Becoming a Registered Dietitian

A Registered Dietitian (RD) is considered the top nutrition expert who will link good nutrition to better health. The RD credential is the only credential nationally recognized in foods and nutrition. This credential is necessary for most employment in the health care industry as well as for many other opportunities in foods and nutrition. For this reason, it is expected in the future that the RD credential will be a greater requirement in this growing field.

The RD credential is earned following completion of academic training, supervised practice experience, and the successful passage of the nationally administered board exam.

The RD exam is a computer-based board exam, similar to that of other health professionals board exams. It is reflective of all the major areas in dietetics including: food service, clinical, management, and community.

There are two different pathways you can take to become a dietitian.

Path 1

  1. Academics: Enroll in an AND—Bachelor’s degree program called Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD). Every DPD has a different set of required coursework to meet the same standards. Some of your courses may already meet the requirements, but these will need to be reviewed. Courses may be completed during graduate school (organic chemistry is needed before an application will be reviewed), as another BS degree or as a non-degree program (however, non-degree seeking students are low priority for courses at the University of Illinois).
  2. Supervised Practice: Apply to and complete a dietetic internship. Internships can be found nationwide, and are, on average, 10-12 months long. This is a very competitive process that relies on grades, experience and extracurricular involvement. There is an internship associated with our graduate program at the University of Illinois.
  3. RD Exam: After you complete either pathway, you’re eligible to take the Registration Examination for Dietetics. When you pass, you become a Registered Dietitian, and can use the initials “RD” after your name, signifying that you’re an expert in food and nutrition.

Path 2

  1. Enroll in an AND-accredited Coordinated Program, which is a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree program combining classroom and supervised practical experience. This pathway is available at the University of Mississippi. A list of all Coordinated Programs can be found on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.

Optimizing Dietetic Internship Competitiveness

Strong Grades

  1. GPA of 3.2+
  2. A’s and B’s in all NHM courses
  3. A’s and B’s in all science courses, preferred

Variety of Related Experience

  1. Food service management
  2. Clinical
  3. Community
  4. Research

Leadership

  1. Student Dietetic Association membership
  2. Participation in University organizations
  3. Leadership responsibilities such as president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, etc.

Well-rounded Portfolio

  1. Lab reports
  2. Papers
  3. Photos
  4. Projects

Licensed Dietitian

A licensed dietitian (LD) is one who has been licensed by a state to ensure that only qualified, trained professionals provide nutrition services or advice to individuals requiring or seeking nutrition care or information. Only state licensed dietetics professionals can provide nutrition counseling. Non-licensed practitioners may be subject to prosecution for practicing without a license.

Related Links

  1. RD: Your Link to Nutrition and Health – a short video about dietitians’ views on the field of nutrition.
  2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ flowchart for a career in dietetics