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 with healthy food

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

Education Requirements

Featured Nutritionist Programs

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
  • Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Computer science
  • Sociology
  • Business
  • Economics
  • 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

Licensure/Certification Qualifications

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 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor states that the mean annual salary for Registered Dietitians nationally was $56,170. At that time, approximately 58,240 persons were employed as dietitians and/or nutritionists across the country. The highest paying state in which dietitians and nutritionists worked at that time was Maryland, where RDs earned an annual mean salary of $82,650. The top paying industry in which dietitians and nutritionists worked was the animal food manufacturing industry, where the annual mean salary of a RD was $88,100.

Registered Dietitian Job Outlook and Demand

Employment projections from the BLS indicate that the job outlook for Registered Dietitians nationwide is quite good. Between the years 2010 and 2020, employment opportunities for Registered Dietitians are expected to increase at a faster than average rate of 20 to 28 percent. There are an estimated 35,400 job openings predicted for dietitians and nutritionists during that decade.

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