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High School Students

  1. What is the difference between a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or dietetic technician, registered (DTR) and a nutritionist?
  2. What is the difference between a RDN and a DTR and what career opportunities are available for each?
  3. What do I need to do to become a RDN?
  4. What do I need to do to become a DTR?
  5. Is the Dietetic Technician (DT) Program a stepping-stone to the programs to become a RDN?
  6. How do you know which program is best? Does the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics rank programs?
  7. If ACEND and the Academy do not rank programs, what factors should I consider when deciding on a school?

  1. What is the difference between a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or dietetic technician, registered (DTR) and a nutritionist?

    The "RDN" and "DTR" credentials can only be used by dietetics practitioners who are currently authorized by ACEND to use these credentials. These are legally protected titles. Individuals with these credentials have completed specific academic and supervised practice requirements, successfully completed a national registration examination, and maintained requirements for recertification.

    All RDNs and DTRs study nutrition and applications to food and health. Some RDNs or DTRs call themselves nutritionists. However, the definition and requirements for the term "nutritionist" vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the scope of practice for someone using the designation nutritionist.

  2. What is the difference between a RDN and a DTR and what career opportunities are available for each?

    A RDN is a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential "RDN." To obtain this credential you must complete at least a bachelor's degree at a US regionally accredited college or university, required coursework and required supervised practice accredited by ACEND. In addition, you must pass a national RDN examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

    The majority of 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 RDNs work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of RDNs work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition, and corporate wellness programs.

    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 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 RDNs in a variety of employment settings including health care (assisting RDNs 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.

    Check out information on career opportunities, salaries, and job outlook for RDNs and DTRs.

  3. What do I need to do to become a RDN?

    To become a RDN you would need to:

    • Complete high school.
    • Enroll in a university that offers a Coordinated Program (CP) in dietetics granting a bachelor's degree. A CP combines classroom and required hours of supervised practical experience and is accredited by ACEND.
    • CP graduates are eligible to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians to become credentialed as RDNs, registered dietitian nutritionists.

    Or:

    • Complete high school.
    • Enroll in a university that offers a Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) granting a bachelor's degree. A DPD provides only the classroom courses and is accredited by ACEND.
    • After you receive your bachelor's degree, you will then need to apply for and complete a ACEND-accredited Dietetic Internship Program (DI). The DI provides at least 1200 hours of supervised practical experience.
    • DI graduates are eligible to take the Registration Examination for Dietitians to become credentialed as RDNs, registered dietitian nutritionists.

    You can access contact information from the lists of ACEND-accredited CP, DPD, and DI programs. Please refer to the Education Pathways Flowchart entitled "High school students — Pathway to RDN."

  4. What do I need to do to become a DTR?

    To become a DTR, you will need to:

    • Complete high school.
    • Completion of one of the following:

      Option I—Completion of a two-year Associate degree granted by a US regionally accredited college/university, completion of dietetic technician program requirements in a ACEND-accredited program, pass a national written examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), and completion of continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

      Option II—Completion of a Baccalaureate degree granted by a US regionally accredited college/university, or foreign equivalent, completion of a ACEND-accredited DPD program, completion of a ACEND-accredited Dietetic Technician supervised practice, pass a national written examination administered by CDR and completion of continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

      Option III—Completion of a Baccalaureate degree granted by a US regionally accredited college/university, or foreign equivalent, completion of a ACEND-accredited DPD or CP program, pass a national written examination administered by CDR and completion of continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

    For a list of ACEND-accredited DT programs with contact information, go to the DT Program page. Please refer to the Education Pathways Flowchart entitled "High school students — Pathway to DTR."

  5. Is the Dietetic Technician (DT) Program a stepping-stone to the programs to become a RDN?

    Individuals who complete an associate's degree in a ACEND-accredited DT Program may be able to transfer academic credits to a bachelor' degree CP or DPD Program. Some DT Programs have established articulation agreements that specify the coursework that will be accepted as transfer credit. For those DT Programs without formal agreements, it is necessary to confer with the DPD or CP Program Director to determine if the courses you have completed will be accepted as fulfilling some of the curriculum requirements for becoming a RDN.

    Currently, there is one CP program for DTRs who want to become RDNs. This CP is affiliated with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Other DT programs with articulation agreements can be found in the list of DT Programs.

  6. How do you know which program is best? Does the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics rank programs?

    Neither ACEND nor the Academy rate or rank programs. All ACEND-accredited programs meet the Accreditation Standards, which signifies that the programs provide the knowledge, skills, and/or competencies you need to enter the dietetics profession. These accredited programs meet the requirements for membership in the Academy and registration by CDR.

  7. If ACEND and the Academy do not rank programs, what factors should I consider when deciding on a school?

    This decision is a very personal one that should be made based on a variety of factors that are important to you, such as:

    • Size of school and program — would you be more comfortable in a small private school or a large state (public) university?
    • Cost — can you afford a private school or is a state-supported school a better value for you?
    • Available financial aid — what resources are available to you?
    • Geographic location — do you prefer a rural or urban setting, residential or commuter school?
    • Faculty composition and qualifications — have you visited the Web site or campus and talked with faculty?
    • Degree awarded — are you interested in a bachelor's or master's degree?
    • Success of graduates in obtaining internship placement and jobs — how well do graduates do after completing the program?
    • Success of graduates in pursuing career goals — what are your career goals and do they match the goals of the program?

    Talk with the program directors at the schools you are interested in attending, discuss the program, and ask to visit. It is sometimes helpful to talk with current students and graduates or RDNs and DTRs located in the area near the program to acquire information that may be helpful in making a decision.