Becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Overview of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

A registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN), also known as a registered dietitian (RD), is a credentialed healthcare professional who applies evidence-based information about nutrition and diet to contribute to the health and wellness of individuals, groups, and communities. RDNs work in a variety of sectors, including healthcare, public health and other community agencies, commercial industry, professional and collegiate athletics, schools and colleges, corporate wellness, government, research, and private practice. The profession of dietetics is both an art and a science; RDNs apply their knowledge of nutrition science in the context of individualized needs, priorities, and preferences in order to address the goals of their clients, patients, or other constituents. From food production to nutrient utilization in the body, RDNs address all aspects of the journey of nutrients.

Production & Distribution Consumption Utilization & Excretion
  • Agricultural
  • Environmental
  • Culinary
  • Food Service
  • Behavioral
  • Social
  • Physiological
  • Environmental
  • Biochemical
  • Physiological
  • Genetic

RDNs focus on the use of nutrients in the human body. When the body changes with growth, aging, increased physical demands, or alterations in health status, nutrient needs change.

RDNs quantify nutrient needs and work with individuals to shape their intake to meet those needs. From providing behavior change counseling and nutrition education to developing tube feedings and intravenous nutrition support, dietitians help people across the entire spectrum of health.

For more on careers in dietetics, please review this information from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Requirements to Become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Future Education Model Pathway (applies to the Jefferson MS/RDN Program)

There are three requirements to become an RDN following ACEND’s Future Education Model Standards. Successful completion of the TJU MS/RDN program will fulfill the first requirement.

  1. Complete an ACEND-accredited graduate program: This entails completion of didactic and supervised learning experiences as well as competency assessments required by the program.
  2. Pass the national RDN credentialing exam: The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) provides a national exam at various testing centers throughout the nation. 
  3. Obtain licensure in your state of practice, if applicable: It is applicable in PA, NJ, DE, NY, MD, CT, WV, DC, and OH (as well as many additional US states). Refer to the Pennsylvania State Board of Nursing website to learn more about licensure in PA, or  read about licensure statutes and information by state. It is ACEND's considered opinion that the Jefferson MS/RDN program is designed to and does meet the state dietetics licensure and certification laws in every US state and territory where it is applicable.

    *The Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) released the Future Education Model Accreditation Standards for programs in nutrition and dietetics. These accreditation standards integrate didactic coursework with supervised experiential learning in a competency-based curriculum designed to prepare nutrition and dietetics practitioners for future practice.

Traditional Pathway

For students enrolled in programs that follow the 2017 ACEND Standards, there are four main requirements to become an RDN. These requirements are provided for reference only and do not apply to TJU Nutritional Sciences students.

  1. Bachelor’s degree: Completion of a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in dietetics or a related field from an accredited college or university. Beginning in 2024, a Master’s degree will be required.
  2. DPD verification statement: Completion of Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) requirements in an ACEND-accredited DPD as evidenced by a DPD verification statement.  
  3. DI verification statement: Completion of an ACEND-accredited dietetic internship (DI)/supervised practice program as evidenced by a DI verification statement.
  4. Pass the national RDN credentialing exam: The Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) provides a national exam at various testing centers throughout the nation. 
  5. Gain licensure in your state, if applicable.

For more information, please visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website or review the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Fact Sheet.

Maintenance of RDN Credential

  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists must maintain competency and stay up to date on new information related to their practice. In order to accomplish that, they must complete continuing professional education. The CDR monitors the continuing education of professionals in the field by requiring RDNs to earn 75 Continuing Professional Education Units (CPEUs) every five years. 

Professional Development Portfolio (PDP)

  • The CDR constructed the PDP process, which is a tool to ensure continuous learning to support professional competence. This is an automated tool that guides you in selecting areas of focus and logging CPEUs earned from approved educational sources.  
  • To learn more about the educational and professional requirements to become an RDN, please visit the the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.