dietitian or nutritionist usually requires at least a bachelor's degree in dietetics,
foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a related area.
Graduate degrees also are available. College students in these majors take
courses in foods, nutrition, institution management, chemistry,
biochemistry, biology, microbiology, and physiology. Other suggested
courses include business, mathematics, statistics, computer science,
psychology, sociology, and economics. High school students interested in
becoming a dietitian or nutritionist should take courses in biology,
chemistry, mathematics, health, and communications.
There are currently close to three hundred degree
programs approved by the American
Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education.
Of the 46 States and jurisdictions with laws governing
dietetics, 33 require licensure, 12 require statutory certification, and 1
requires registration. Specific requirements vary by State. As a result,
interested candidates should determine the requirements of the State in
which they want to work before sitting for any exam.
In states that require licensure, only people who are
licensed can work as dietitians and nutritionists. States that require
statutory certification limit the use of occupational titles to people who
meet certain requirements; individuals without certification can still
practice as a dietitian or nutritionist but without using certain titles.
Registration is the least restrictive form of State regulation of
dietitians and nutritionists. Unregistered people are permitted to practice
as a dietitian or nutritionist.
Although not required, the Commission on Dietetic
Registration of the American Dietetic Association awards the Registered
Dietitian credential to those who pass an exam after completing academic
coursework and a supervised internship. This certification is different
from the statutory certification regulated by some States and discussed in
the previous section. To maintain a Registered Dietitian status, workers
must complete at least 75 credit hours in approved continuing education
classes every 5 years.
A supervised internship, required for certification, can be
completed in one of two ways. The first requires the completion of a
program accredited by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Recently,
there were 51 accredited programs that combined academic and supervised
practice experience and generally lasted 4 to 5 years. The second option
requires the completion of 900 hours of supervised practice experience in
any of the 243 accredited internships. These internships may be full-time
programs lasting 6 to 12 months or part-time programs lasting 2 years.
Experienced dietitians may advance to management positions,
such as assistant director, associate director, or director of a dietetic
department, or may become self-employed. Some dietitians specialize in
areas such as renal, diabetic, cardiovascular, or pediatric dietetics.
Others leave the occupation to become sales representatives for equipment,
pharmaceutical, or food manufacturers. A master's degree can help some
workers to advance their careers, particularly in career paths related to
research, advanced clinical positions, or public health.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor