How to Become a Registered Dietitian

Become Team
Become Team
November 9, 2021

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5 Steps to Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Step Step 1
Earn a bachelor’s degree
In order to pursue a career as a registered dietitian, the first step is to complete a bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition, dietetics, public health nutrition, or foods and nutrition. During their studies, students take coursework in evidence-based nutrition, applied food principles, food service systems, nutritional therapy, and community nutrition. Programs should be accredited from an organization such as the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.
Step Step 2
Complete an internship
Registered dietitians are required to obtain hands-on clinical experience by completing an internship program. During these internships, students should complete at least 1,200 hours under the supervision of a licensed professional. Students on the undergraduate and graduate levels must complete an internship before getting their professional credential.
Step Step 3
Pass the registration examination
After prospective dietitians complete their degree requirements and internship program, they must pass a registration examination administered by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Commission on Dietetic Registration. The exam, which takes two-and-a-half hours to complete, consists of between 125 to 145 questions that cover dietetic principles, nutrition care, food service systems, and nutrition program management. More information about the test, as well as study guides, can be found at www.cdrnet.org/certifications/registered-dietitian-rd-certification.
Step Step 4
Obtain a state license
In some cases, registered dietitians are required to earn a state license in order to get a job. The requirements for obtaining and maintaining a state license differs from one state to the next. The Commission on Dietetic Registration outlines licensing requirements by state on its website at www.cdrnet.org/state-licensure.
Step Step 5
Earn a certification
In some states, registered dietitians are required to earn a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS), provided by the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists, to get a license. Earning this certification entails finishing 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, passing an examination, and completing a graduate degree program.
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FAQ on Earning Your Registered Dietitian Degree

1. Do I need to earn an advanced dietitian degree?

It depends. Some employers may prefer to hire registered dietitians who have earned a graduate degree, although it may not be required. However, those who want to earn a Certified Nutrition Specialist credential will need to complete a master’s or doctoral degree.

2. Am I required to complete dietitian continuing education courses?

Yes. Registered dietitians are required to complete 75 continuing education credits every five years in order to maintain their credentials. The same continuing education standards apply to those with a CNS designation as well. Information on continuing education courses can be found on the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s and the Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists’ websites.

3. Should I choose a dietitian niche?

Yes. Choosing a niche can be helpful for registered dietitians who want to start their own businesses, as well as those who work for a health care organization that specializes in a certain area of patient care. Some specializations these professionals can choose include gerontological nutrition, sports dietetics, and pediatric nutrition.

4. Do I need to participate in networking events?

Yes. Whether professionals want to start their own business or work for health care organizations, networking will connect them with the people who can help them achieve their goals.

5. Should I create a website?

Creating a website, as well as maintaining a social media presence, can help registered dietitians demonstrate their expertise to the clients they want to attract to their business. In addition, when looking for a job, building a brand online can help registered dietitians stand out from the competition.

Registered Dietitian Salary & Job Growth

When deciding on a career, the salary potential and chances of getting a job are top of mind for students. This section provides information on what registered dietitians earn, as well as what the occupational landscape looks like for them in years to come.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of May 2017, the median annual salary for registered dietitians is $59,410, with the highest paid professionals making over $83,070 and the lowest earners making under $36,910. According to the agency, the earning potential of people in the industry depends in part on where they work. For example, those who work for outpatient care centers earn an average of $65,650, government workers make $57,910, and those employed by hospitals command salaries of $60,210 per year.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $55,090

Currently Employed: 820

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%

Alaska Mean wage annual: $68,310

Currently Employed: 150

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20%

Arizona Mean wage annual: $54,690

Currently Employed: 1,390

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Arkansas Mean wage annual: $55,060

Currently Employed: 460

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16%

California Mean wage annual: $72,130

Currently Employed: 7,950

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20%

Colorado Mean wage annual: $60,430

Currently Employed: 1,000

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 31%

Connecticut Mean wage annual: $67,270

Currently Employed: 850

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

Delaware Mean wage annual: $64,950

Currently Employed: 180

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Florida Mean wage annual: $61,100

Currently Employed: 2,590

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16%

Georgia Mean wage annual: $51,710

Currently Employed: 1,830

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17%

Hawaii Mean wage annual: $66,810

Currently Employed: 340

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17%

Idaho Mean wage annual: $56,660

Currently Employed: 270

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 23%

Illinois Mean wage annual: $56,480

Currently Employed: 2,340

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5%

Indiana Mean wage annual: $54,190

Currently Employed: 1,160

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17%

Iowa Mean wage annual: $50,530

Currently Employed: 740

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%

Kansas Mean wage annual: $54,600

Currently Employed: 630

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%

Kentucky Mean wage annual: $56,860

Currently Employed: 760

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%

Louisiana Mean wage annual: $52,410

Currently Employed: 870

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Maine Mean wage annual: $57,530

Currently Employed: 200

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%

Maryland Mean wage annual: $66,520

Currently Employed: 1,120

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%

Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $63,180

Currently Employed: 1,820

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%

Michigan Mean wage annual: $55,320

Currently Employed: 1,790

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Minnesota Mean wage annual: $61,440

Currently Employed: 1,090

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%

Mississippi Mean wage annual: $49,110

Currently Employed: 510

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Missouri Mean wage annual: $50,050

Currently Employed: 1,520

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Montana Mean wage annual: $52,160

Currently Employed: 180

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%

Nebraska Mean wage annual: $56,210

Currently Employed: 560

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%

Nevada Mean wage annual: $64,910

Currently Employed: 390

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18%

New Hampshire Mean wage annual: $61,020

Currently Employed: 270

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%

New Jersey Mean wage annual: $67,800

Currently Employed: 1,880

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%

New Mexico Mean wage annual: $52,030

Currently Employed: 420

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

New York Mean wage annual: $66,480

Currently Employed: 4,800

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21%

North Carolina Mean wage annual: $53,920

Currently Employed: 1,940

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%

North Dakota Mean wage annual: $53,060

Currently Employed: 260

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Ohio Mean wage annual: $57,310

Currently Employed: 2,440

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%

Oklahoma Mean wage annual: $54,970

Currently Employed: 780

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%

Oregon Mean wage annual: $67,820

Currently Employed: 710

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16%

Pennsylvania Mean wage annual: $57,720

Currently Employed: 2,950

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%

Rhode Island Mean wage annual: $61,140

Currently Employed: 170

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3%

South Carolina Mean wage annual: $51,200

Currently Employed: 890

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%

South Dakota Mean wage annual: $54,750

Currently Employed: 200

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%

Tennessee Mean wage annual: $54,080

Currently Employed: 980

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16%

Texas Mean wage annual: $56,930

Currently Employed: 4,990

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Utah Mean wage annual: $54,020

Currently Employed: 680

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 30%

Vermont Mean wage annual: N/A

Currently Employed: 230

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%

Virginia Mean wage annual: $61,590

Currently Employed: 1,210

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%

Washington Mean wage annual: $63,000

Currently Employed: 1,450

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19%

West Virginia Mean wage annual: $57,580

Currently Employed: 340

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%

Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $55,740

Currently Employed: 1,420

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

Wyoming Mean wage annual: $56,640

Currently Employed: 90

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%

Between 2016 and 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be job growth of 15 percent for registered dietitians. One factor that will contribute to this boom in jobs is the increased interest in the role nutrition plays in wellness and combating obesity. Also, Baby Boomers approaching their twilight years are interested in nutrition in order to maintain good health as they age.

Finding a Registered Dietitian Program

Since registered dietitians need such specialized training, they must consider their school choices carefully. This section addresses what students should look for when they are evaluating programs.

Just as every patient’s dietary needs are unique, every student has unique needs when it comes to the schools that train them to enter the field. Some people need to consider the length of the program, some are concerned about delivery method, and others care most about whether or not their school offers professional certifications. Use the following search tool to help find the school that’s right for you based on the qualities that matter most for your needs.

Professional Registered Dietitian Associations & Groups

In order to connect with other professionals and keep their knowledge and skills current, registered dietitians join professional organizations. The following are some examples of the groups workers can join.

Resources for Registered Dietitians

Health care is constantly evolving—and nutrition is no exception. As a result, professionals need to keep abreast of what’s going on in the field. The following resources can help.

Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer

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