A Registered Dietician (RD) is an expert in diet, food, and healthy eating. Unlike Nutritionists, RDs are required to have a bachelor’s degree, a certain number of hands-on practice hours, be licensed, and have completed a national examination.

Preparing for the Registered Dietician Licensing Exam

RDs must complete an ACEND-accredited, supervised, internship before being able to be licensed. The requirements for this range from state to state but typically last six to twelve months and can be in a variety of fields from hospitals to food companies. This is often done in conjunction with undergraduate or graduate work and often counts towards college or university credits.

The required examination is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Research (CDR). There are a number of training materials available online and in print, and some states offer courses to help prepare for the examination. However, a solid undergraduate program coupled with a fair amount of individual study is often enough to properly prepare a student to pass the examination. This is required in all 50 states. Continuing education courses are necessary to maintain certification, though these requirements vary by state.

Career Outlook for Dieticians

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dieticians and nutritionists earn an average salary of $53,250 per year or $25.60 per hour. However, since nutritionists do not necessarily have a degree or licensures, many dieticians can expect earnings at the high end of this average or even beyond. A dietician with an advanced degree and years of experience can earn a high salary in the field.

The job growth in this field is expected to average 20% by 2020, which is above the overall average. As people become more health conscious, the field continues to expand. Dieticians can work for corporations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and even open their own practices. There are a number of specialties that can be considered, opening up additional marketing and earning opportunities.

Work Environment for Dieticians

Working in a nursing home is a popular option for many RDs. This requires a specialty in gerontology, a compassionate spirit, and the ability to work with a wide range of people. During undergraduate coursework, there are often senior care-focused electives available. Working in a nursing home can be a stable career path for dieticians.

Hospitals, healthcare facilities, and wellness centers frequently employ RDs. There are often a variety of shifts to choose from, which allows for flexibility. In addition, a large hospital will offer a variety of benefits and perks to employees. Many hospital RDs specialize in a certain client profile while others serve all patients.

Sports is another field with an increasing growth of RD opportunities. People who are drawn to this field often have a personal interest in fitness or sports and are committed to sharing their expertise with fellow athletes. This takes a specialized knowledge which can be derived from specific undergraduate courses or graduate education.

Opening a private business is another route that many RDs take. It’s usually after a few years in the field that an RD begins considering this option. Just like any other entrepreneur, it takes a keen business sense, dedication, and expertise in the field to build a successful business. Marketing techniques, people skills, and ambition are all critical for success. However, for many people the perks outweigh the risks.

Some RDs go on to receive advanced degrees and there are many doctoral options for these professionals. A lot of the time those with advanced degrees are naturally interested in research and the academic side of nutrition. Teaching aspiring RDs and nutritionists about the field is a calling for some. This is a great alternative for those looking to spend more time researching and less time working directly with clients.

There are a number of paths that can be taken in this field. Fortunately, during a degree program and while completing the required hands-on training, many people find their calling. There are a many personality types drawn to this field due to the sheer number of career possibilities. Overall, individuals with a passion for health, diet, and the desire to help others are the ones who succeed in this position.