National Nutrition Month: What is a Registered Dietitian?

Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Ashlee Linares-Gaffer, board member and past president of the Southern Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shares some details about what exactly an RDN is - and how to become one.

In honor of national Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) Day, we asked Ashlee Linares-Gaffer, board member and past president of the Southern Arizona Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for some details about exactly what an RDN is - and how to become one.

What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist? How is that different from any other kind of nutritionist?

A popular slogan among dietitians is "All dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians."

A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is a nutrition professional who has a nationally recognized credential that includes:

  • Earning a bachelor's degree and completing an accredited academic program with food, nutrition, and science coursework;
  • Completing 1200+ hours of supervised practice in a number of food, nutrition, and health-related work settings
  • Passing a national exam to earn the RDN credential.

What kinds of careers are open to RDNs?

Here are some that come to mind:

  • Food Service Management - Hospitality, cafeterias, dining halls
  • Culinary - Chef, meal delivery service, recipe development
  • Healthcare Practitioner - Direct inpatient or outpatient care in a clinical environment
  • Healthcare Administrator - Administration or management of clinics, hospitals, services
  • Sports / Athletics - Work one-on-one or in groups with athletes to enhance performance in sport
  • Counseling - Individual or group behavior and lifestyle coaching
  • Community - Food and nutrition education in schools, senior programs, and other community-serving organizations
  • Public Policy - Write grants and reports, attend legislative sessions, organize advocates around a cause
  • Research Coordinator - Carry out daily research activities for a research study that is being overseen by a Principal Investigator (head researcher on a project)
  • Researcher (Principal Investigator) - Lead scientist, identifies research questions and designs research projects. Requires writing grants, delivering presentations, and writing reports and other types of publications
  • Educator - Teacher / instructor in the area of nutrition, food, science, or closely related subject, most likely in a high school or university setting
  • Sales - Representative for pharmaceuticals, food companies, supplements, medical devices, or other specialized equipment
  • Communications - May include marketing or public relations activities such as social media, photography, articles, blog posts, or other methods of engaging consumers with a brand, company, or product that relates to food or nutrition

How does someone become an RDN?

Read the full article