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How Can I Become a Certified Dietary Manager?

Research what it takes to become a certified dietary manager. Learn about the educational and certification requirements, job duties and salary information to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is a Certified Dietary Manager?

Dietary managers oversee the operations of food service establishments like restaurants, school cafeterias and long-term care facilities. Although certification in this field is not required by the government, those who earn the Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) credential can improve their job prospects in the field. CDMs have a wide range of duties, including food safety assurance, purchasing, employee supervision and food preparation. They may also work closely with nutritionists to develop and implement menus that support particular health and wellness goals.

The table below provides an overview for this career:

Education Required Associate's or Bachelor's degree; approved dietary manager training program; or minimum two years of institutional food service management and have approved course
Education Field of Study Nutrition, food service management, culinary arts
Key Responsibilities Manage kitchen operations, hire staff, oversee food preparation, and ensure food safety compliance
Certification Certified Dietary Manager (CDM)
Job Growth (2018-28) 11%* (all food service managers)
Median Salary (2018) $54,240* (all food service managers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Become a Certified Dietary Manager?

The Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) exam is available to dietary managers who meet the eligibility requirements of the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals (ANFP), formerly the Dietary Managers Association. To qualify for the exam, you need to graduate from an approved dietary manager training program or possess an associate's or bachelor's degree in nutrition, food service management, culinary arts or other related field. Alternatively, you could qualify if you have at least two years of institutional food service management and have graduated from an approved course. Former U.S. military members, E-5 or above, who completed an approved dietary manager training program provided by the military may also qualify to take the exam.

The ANFP approves dietary manager certificate and associate's degree programs based on established guidelines. Approved training programs offer coursework in human resource and food service management, nutritional therapy, food safety and medical nutrition therapy. Courses are available in a traditional classroom format and online.

How Do I Get Certified?

You need to apply to the ANFP to take the CDM exam. The CDM is nationally-recognized and accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The American College Testing Program (ACT) administers and proctors the CDM exam. The assessment includes 100 multiple choice questions covering food service, human resource management, nutrition and sanitation. After you attain certification, you need to complete continuing education courses and pay an annual fee to maintain the credential.

What Might My Job Duties Be?

In this supervisory position, you manage the food services department for your facility. You could work at a nursing home, assisted living facility, correctional institution, school or retirement community. Personnel management duties typically include training, scheduling, hiring and firing of staff. Business and operating duties consist of purchasing and budgeting tasks.

You work to provide sound nutritional programs under a dietitian's guidance. You gather clients' dietary needs and histories. Monitoring and charting of fluid and food intake is done on a regular basis. You're also responsible for ensuring a sanitary food preparation and serving environment. Other duties may include client training and education.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you want a career where you would focus on meal planning for individuals or groups, you could consider becoming a registered dietitian. These professionals create meal plans for clients who want to maintain their health, manage a disease or achieve a particular goal, like weight loss or optimal athletic performance. Dietitians need a bachelor's degree, and many states require them to be licensed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a leadership position in the food service industry, you might also be interested in becoming a chef or head cook. In this job, your work would focus on the culinary aspects of the dining establishment, so you would be responsible for kitchen staff supervision, menu development and recipe testing. Although you only need a high school diploma for a chef position, a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree program in culinary arts can help you improve your skills.