Careers in Nutrition and Dietetics

Where to Start if You Already Have a Degree

If you already have a bachelor's degree that is not in dietetics and are interested in becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist, you should have your college transcript evaluated by a director of a dietetics program accredited or approved by ACEND. Because the policies, procedures and costs for the transcript evaluation may vary from one institution to another, you may want to contact more than one dietetics program for further information.

The program director will evaluate your previous academic preparation and identify the courses that you will need to complete at that school to meet the educational requirements for dietetic registration. It may be possible to complete the required dietetics coursework while enrolled in a graduate program. The dietetics program director can advise you of your options.

Once the required coursework is completed, you are eligible to apply to an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program.

Employment Opportunities

Registered dietitian nutritionists work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, community/public health, education, research, government agencies and private practice.

Many work environments, particularly those in medical and health-care settings, require that an individual be credentialed as an RDN. RDNs work in:

  • Hospitals, HMO's or other health-care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health-care team. They may also manage the foodservice operations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers and correctional facilities, over-seeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.
  • Sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness and health.
  • Food and nutrition-related business and industries, working in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing, product development or consulting with chefs in restaurants and culinary schools.
  • Private practice, working under contract with health-care or food companies, or in their own business. RDNs may provide services to foodservice or restaurant managers, food vendors and distributors or athletes, nursing home residents or company employees.
  • Community and public health settings, teaching, monitoring and advising the public and helping improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.
  • Universities and medical centers, teaching physician’s assistants, nurses, dietetics students, dentists and others the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition.
  • Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies, universities and hospitals directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.

Salaries and Job Outlook

According to the Academy's 2009 Dietetics Compensation and Benefits survey, half of all RDNs in the US who have been working in the field for five years or less earn $51,100 to $62,200 per year. As with any profession, salaries and fees vary by region of the country, employment settings, scope of responsibility and supply of RDNs. Salaries increase with years of experience and RDNs, in management and business, earn incomes of $85,000 to $88,000.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dietitians is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2014 because of the increased emphasis on disease prevention, a growing and aging population and public interest in nutrition. Employment in hospitals is expected to show little change because of anticipated slow growth and reduced lengths of hospital stay. Faster growth, however is anticipated in nursing homes, residential care facilities and physician clinics.

Financial Aid

There are many resources to help students in need pay for college. You may be able to obtain a grant or scholarship from a corporation, community or civic group, philanthropic or religious organization or directly from the school or college you are interested in attending. Federal grants and low-interest loans may also be available.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation offers scholarships to encourage eligible students to enter the field of dietetics. Student members of the Academy enrolled in their junior year in an ACEND-accredited or approved program may apply for a Foundation scholarship. Scholarships are also available for student members in ACEND-accredited dietetic internships and graduate studies. Contact the Academy's Accreditation and Education Programs Team (800/877-1600, ext. 5400 or [email protected]) for Foundation scholarship information.

Need More Information?

For other career guidance information, contact Academy’s Accreditation and Education Programs Team:Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Accreditation and Education Programs Team
120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2190
Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995
Phone: 800/877-1600, ext. 5400
Fax: 312/899-4817
E-mail: [email protected]