National Requirements

National Dietetic Requirements

Registered dietitians (RDs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria to earn the RD credential:

  • Complete a minimum of a bachelor's degree at a US regionally accredited university or college and course work approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).
  • Complete a ACEND-accredited or -approved, supervised practice program at a hospital or medical center, or combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, a practice program will run six to twelve months in length.
  • Pass a national, written examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
  • Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
  • Some RDs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice, such as pediatric or renal nutrition, nutrition support, and diabetes education. These certifications are awarded through CDR, the credentialing agency for A.N.D., and/or other medical and nutrition organizations and are recognized within the profession, but are not required.
  • In addition to RD credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. Frequently these state requirements are met through the same education and training required to become an RD.

High school students interested in becoming a dietitian or nutritionist should take courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics, health, and communications. Dietitians and nutritionists need at least a Bachelor degree in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area. College students in these majors take courses in foods, nutrition, institution management, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and physiology. Other suggested courses include business, mathematics, statistics, computer science, psychology, sociology, and economics.

Of the 46 States and jurisdictions with laws governing dietetics, 30 require licensure, 15 require certification, and 1 requires registration. The ACEND awards the Registered Dietitian credential to those who pass a certification exam after completing their academic coursework and supervised experience. Because practice requirements vary by State, interested candidates should determine the requirements of the State in which they want to work before sitting for any exam.

As of 2003, there were about 230 Bachelor and master's degree programs approved by the A.N.D. Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Supervised practice experience can be acquired in two ways. The first requires the completion of a ACEND-accredited coordinated program. As of 2003, there were more than 50 accredited programs, which combined academic and supervised practice experience and generally lasted 4 to 5 years. The second option requires the completion of 900 hours of supervised practice experience in any of the 264 ACEND-accredited/approved internships. These internships may be full-time programs lasting 6 to 12 months or part-time programs lasting 2 years. Students interested in research, advanced clinical positions, or public health may need an advanced degree.