FAQs about Dietitians and Dietitian Nutritionists
Registered Dietitians (RDs) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are food and nutrition experts translating the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.
RDs/RDNs have met the following criteria and earned the RD or RDN credential:
- Completed a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree
- Completed 1200 hours of supervised practice
- Passed a national examination
The majority of RDs/RDNs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, often part of medical teams), in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of RDs/RDNs work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of RDs/RDNs work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition, and corporate wellness programs.
Professionals who have met the aforementioned criteria may choose to use the RD or RDN credential after their names. Both credentials signify the same training.
From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Learn more about Becoming a Registered Dietitian HERE.
An RD/RDN can help you:
- Eat smarter. An RD/RDN can help you sort nutrition facts from fiction, read food labels and discover healthy cooking, and learn to eat right when you eat out.
- Be healthier. Do you have food allergies, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure? Are you pregnant or nursing? An RD/RDN can help you improve your diet to optimize your health.
- Play harder. Whether you’re running a marathon, skiing or jogging with your dog, and RD/RDN can help you increase energy and improve performance.
- Manage weight. Want to lose or gain weight? An RD/RDN can design a personalized eating plan and provide support and guidance to help you meet your goals.
- Live longer. A healthy diet is key to longevity. An RD/RDN can show you how to eat right for the long run.
The "RD" credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Some RDs/RDNs may call themselves "nutritionists," but not all nutritionists are registered dietitian nutritionists.
In Vermont, virtually anyone can call him- or herself a "nutritionist" regardless of education or training.
Individuals with the RD/RDN credential have fulfilled specific requirements, including having earned at least a bachelor's degree (about half of RDs/RDNs hold advanced degrees), completed a supervised practice program and passed a registration examination — in addition to maintaining continuing education requirements for recertification.
From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Certification for RDs/RDNs in Vermont protects the title of Certified Dietitian (CD). While the RD/RDN credential is a national standard, regulated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), CD status is regulated by the state of Vermont. The CD title is not intended to replace the RD credential, but rather to be used in conjunction with it.
To maintain CD status, practitioners must also maintain the RD/RDN credential and adhere to continuing education requirements. Every certified dietitian must complete 30 continuing education credits in a two-year renewal period in order to renew certification.
To become a Certified Dietitian, renew your certification, or learn more about CD status, visit the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation website HERE.
Licensure: This is the process by which a state governmental agency grants time-limited permission to an individual to be recognized as and/or engaged in a given occupation after verifying that the individual has met predetermined, standardized competency qualifications.
Licensing is the most restrictive legislative regulation, other than outright prohibition of professional practice, and usually requires specific educational attainment and passage of a competency examination. Licensing programs often include (1) title protection for licensees, meaning that only those the state has properly licensed may use a particular title or hold themselves out as members of a particular profession, and (2) practice exclusivity, meaning only those the state has properly licensed may engage in activities falling within the regulated profession’s scope of practice.
The goal of licensure is to ensure that licensees have the minimal degree of competency necessary to ensure that the public’s health, safety, and welfare are reasonably well protected.
If a state has licensure with practice exclusivity for a given occupation, a person in that occupation must be licensed to work in that state.
Certification: State certification within practice acts, provide a lower level of protections for state consumers than licensure, and generally require a lower level of education attainment. Most often, state certification requires that an individual obtain a provides credential from a specified non-governmental professional entity, usually includes title protection, and occasionally includes practice exclusivity.
A state government certification regulates the use of a professional or occupational title, e.g., certified nurse assistant or certified public accountant. Certification does not establish a monopoly of service; anyone can perform the functions of a nurse assistant or an accountant.
Generally, only members of an occupation or profession who have become certified by complying with specified training and testing requirements are allowed to use a protected title. It is generally illegal to use the “certified” title without the proper credentials. Frequently, state standards for certification are found in “right-to title” statutes and are called state certification acts.
From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Definition of Terms Document
A DTR is a food and nutrition practitioner who has completed:
- at least a two-year associate's degree at a US regionally accredited university or college, required course work and at least 450 hours of supervised practice accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND); or
- at least a bachelor's degree at a US regionally accredited university or college and required coursework for a Didactic Program (DPD) or Coordinated Program in Dietetics (CP).
In addition, you must pass a national DTR examination administered by CDR and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. The majority of DTRs work with RDs in a variety of employment settings including health care (assisting RDs in providing medical nutrition therapy), in hospitals, HMOs, clinics or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of DTRs work in community and public health settings such as school or day care centers, correctional facilities, weight management clinics and WIC programs as nutrition counselors.
From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Board Certified Specialties:
Through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), RDs/RDNs who practice in specialized areas can seek the following additional Board Certifications:
- Board Certified Specialist in Pediatric Nutrition (CSP)
- Board Certified Specialist in Renal Nutrition (CSR)
- Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD)
- Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG)
- Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition (CSO)
To obtain a Board Certification, RDs/RDNs must meet a specific set of criteria that includes:
- current Registered Dietitian status through CDR,
- maintenance of the RD/RDN credential for a minimum of 2 years from the original examination date (by the date of the specialty examination),
- documentation of 2000 hours of practice (1500 for CSSD), and
- successful completion of an examination in the specialty area.
Click HERE for more information on becoming a Board Certified Specialist in one of these areas.
From the Commission on Dietetic Registration
Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE):
Another specialty certification that many dietitians hold is Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). The National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE) describes the role of the CDE as follows:
A Certified Diabetes Educator® (CDE®) is a health professional who possesses comprehensive knowledge of and experience in prediabetes, diabetes prevention, and management. The CDE® educates and supports people affected by diabetes to understand and manage the condition. A CDE® promotes self-management to achieve individualized behavioral and treatment goals that optimize health outcomes.
Unlike the board certified specialties previously described, this certification is open to many different health professionals. Click HERE to see what other disciplines qualify.
To become a CD, health professionals must meet the following criteria:
- Minimum of 2 years (to the day) of professional practice experience in the discipline under which the individual is applying for certification.
- Minimum of 1000 hours of DSME experience with a minimum of 40% of those hours (400 hours) accrued in the most recent year preceding application.
- Successful completion of the CDE Examination.
From the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators
Click HERE to learn more about the CDE certification.
Some RDs/RDNs may also decide to pursue additional training and certifications in the area of coaching.
The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change.
The ICF also provides information on how coaching is different from therapy. Therapy deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or in relationships. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past that hamper an individual's emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with the present in more emotionally healthy ways. Coaching, on the other hand, supports personal and professional growth based on self-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is future focused. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one's work or personal life. The emphasis in a coaching relationship is on action, accountability and follow through.
From the International Coach Federation