Tuesday, March 15, 2016

How Do I Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist? 5 Steps to Becoming a RD

Happy National Nutrition Month! I get many questions from friends, clients, and students who are curious about how to become dietitians. Today, I am telling you the five steps you need to complete to become a Registered Dietitian.

Dietitian vs. Nutritionist
Registered Dietitians (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) are the nutrition experts. The RD and RDN are two credential designations for one certification program. In other words, a dietitian can choose to use the title RD or RDN.

A nutritionist is different from a dietitian. Anyone can call themselves a "nutritionist;" however, you have to complete many hours of education and an internship to become a RD/RDN. We complete a lot of education in school, an undergraduate degree and Masters Degree. We also receive valuable on-the-job experiences through dietetic internships. After completing your internship you must pass the RD exam to earn your RD or RDN credential. All students that complete their dietetic internship will be required to have a Master's degree by 2024 in order to sit for the RD exam.

These are the 5 steps to become a Registered Dietitian or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.

2) Take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

You will need to take the GRE at least 6 months before you plan to apply to your internship. You will need to have your exam scores to complete your dietetic internship applications and to complete your post-graduate or Masters degree applications. Different dietetic internships have different desired scores for the GRE. Some dietetic internships simply require "completing the GRE," so there is no score cut off. So, research your dietetic internship's requirements.

4) Complete Your Masters Degree.

In the past, you were not required to complete your Masters Degree. By 2024, all students that complete their dietetic internship are required to have a Master's degree in order to sit for the RD exam in 2024.

I choose to complete my Masters of Science (MS) even though it was not a requirement to take the RD exam. I choose to complete my MS for several reasons. One, I earned 12 graduate credit hours for completing Masters choices during my internship. These applied to the MS degree. I also wanted the opportunity to teach on the collegiate level, so I felt the MS was a great degree to support my career goals.

I have several co-workers and fellow dietitians that have Masters degrees in various areas. I worked for a registered dietitian that earned her MBA because she knew she wanted to open her own nutrition practice. I had a registered dietitian that earned her Masters of Art (MA) in Counseling; I've seen her use her counseling skills daily.

I encourage you to think about your future career goals. Research different Masters degrees. And, research your dietetic internship programs. Many dietetic internships offer Masters level courses that you complete during your dietetic internship. So, research and find the best fit for you and your future career.

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