Nutrition & Dietetics
Registered dietitians (RDs) work in a variety of settings, including healthcare, business and industry, community/public health, education, research, government agencies and private practice. RDs perform a variety of different functions:
- Educating patients about nutrition, developing diet plans and administering medical nutrition therapy
- Managing food service operations in hospitals, clinics or other healthcare facilities
- Contributing to public campaigns to improve quality of life through healthy eating habits
- Researching critical nutrition questions
- Teaching other healthcare professionals about food science and nutrition
- Consulting with chefs, product developers and other nutrition-related businesses
All RDs are nutritionists but not all nutritionists are RDs. For more information on the field of dietetics and differences between a nutritionist and registered dietitian, see the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics's (ACEND) FAQs about careers in dietetics.
Registered dietitians need to complete a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and coursework accredited by ACEND, the accrediting agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. RDs also need to complete an accredited internship and pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).
Students with a bachelor’s degree outside the field may be able to have their transcripts evaluated by the program to determine what additional coursework is necessary to complete the dietetics curriculum, often resulting in a certificate or graduate degree. Otherwise, students must complete a coordinated program in dietetics, which includes a supervised practice program and usually leads to a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Public Health (MPH) degree.
Prerequisites vary from school to school. The most common prerequisites for a coordinated program in dietetics are:
- Introductory Biology
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Applied Anatomy & Physiology
- Basic Nutrition
- General Psychology
- Introduction to Sociology
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for admission to most coordinated graduate programs in dietetics.
Admission to coordinated programs in dietetics is competitive. Many programs require applicants to have at least a 3.0 GPA, but they also must distinguish themselves outside of the classroom. It is imperative that pre-dietetic students gain substantial and substantive work experience in the field of nutrition prior to applying to dietetics programs.
There is no centralized application service for coordinated programs in dietetics. Prospective students should visit the websites of individual schools to learn more about the application process and deadlines for the programs to which they plan to apply. In general, applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so it is important to submit applications well in advance of posted deadlines.