So…You Want to Be a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Happy National Nutrition Month! MARCH! Can it feel like Spring, already? To commence National Nutrition Month, I’m sharing some things about a profession I’m pretty stoked about: nutrition! Scroll down for more.

H O W

How to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN)? What is an RDN?

An RDN is a food and nutrition expert who has successfully completed:
– a bachelor’s degree
– prerequisite coursework for a DPD or CP
– 1200 hours of supervised practice (dietetic internship)
– a national credentialing exam

There are a number of routes to becoming an RDN, but here’s the route I took/ am currently taking:
bachelor’s degree: check! B.A. in Sociology- note: the bachelor’s does NOT have to be in the field of nutrition, because beginning in 2024, a master’s will be required to sit for the credentialing exam.
– I worked full-time and took the prerequisites simultaneously, because I could not afford to up and quit my job. I took biochemistry, organic chemistry, chemistry 2 with the lab component, and nutrition through the lifespan one.semester.at.a.time. It took 5-ever, but I am told that it will be worth it. Plus, I didn’t accumulate additional debt from paying on a course or two at a time. Bonus: If you work for a hospital, a lot of them will pay for the prerequisites!  Look into their tuition-reimbursement programs and see!
-I enrolled in a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). A DPD is ONLY the coursework component to become a dietitian- not the internship. Think of the DPD as step 2 in the process after completion of prerequisites. I FULLY planned on working and going to school simultaneously like I had been doing, and then I was planning to apply for a dietetic internship (DI) later. Thankfully, I moved to a town with a Coordinated Program (CP) that combines the internship with the classwork.
-I’m currently completing the CP, and when it’s all done, I’ll have all my supervised practice AND some graduate degrees under my belt. Once I graduate, then I am eligible to sit for the CDR credentialing exam. Some states require additional licensure to be a licensed dietitian to practice (LD).

I wanted to be credentialed- that was important to me, because in order to work for the World Health Organization, hospitals, and community programs like WIC, even NASA…they require that RDN credential. Without the credential, the future seemed uncertain and volatile to me. If credentialing isn’t important, I suggest checking out programs in integrative nutrition. However, I don’t know if “nutritionist” will always be an option without pursuing the credential. Many people are advocating for the “nutritionist” title to be protected through the RDN credential, which can only be attained via the steps I listed at the top of this post. What I’m saying is, all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians…make sense?

What does an RDN do?
Where are they?

Glad you asked! They work anywhere and everywhere! In gyms, hospitals, schools, corporate wellness, for NFL, the NHL, MLB teams, the Olympics, collegiate sports teams, community programs, in education/academia, for the NIH, the WHO, for THEMSELVES in private practice, in the media, and beyond. RDNs provide individualized, evidence-based nutritional counseling and medical nutrition therapy (MNT). RDNs take a scientific approach to health maintenance and prevention. RDNs can even join practice groups (DPG) and gain field-specific knowledge in areas like pediatrics, diabetes, integrative and functional medicine, culinary arts, and environmental hunger. Dietitians can even become board certified in sports nutrition, pediatrics, clinical nutrition, oncology, diabetes, and more!

^Texas Medical Center in Houston

What excites me about the field of nutrition?

I think there’s room for entrepreneurship and growth in the nutrition field. People are more interested in nutrition and disease prevention than ever, and the job growth for this field is exciting. I like the idea of piece-mealing a career that’s rooted in science, helpful for others in areas like counseling and education, and practical. There’s constantly new research being published to keep up with, and the science nerd in me loves that. I like that the field doesn’t have to be rigidly structured and black and white- there’s room for flexibility in nutrition…and I’m excited to see what that looks like in my own life as a professional.


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