What is a Dietitian?

Educational and Professional Requirements of a Registered Dietitian

  • Registered Dietitians (RDs) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria and earned the RD or RDN credential:
  • Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a U.S. regionally accredited university or college or foreign equivalent, and coursework through an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) or Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP).
  • Complete 1200 hours of supervised practice through an ACEND accredited Dietetic Internship, Coordinated Program in Dietetics or an Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) offered through an ACEND accredited program.
  • Passed 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. In order to maintain the credential, an RD or RDN must complete continuing professional educational requirements.

How Is an RDN Different Than a Nutritionist?

The "RD" (Registered Dietitian) and "RDN" (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) credentials are legally protected titles that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. RD and RDN are titles for the same profession. There has been so much confusion between "dietitian" and "nutritionist" titles so the addition of "Nutritionist" has been officially approved and added to the RDN title.  

Based on the approved new title, we dietitians don't have to sweat when we are referred to as "nutritionists," but the general public should know that not all nutritionists are registered dietitian nutritionists. The difference is worth pointing out for the concern of knowing where to go for the specific nutritional guidance you are seeking. 

The definition and requirements for the term "nutritionist" vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the range of practice for someone using the designation "nutritionist," but in other states, virtually anyone can call him -or herself a "nutritionist" regardless of education or training.

Individuals with the RDN credential have fulfilled specific requirements, including having earned at least a bachelor's degree (about half of RDNs hold advanced degrees), completed a supervised practice program and passed a registration examination — in addition to maintaining continuing education requirements for recertification no less than every 5 years.

 The above is adopted from the American Academy of Dietetics:  http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442472286