What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?

Becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria to earn the RDN credential:

  • A minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a US regionally accredited university or college and course work accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Dietitians study a variety of subjects, ranging from food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, culinary arts, sociology and communication to science courses such as biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, anatomy and chemistry.
  • Effective January 1, 2024, the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) will require a minimum of a master’s degree to be eligible to take the credentialing exam to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). In addition, CDR requires that individuals complete coursework and supervised practice in program(s) accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). In most states, graduates also must obtain licensure or certification to practice.
  • 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.
  • An ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency, or a foodservice corporation or combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, a practice program will run six to 12 months in length.  Premier Health offers this dietetic internship component.
  • Passage of a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). For more information regarding the examination, refer to CDR’s website at www.cdrnet.org.
  • Many states, including Ohio, require state certification/licensure.  Upon successful completion of a Dietetic Internship and receipt of a Verification Statement, graduates may apply through the State of Ohio Medical Board for a Limited Permit to practice dietetics in Ohio. Upon passage of the Registration Exam for Dietitians, individual may apply for a License to practice dietetics in Ohio.  In addition to RDN credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. Frequently these state requirements are met through the same education and training required to become an RDN.
  • Continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
  • Some RDNs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice. These are awarded through CDR, the credentialing agency for the Academy, and/or other medical and nutrition organizations and are recognized within the profession, but are not required. Some of the certifications include pediatric or renal nutrition, sports dietetics, nutrition support and diabetes education.

International Professionals

  • Individuals who completed their education and training outside of the US, or received credentials in another country, may be eligible to become credentialed RDNs in the US. Individuals who have completed the education and credentialing requirements in one country may be eligible for another country's credentialing examination if the two countries have entered into a "reciprocity" agreement to allow this. If reciprocity does not apply, you must have your academic degree validated as equivalent to the bachelor's or master's degree conferred by a US regionally-accredited college or university and complete an ACEND-approved supervised practice requirement to establish your eligibility to sit for the exam. It is important to note that all individuals who establish registration eligibility — whether under the provisions of a reciprocity agreement or through the combination of a validated academic degree and supervised practice program — must successfully write the Registration Examination for Dietitians to earn the RDN credential.