1200 hours.
Coursework must include the following subjects:
- Physiology and anatomy
- Computer science
- Food and nutrition sciences
- Food service systems management
Dietetic internships are usually within a food and nutrition specialty area, including but not limited to:
- Medical nutrition therapy
- Clinical nutrition research
- Pediatric nutrition
- Community nutrition
- Geriatric nutrition
Before one can become a Registered Dietitian, he or she must complete the educational requirements above and pass the CDR’s Registration Examination for Dietitians. Once RD credentials have been earned, one must then fulfill the licensing/certification requirements of the state in which he or she plans to work. State laws regarding licensure/certification processes for Registered Dietitians may be found here. This involves applying for licensure/certification and paying the proper fees, and maintaining that licensure/certification through fulfilling a state’s continuing education requirements. The continuing education requirements of the CDR must also be fulfilled, as the RD credentials are renewed on a five-year cycle.
Registered Dietitian Salary – Average Income
As of May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that registered dietitians earned an average salary of $65,620.
At that time, approximately 66,690 persons were employed as dietitians and/or nutritionists across the country. California topped the nation for its average pay of dietitians and nutritionists, at $82,380. Dietitians and nutritionists in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry earned the highest average during this time, at $93,920.*
Registered Dietitian Job Outlook and Demand
Employment projections from the BLS indicate that the job outlook for registered dietitians nationwide will exceed the national growth rate for all jobs between 2020 and 2030. During this ten-year period, employment for registered dietitians is expected to grow by 11 percent, rising from 73,000 to 80,800 jobs.*
*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. Data accessed April 2022.