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How to become a registered dietitian & achieve your goals

If you’ve been exploring how to become a Registered Dietitian (RD), know that it’s a great career choice. Experts estimate that the job prospects from 2020 to 2030 are likely to rise by an exciting 11%, with more Americans switching to a healthier lifestyle. You can expect to earn a median salary of $63,090 with the possibility of making higher wages as your skills and experience levels improve. 

Job Description of a Registered Dietitian

As a registered dietitian, you’ll work with clients looking to lose weight or manage medical conditions like eating disorders, hypertension, and diabetes. Having completed your training, you could get jobs in a health care facility or non-profit and educational institutions. Working with private clients is an option where you’ll advise them on eating nutritious meals in keeping with their religious beliefs and lifestyle. Then again, you might work with food companies needing directions on designing hampers and, say, a diabetic-friendly or vegan Shiva basket.

Becoming a Registered Dietitian Involves Extensive Training

Most states require individuals to acquire a license or certification to practice as a registered dietitian, and for that, you’ll have to get extensive training and higher or secondary education. As of now, having a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredited program allows candidates to sit for the Registration Examination for Dietitians Test by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR exam). 

Qualifying for the Exam

You could acquire a bachelor’s degree in dietetics, clinical nutrition, foods and nutrition, or public health nutrition. Typical courses include subjects like applied food principles, nutritional therapy, food service systems, community nutrition, and evidence-based nutrition. If you’ll graduate before 2024, these qualifications should be enough for you to sit for the exam. However, candidates taking the exam after January 1st, 2024 will need a minimum of a graduate degree. To maximize your chances of passing the exam, sign up for the registered dietitian exam prep app that helps you study on the go. The app has a series of study questions and mock tests you can take to evaluate how well you’ve retained the materials. 

Completing the Dietitian Internship

Regardless of whether you’ve completed your bachelor’s or master’s degree, you must undergo 1200 hours of internship under the supervision of a licensed professional. You can acquire the mandatory hands-on experience by taking up a Coordinated Program (CP), conventional Dietetic Internship (DI),  or an Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP). Having completed the hours, you’ll now sit for the Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) Exam. 

The CDR exams are conducted at 250 locations across the country. The test has 145 questions and typically takes two and a half hours to complete. Expect that 25% of the questions will be on the principles of dietetics, while 40% test your knowledge of nutrition care for individuals and groups. Another 21% are centered around the management of food and nutrition programs and services. Finally, 14% are on foodservice systems. Having passed the exam, you may want to research the state additional licensure requirements where you intend to work as an RD. 

Time Frame for Completing Your Education

You can expect that the training period for becoming an RD may take anywhere from four to eight years, depending on the regulations of your state and the career path you choose. This time includes four years of undergraduate training and two years for completing a master’s degree program. Interning for 1200 hours typically takes up to a year, and you may need to take time off to study for the CDR exam. Also, factor in the time for the Coordinated Program and acquiring a license as outlined by your state regulations. 

You are now ready to begin practicing as a registered dietitian.

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