wikiHow to Become a Dietician

Two Parts:Deciding to Pursue Being a DietitianGetting Education and Experience

If you are interested in health, nutrition, and food, you might be considering working as a dietitian. Dietitians are food and nutrition experts who work on a variety of issues related to food and nutrition.[1] They may prepare food, conduct research, and coach individuals and groups on healthy nutrition. But becoming a successful and registered dietitian isn’t as simple as having an interested in food: you need the proper education, professional experience, and even business strategy to become a dietitian.[2]

Part 1
Deciding to Pursue Being a Dietitian

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    Know about the benefits and demands dietitian. Being a food and nutrition expert can be an extremely rewarding job. Although it can be a competitive industry that comes with some demands, there are many benefits to working as a dietitian.[3]
    • It requires an incredible amount of knowledge. You’ll need to know about everything from biochemistry to anatomy to food preparation.[4]
    • Helping someone get healthy or make proper food choices can be incredibly rewarding for you and them.
    • It comes with some emotional demands. You’ll have to positively navigate all kinds of personal dynamics from patients to family members and other healthcare providers.[5]
    • There are many avenues a dietitian can go down once she is registered. Once you have completed an internship, you will have a better idea of in which avenue you feel most comfortable.
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    Consider your skills and education. Before you begin taking steps to become a registered dietitian, you first need to assess your abilities and education. Taking an objective view of what you have to offer can help you decide if being a dietitian is the right for you.[6]
    • An excellent way to consider your ability to be a dietitian is to think about an experience you’ve had with one. You could also contact a dietitian and see if you could discuss it as a career or even shadow her for a day to get a better sense of the work.
    • You will need at least a bachelor’s degree, possibly a graduate degree, as well as at least 1200 hours of supervised practice and successful passing of a national exam.[7] This might be too much of a time commitment for some people, or may not be the right choice if you aren’t a strong student.
    • Learn about how long it takes to be successful. It can take years to get the education and experience to become a registered dietitian. It may also take years to build up a client base or find a good job.[8] Knowing the commitment up front can help you relax and make the process of becoming a dietitian more easy and enjoyable.
    • You need at least a bachelor’s degree and course through an accredited dietetics program.[9] This will require courses in biochemistry, anatomy, human nutrition, psychology, and biology.[10]
    • You need to complete at least 1200 hours of supervised practice under an accredited dietitian or dietetic organization.[11]
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    Think about how being a dietitian will fit into your lifestyle. Consider how being a dietitian will affect your lifestyle and even that of your family. Knowing whether or not the time, emotional, and physical aspects fit in with your lifestyle is important if you want to become a dietitian and be successful at it.[12]
    • Are you able to handle the physical demands? Depending on where you work, you may need to stand or sit for long hours.
    • Does dietary work fit your personality? Working with patients and other people is a significant part of the job. If you like working with and helping people, being a dietitian may be an excellent choice for you.
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    Examine if being a dietician meets your financial needs. Dietitians earn on average about $55,000 per year. This amount can change depending on your experience and location. Proceed with your plans to be a registered dietician if the average pay meets your financial requirements.[13]
    • The average salary for a registered dietitian works out to $26.56 per hour, which is significantly above the minimum wage.[14]
    • Private practice dietitians tend to make the most money as they are in business for themselves, control their schedules and keep all of the revenue for their services.
    • Remember that you will have to pay taxes and other fees for your salary, but that you will also get health benefits and vacation and sick time.
    • There is significant growth in the field of dietetics.[15] Current projects forecast a growth rate of 20% between 2010 and 2020, which means there should be ample opportunities to find a job.[16]

Part 2
Getting Education and Experience

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    Obtain a bachelor’s degree. At a bare minimum, you need a bachelor’s degree to work as a registered dietitian. Consider a degree in dietetics, food science, nutrition, or another related field such as biology. This can help ensure you not only understand the various aspects of being a dietitian, but may also expedite furthering your education.[17]
    • The coursework should be approved by the Accreditation Counsel for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).[18] The curriculum will vary between schools, but most cover the following subjects to some degree:[19]
    • Food and Nutrition Sciences
    • Biochemistry
    • Culinary Arts
    • Foodservice Systems Management
    • Business
    • Microbiology
    • Sociology
    • Physiology
    • Microbiology
    • Psychology
    • If you have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, you may want to get a master’s degree or PhD to be a dietitian.
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    Complete an accredited internship. Irrespective of education, every person who wants to work as dietitian must complete an internship. Your supervised practice must be accredited by the ACEND and meet certain time requirements.[20]
    • You must do at least 1200 hours of internship, which is the equivalent of about six to 12 months.[21]
    • You can do your internship a healthcare facility, community agency, or at a foodservice corporation.[22] If you want to specialize in a specific type of dietetics, such as for obese patients, you may want to consider this for your internship.[23]
    • There are over 250 accredited programs in North America and opportunities through the world. You can find a list of professionals with whom to intern at the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Their website is can be found here.
    • Keep in mind that dietetic internships are very competitive and selective. You'll want to be armed with three internships that you'd like and be prepared to write extensive applications/essays/projects for each one.
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    Pass the national examination. Before you can work as a registered dietitian, you must pass the national exam. The exam is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and you may only take it once you have successfully completed an undergraduate degree program and a supervised internship.[24]
    • The program director of your internship will give you details on preparing for the test and application process.
    • You may want to purchase study aids or join a study group to improve your chances of passing.
    • If you fail the exam, you may retest only 45 days after your unsuccessful exam.[25]
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    Find a job. Dietetics is a wide field and there are many institutions in which you can find a job as a registered dietitian. Finding a job as a Dietitian can be tricky, but there are usually a host of jobs available at any given time. Most dietitians start in the clinical field (hospitals). You may also consider starting your own private practice. Sending out applications to different kinds of places can help you find your dream job.[26]
    • Dietitians can work in a variety of industries including food service management, government, education, research, and the private sector.
    • Look for jobs at universities, hospitals, cafeterias, nursing homes, and schools.[27]
    • You can also work as a private contractor, which will allow you to get experience in a bunch of different areas as well as let you pick and choose when and for whom you work.
    • Consider starting your own private practice once you have some experience. You should build up a client base before taking this step, but it can offer you even more freedom.
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    Maintain your credentials as a Registered Dietitian (RD). In order to maintain your certification, you must complete continuing education throughout the time that you are a dietetic practitioner. This can help you stay on top of new research and trends in your field.[28]
    • It is mandatory to complete 75 credit hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every five years in order to maintain your RD status.[29]
    • You can take a wide variety of continuing education courses or participate in workshops that will help you improve on and update your skills and knowledge over time.


  • Consider pursuing a master's program in food science or a related field.
  • Be sure to check with your state to confirm the certification requirements for Registered Dietitians.

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Categories: Diet & Lifestyle