If you love helping people make healthy life choices, you might want to consider building a career on it.
In the United States, Registered Dietician or RD is a very popular career choice, and its demand is also on the rise. According to the United States or the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for Registered Dieticians is expected to grow by 11% in the period 2020-2030.
While getting the license to work as a Registered Dietician is not easy, the results are worth going through the entire process.
Going by the 2020 report shared by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for Registered Dieticians (RD) is around $63,090 per year. And it crosses the $90,000 per year mark for the top RDs working in the country.
When you can earn a liveable wage by doing what you love, why not become a registered or certified dietician? If you’re looking for an exhaustive guide that takes you through the step-by-step process of becoming a Registered Dietician (RD) in the United States, this blog is for you.
How to Become a Registered Dietician (RD) in the United States?
The growing demand for RDs in hospitals, non-profit government entities, and other places has made many people interested in taking RD as a viable career option. If this pretty much sounds like you, check out the following steps on becoming a registered dietician in the United States:
Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s/Master’s Degree in Your Preferred Area of Nutrition
The very first step to become a Registered Dietician in the United States is to get a degree in your preferred area of nutrition. It can be in clinical nutrition, public health nutrition, dietetics, etc. The course you choose must focus on evidence-based nutrition, applied food principles, nutritional therapy, foodservice systems, and community nutrition.
After getting a degree in any of these nutritional areas or the one you like, you’ll have to obtain a verification statement from an ACEND accredited program.
These two steps are the prerequisites to be able to sit for the Registration Examination for Dietitians Test conducted by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
If you’ll be pursuing your RD dream before 1st January 2024, then you can proceed with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. But after the said period, a graduate degree will form the basic eligibility criteria to sit for a CDR exam.
Step 2: Search, Apply, & Complete a Dietetic Internship
A crucial step essential to become a Registered Dietician in the United States is to complete a dietetic internship of 1,200 hours spread across a duration of eight months to twenty-four months.
This step is mandatory for every applicant, irrespective of whether they hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the nutritional field. You can choose to complete your internship under a licensed professional by picking a Coordinated Program, Dietetic Internship, or Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway.
You can use Dietetic Internship Centralized Application Services, aka, DICAS to find an appropriate internship opportunity available across the nation to land either a Coordinated Program internship or Dietetic internship.
But if you’re interested in completing an internship via Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways, look for an ACEND accredited education program that fills the gap.
Step 3: Clear the CDR Exam
To be called a Registered Dietician in the United States, you must clear the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam.
Once you’ve completed the initial two steps of getting a relevant degree and completing the internship, it’s time to get validated by the CDR by clearing the exam. The exam eligibility criteria vary from case to case to accommodate students from different backgrounds, so it’s important to possess a complete and clear understanding of the full eligibility criteria matching your particular case.
The CDR test examines students on their understanding of the principle of dietetics, nutrition care for groups and individuals, foodservice systems, and management of food and nutrition programs and services. A total of 145 questions are asked in the examination, and students get a time frame of two and a half hours to complete their paper.
As the CDR exam is organized at approximately 250 testing locations, students don’t have to worry about traveling too far to reach the examination center.
Give your best to clear the exam as it is a mandatory step to become a Registered Dietician in the United States.
Step 4: Secure a State License
Depending on the state you want to work in, you have to obtain an official state license or certification. Some states may have slightly different rules, and may require you to get added licensure.
While in some cases, a state licensure can be mandatory to get employed, while in others, your degree, experience, and exam score can serve the purpose. It all depends on which state you want to work in, so check state-wise license information to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.
Step 5: Maintain the License You’ve Obtained
Your work doesn’t end at clearing and obtaining the credentials of being a Registered Dietician. To hold the position or certification in the long run, every RD is required to complete 75 continuing education credits, out of which one credit is reserved for ethics.
It will happen every five years. Once you start working as a licensed registered dietician or RD, you will have to submit a learning plan along with an activity log within 120 days of completing the first activity.
You will receive a 120-day calculator from CDR that will help you determine the deadline to submit the learning plan and activity log. An annual maintenance fee is also required to be paid by RDs alongside maintaining the MyCDR page.
Are You Ready to Become a Registered Dietician in the United States?
Now that you have a clear idea of the steps essential to become a registered dietician in the United States, you can start preparing accordingly.
Depending on the career path you choose, it can take anywhere between four to eight years to become a certified registered dietician. So the early you start, the better.