How Can I Become a Certified Dietitian?

Research what it takes to become a certified dietitian. Learn about job duties, education requirements, certification and salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Nutrition degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Dietitian?

Certified dietitians are passionate advocates for healthy living who coach people and help them make better choices in their lives. They review clients' health needs and help them to develop healthy eating habits. This can involve the creation of specialized meal plans, recording patient progress and preparing written reports. Dietitians also research nutritional science and may speak to groups of people about how to live healthy lives.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's degree is common
Education Field of Study Dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, clinical nutrition
Training Requirements Hundreds of hours of supervised training
Licensure/Certification Licensure is required in most states, certification or registration required in some states
Job Growth (2014-2024) 16%* (Dietitians and nutritionists)
Median Salary (2015) $57,910* (Dietitians and nutritionists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Certified Dietitian?

With society's current push toward healthier lifestyles comes the need for educated professionals to assist people in making the necessary changes, such as eating right. As a certified dietitian, you can help guide people in this effort toward healthier diets and eating practices. You could work in a variety of settings, including schools, restaurants, hospitals, nursing care facilities and government agencies. Your job would be to help people break away from bad eating habits and counsel them through any struggles that come up.

As a certified dietitian, you'd be considered a healthcare worker. You'll likely be responsible for helping people who have medical problems, like diabetes, high-blood pressure or kidney disease. You might create personalized meal plans, manage meal preparation and servings, provide screenings to determine a patient's nutritional status and facilitate weight loss programs. In addition, you could help educate the general public by contributing to reports on nutritional issues, like vitamin usage and proper fiber intake.

What Are My Educational Requirements?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree program accredited by the American Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education to work in the field (www.bls.gov). Coursework typically includes classes in biochemistry, food and nutrition sciences, culinary arts, anatomy and foodservice systems management. In addition, communications courses could help, since you'll generally need to discuss an individual's progress and goals, as well as educate and train food workers to prepare and serve meals correctly.

How Do I Become Certified?

You can voluntarily obtain national certification as a Registered Dietitian from the American Dietetic Association (www.eatright.org). Along with obtaining your degree, you'll need to complete a 1200-hour internship to qualify for the certification exam. Once you've become certified as a dietitian, you can also earn board certifications in a specialization, such as geriatric, pediatric, sports or oncology nutrition. To keep your credentials active, you'll need to complete continuing education credits.

Additionally, some states mandate their own form of certification. State certification allows you to call yourself a certified dietitian. However, you might be able to offer professional services in the field without using the job title.

What Are the Other Requirements?

As of 2012, the BLS reported that most states regulated the dietitian profession. While a few required certification or registration, the majority mandated licensure. The specific requirements vary by state and could include earning a relevant degree, completing an internship and passing an exam. Some states accept the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists' certification exam in lieu of state testing.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are other career options that are similar to a dietician, including registered nurses and health educators. Registered nurses provide patient care and educate people about health conditions. They help with treatment, testing and observation of patients. Health educators promote wellness through creating strategies to help improve health outcomes. Both of these occupations require a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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