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Online Registered Dietician Degree and Certification

Learn what online options are available for becoming a registered dietician. Find out how to become registered, what prerequisites are required, what classes you will take and what certifications are offered.

How Can I Become a Dietitian Online?

To become a registered dietitian, you must fulfill all of the academic requirements mandated by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). To begin, you'll need to obtain a bachelor's degree in dietetics from an accredited institution. You can choose either a coordinated program or a didactic program.

Academically, the programs are identical, but the coordinated one includes the required 6-12 month internship, while the didactic program doesn't include an internship program. The advantage of an on-campus program is that the internship is already integrated into the program, allowing you to study and perform the internship concurrently. However, only the didactic program is available online.

Online Qualifications You must fulfill the academic requirements of the American Dietetic Association (ADA)
Getting Registered Internship involving 1,200 clinical practice hours under supervision of registered dietitian mandatory for registration, then take the association's exam
Prerequisites Some programs require previous work experience in related field or on-campus preparation
Common Courses Metabolism, food science, public health, nutritional assessment, clinical nutrition
Online Program Structure Virtual classroom environment with communication via email, discussion boards, chat rooms, audio files
Certifications Available Wide range available, including gerontological nutrition, sports dietetics, oncology nutrition, renal nutrition
Median Salary (2018)$60,370* (for dietitians and nutritionists)
Job Outlook (2016-26)15%* (for all dietitians and nutritionists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Do I Become Registered?

Before you can become registered, the ADA requires that you participate in an internship program that involves 1200 hours of clinical practice under the supervision of a registered dietitian (www.eatright.org). Once you have completed your degree and internship programs, you will be qualified to take the association's accreditation exam that will allow you to work as a registered dietitian.

Are There Any Prerequisites?

Depending on the program, you may to complete some general education requirements on-campus before you can start the dietitian coursework online. Some programs may require you to have previous work experience in a dietetics-related field.

What Courses Will I Take?

You'll study a variety of food and nutrition-related subjects. You'll learn how the human body uses food, how food affects overall health and general well-being, the basics of food production, how to counsel others about their food habits, food service management and more. Some course topics you may take include:

  • Metabolism
  • Basic nutrition
  • Food science
  • Public health
  • Nutritional assessment
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Food service nutrition applications

How Does an Online Program Work?

You'll be able to access most of your coursework and assignments online through the school's distance learning portal. You'll attend online class discussion through the course's discussion board, contact your teachers and fellow students via e-mail or chat room programs and listen to lectures online.

Depending on the program, you may have to purchase your books from the school's bookstore. Online dietitian programs usually don't require any special software programs, just basic office programs, like a word processor and a spreadsheet application. An up-to-date computer browser, high-speed Internet connection and basic computer skills are needed for most online programs.

What Types of Certification Are Available?

The Commission on Dietetic Registration, which is the credentialing agency for the ADA, offers a wide variety of professional certification exams for registered dietitians (www.cdrnet.org). Available certifications include:

  • Gerontological nutrition
  • Sports dietetics
  • Pediatric nutrition
  • Renal nutrition
  • Oncology nutrition

Requirements vary between credential types, but typically require a certain amount of time spent working within your specialty area. Once you've passed the credentialing exam, you'll be required to complete regular continuing education requirements in order to keep your certification current.