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 an 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 the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 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's 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.

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. Please visit the Academy's website for further information about Dietetic Internships.