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?