How To Become a Registered Dietitian without a Nutrition Degree

Last Updated on August 27, 2022 by Smile Ese

The field of nutrition is growing in leaps and bounds, but if you really want to be a top dog in the dietitian industry, an advanced degree is going to be your key to wagging that tail. Time and again, I’m asked if it’s possible – or even can be done – to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) without a nutrition degree. The answer is Yes!

Whether you’re looking for a new career, or just want to learn more about nutrition, this guide will help you become a Registered Dietitian without a nutrition degree. After reading this guide, you will have the knowledge needed to begin the R.D. program application process, or just have some background information that can improve your diet and make you feel better about yourself. Get more information regarding How To Become A Registered Dietitian Without A Nutrition Degree, is becoming a dietitian worth it, how to become a registered dietitian with a bachelors degree, how to become a registered dietitian online & how long does it take to become a nutritionist.

How To Become a Registered Dietitian without a Nutrition Degree

Becoming a dietitian offers one with a plethora of options by way of a career and being armed with the right information can only foster one’s ascension in this career pursuit. From registered dietitian programs online to how to become a registered dietitian online and how to become a certified nutritionist, the article below brings you all the latest information you need to know on them.

Collegelearners also gets you informed on related posts on careers in nutrition without a degree and how to become a registered dietitian in California, online registered dietitian programs, how to become a nutritionist online amongst others. Endeavour to peruse through our catalogue for similar posts.

So, you’ve decided to become a Registered Dietitian, but you don’t have a nutrition degree. Where do you start?

First off, let’s talk about what it means to be a Registered Dietitian (RD). Registered Dietitians are health professionals who provide nutrition counseling and education for individuals, families, and groups. They also work with other members of the healthcare team to help patients manage their nutritional needs during illness and recovery.

There are three steps to becoming an RD:

1) Earn an undergraduate degree in Nutrition or Food Science; this can be from any accredited college or university.

2) Complete an accredited Dietetic Internship Program (DI); your internship must meet the minimum requirements set forth by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND).

3) Pass the Registration Examination for Dietitians (RDNRE) administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR).

I'm a Nutritionist. That Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means. | by Meg  Dowell | Medium

how to become a registered dietitian nutritionist

Registered dietitian (RD) is a popular career choice for many people interested in health and wellness. An RD can serve many roles in a community. You could work in a hospital or other medical facility and provide nutritional care to patients. Or, you could focus on population-level nutrition and work with nonprofits, government entities or educational institutions. 

Professional variety is only one benefit of becoming an RD. The career path of an RD offers livable wages with a median salary of $63,090 and has an expected job growth of 11% from 2020 to 2030. However, becoming a registered dietitian isn’t as easy as knowing about a healthy diet. Dietetics is a highly regulated profession where training and higher education matter, especially since most states require a license/certification to practice, and in order to become licensed, a secondary degree is required. By 2024, a minimum of a graduate degree in a related field is required to sit for the Registration Examination for Dietitians Test by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR exam). If you’re interested in becoming a registered dietitian, these are five steps you’ll need to complete.

  • Scroll to Step 1: Earn an accredited bachelor’s or master’s degree
  • Scroll to Step 2: Complete a dietetic internship
  • Scroll to Step 3: Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam
  • Scroll to Step 4: Obtain a state license
  • Scroll to Step 5: Maintain state license and registration

Step 1: Earn an Accredited Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree

The first step to become a registered dietitian is to earn a degree in the area of nutrition and obtain a verification statement from an Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) accredited program. This is required in order to sit for the CDR exam. Currently, if an individual is interested in pursuing their RD, they may hold either a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an ACEND-accredited school; however, it is important to note that this will change in 2024. On January 1, 2024, a graduate degree will be the minimum requirement to sit for the CDR exam instead of a baccalaureate degree. 

If you graduate before 2024, you may pursue a bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition, dietetics, public health nutrition, or foods and nutrition. Your courses will focus on evidence-based nutrition, nutritional therapy, community nutrition, applied food principles and food service systems. 

If you would like to pursue a master’s degree, you might consider an ACEND-accredited master’s in nutrition or a coordinated degree program, such as a master’s in public health/registered dietitian (MPH/RD). In your program application, be sure to include any specific background information or work history in nutrition that is required or that may qualify you for the next steps to become an RD.

Step 2: Complete a Dietetic Internship

You must obtain hands-on clinical experience through an internship after completing your nutrition program to become a registered dietician. This is true for individuals who have earned a master’s degree and not only those with bachelor’s degrees. 

You can go through a traditional Dietetic Internship (DI), a Coordinated Program (CP), or an Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP). Whatever the program, you must complete 1,200 hours under the supervision of a licensed professional. 

Dietitian Internship

According to ACEND, to apply for a Dietetic Internship, you will use the online dietetic internship centralized application services (DICAS). Almost all internships take advantage of this system, and you can use it to be matched with appropriate DI and CP placements nationwide. If you are interested in an ISPP, you must pursue it through other avenues. 

Internships range in duration from eight to 24 months. You may work on a part- or full-time basis. There also are online and distance internship options if you cannot complete a traditional one in person. 

You can choose an internship based on your interests and career goals. There are many programs that focus on clinical nutrition, medical nutrition therapy, community nutrition, pediatric nutrition, geriatric nutrition, food systems management, public health nutrition education and other areas. 

Coordinated Programs

Many prospective RDs earn a degree and then pursue an internship separately. There is also the option of applying to a Coordinated Program, according to ACEND, which provides the essential Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD) coursework as well as supervised practice. You can use an accredited Coordinated Program to obtain the necessary education and training required for the exam. 

A Dietetic Internship combined with graduate coursework is not an official Coordinated Program, though Coordinated Programs can be designed at the graduate degree level. 

Individualized Supervised Practice Pathways (ISPP)

Another option is pursuing an ISPP, which is meant to provide supervised practice through ACEND-accredited dietetic programs. There are two different types of ISPPs, one for Didactic Program in Dietetics graduates and  one for doctoral degree holders.

Value of Registered Dietitians vs. Health Coaches | Retail Dietitians  Business Alliance
  • ISPP for Didactic Program in Dietetics Graduates  (DPD)

This option is for graduates who did not match with a dietetic internship but have a DPD verification statement. The DPD provides the required dietetics coursework leading to a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Graduates of the programs who are verified by the program director may apply for Dietetic Internships or ISPPs  to receive the supervised practice that is needed to be eligible to sit for the RD exam. 

  • ISPP for Doctoral Degree Graduates

You also can apply for an ISPP without a DPD verification statement if you have a doctoral degree. However, those students must attend an ISPP that is approved to offer a track for individuals with a doctoral degree. 

You can look for ISPPs by reviewing accredited education programs through ACEND, but please note that eligibility for specific ISPPs will vary by program. 

Step 3: Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) Exam

Passing the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) exam is the most crucial step to earn the RD credential and become a registered dietitian. Once you have completed your degree and internship requirements, you can become validated by the CDR and should then take the registered dietitian exam. Rules are very strict regarding RD exam eligibility requirements. Remember to take a close look at the student options scenarios with different backgrounds, and make sure you are qualified to sit for the exam.

There are more than 250 testing locations. The exam is two and a half hours long and consists of up to 145 questions. Under the current Registered Dietitian Exam specifications (PDF, 258 KB), which are valid through December 31, 2021, the test consists of:

  • 25% principles of dietetics
  • 40% nutrition care for individuals and groups
  • 21% management of food and nutrition programs and services
  • 14% foodservice systems

Step 4: Obtain a State License

The state where you wish to practice may require you to obtain a state license or certification before you can be employed. The CDR provides information on which states require additional licensure for registered dietitians. In some circumstances, you may be eligible for a license based on your degree, internship and exam result. Most states have their own state licenses, so it’s better to check and prepare in advance for the specific requirements of where you want to live and work. 

Step 5: Maintain State License and Registration

To maintain your credentials as an RD, you must complete 75 continuing education credits every five years, and one credit must be in ethics.

You are required to submit a learning plan and activity log within 120 days of completing your first activity. CDR offers a 120-day calculator to determine the deadline to submit your learning plan. You must pay an annual registration maintenance fee and maintain your MyCDR Page. This is your personal landing page, and your information should be up to date. 

Who is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)?

I’m finally sitting down to write this highly requested post! The most common question I get asked through email and Instagram is probably, how did you switch career paths to become a registered dietitian (RD)? Well, my friends, the day has come for me to finally spill all the information I have so that you can evaluate whether or not this is a career you want to pursue. Check out how I made decision for myself here!

Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are nutrition experts and are the only legally recognized nutrition professionals in the United States and other parts of the world.

RDNs work in a variety of settings that include (among others) hospitals, clinics, public health, business, private practice, sports, universities, and research.

Having a career as a dietitian has always been named one of the best in the country. As society becomes increasingly aware of the importance of nutrition in health outcomes, the need for RDN grows.

In fact, the demand for dietitians is expected to grow faster than average, to 21% over the next ten years.

The most important point to consider about nutritionists is that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, with or without nutrition education or certification. In fact, there are many accredited online nutrition courses that can be done in less than a day. However, there are many degree programs that one can take to obtain a degree in Nutrition.

The titles Registered Dietitian and “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” are interchangeable and each dietitian may choose to use the credential of their choice. Simply put, all dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are dietitians.

how long does it take to become a nutritionist 

This is related to the previous point, as it can be one of the most important deciding factors for those who are incredibly busy. It also answers the question of ‘how long does it take to become a certified nutritionist’ if that’s your aim through completing a course! 

The time that it takes to complete a course is also a huge indicator of course quality. 

If a course is only a few hours long, for example, then there’s no way that it’s going to teach you  everything that you need to know when becoming a nutrition advisor, and we doubt that a course of this length would ever be able to qualify for Ofqual approval. 

The course that we run here at OriGym takes an average of 12 weeks to complete, and this is because it covers all of the expertise that you will require if you’re looking to become a professional nutritionist. 

It’s not an incredibly long time for the sake of getting properly qualified, and it’s much shorter than completing a 3-year degree!  

You also get unlimited free career support, and you can start the same day that you enrol (as it is a course that can be completed fully online). 

The Differences Between Nutritionists and Dietitians

Cost & Payment Plans 

Just like course length, the cost of a course is not only an indicator of its quality, but it’s also something to factor in depending on your budget. 

If you enrol on a free course, or one that is ridiculously cheap, then it’s safe to say that you’re not going to be completing an adequately accredited or regulated qualification. 

At the end of the day, this is something worth investing in since it’s a part of your career, and if you’re on a limited budget then we’d highly recommend saving up for a qualification or spreading the cost by finding a course provider than has a payment plan to suit you. 

For example, here at OriGym we realise that not all of our students are able to pay for their courses upfront, which is why we offer the option to spread the cost with 0% interest. 

While an accredited nutrition course may not seem like a cheap investment, it’s certainly cheaper than university tuition fees, so if you don’t require a degree for the types of roles that you’re looking at then we would suggest keeping an open mind! 

how to become a registered dietitian if you already have a degree

Here is what you need to do to become an RD:

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree (if you already have one in a non-nutrition field, no worries—we’ll chat about that in a minute).
  2. Take the courses required by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) through an ACEND-accredited program. This can be either an undergraduate program or graduate program, but starting January 1, 2024, all students must have a graduate degree to take the RD exam.
  3. Complete a dietetic internship through an ACEND-accredited program.
  4. Pass the RD exam.
  5. Get licensed in the state in which you will be practicing.

RDNs are subject to professional and ethical standards and base their decisions on evidence-based practice. Registered dietitian nutritionist is the gold standard in nutritional care in the United States and beyond.

Some students become Certified Nutrition Specialists (CNS) to show that they have studied the field;

  • You must obtain a master’s or doctoral degree and 1,000 hours of supervision to obtain this certification.
  • The public generally does not understand the difference between registered dietitians and nutritionists, but formal employers do.
  • If you want to open a private consulting practice, you can complete a bachelor’s degree in diet sciences, skip the internship necessary to register and label yourself as a nutritionist.
  • If you plan to work for a health care center, you must obtain your RD recognition.

The biggest difference between dietitians and nutritionists lies in the legal restrictions that each title entails. Only nutritionists who register with the Commission for Dietary Registration (CDR) can legally declare themselves as dietitians or, more precisely, registered dietitians (RD).

Get a bachelor’s degree

To pursue a career as a registered dietitian, the first step is to complete a bachelor’s degree in clinical nutrition, dietetics, public health nutrition or food and nutrition.

During their studies, students take courses in evidence-based nutrition, applied food principles, food service systems, nutritional therapy, and community nutrition.

Programs must be accredited by an organization such as the Accreditation Council for Nutrition and Dietetic Education.

Take the courses required by ACEND

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, I highly recommend taking courses required by ACEND at the graduate level. Starting in 2024, all RDs-to-be will need a graduate degree to sit for the exam, so the job market will be saturated with graduate degrees. Make sure you’re competitive by getting a graduate degree.

There are two routes in which you can go:

  1. Didactic program + DICAS. Some graduate programs only cover the required coursework. You will then need to apply to DICAS, which is a matching system for dietetic internships. This option requires two applications: one for the graduate program and one for the internship.
  2. Coordinated program. Other graduate programs combine the coursework and the internship. Typically you complete the internship after you’ve finished the required courses. Since this option only requires one application, these programs are highly competitive.

Different programs will have different pre-requisite requirements. Once you’ve chosen a few programs that you’re interested in applying to, plan out the required prerequisites you may have already taken or need to take.

If you’ve been out of school for awhile, I highly recommend looking into taking these classes at your local community college or state school. It may take you up to a year to complete the prerequisites you need.

Something else you should be thinking about is taking the GRE! GRE scores last 5 years, so you can take it before you start your prerequisites since you’ll want to focus not those. I highly recommend purchasing this Manhattan prep book of practice problems!

So you’ve taken the GRE, you’re taking prerequisites, now it’s time to apply for the programs you’re interested in! Most application deadlines are in early spring (January—March).

is becoming a dietitian worth it

Coordinated Programs in Dietetics

Combine your degree with supervised practice. Why? Because baccalaureate students can apply to this type of program and begin supervised practice without going through dietetic internship computer matching. Coordinated Programs in Dietetics may result in a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree, depending on the program. Graduates of these programs are eligible to sit for the dietetic registration exam.

Career Changers
It’s never too late to make the switch to a career in dietetics. Individuals with a prior bachelor’s degree need to complete a Didactic Program in Dietetics and receive a verification statement. Those without a four-year degree need to complete a bachelor’s degree and receive a verification statement indicating completion of the didactic program in dietetics components prior to applying to the dietetic internship match.

International Students
RDNs have been trained in all corners of the globe. There a few different ways for international learners to become RDNs — visit ACEND accredited programs online to learn more.

How to become a Registered Dietitian online

Do you have a passion for health, food and helping people? A career in dietetics could be the right career choice for you. Becoming a registered dietitian nutritionist requires a science-heavy course load and many hours of patient care. There are opportunities to conduct research, work with children and even join the military. RDNs work in a variety of settings including clinical, business and management, private practice and culinary.

To become a registered dietitian nutritionist, a path of higher education is a must as well as a dietetic internship from an ACEND-accredited program, and passing the national registration examination. The pathway listed below is a common route many traditional students take, but it is not the only path to become an RDN.

The 5 Steps

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree and receive a verification statement from an ACEND-accredited program (Didactic program in Dietetics, Coordinated Program, Future Graduate Program, Foreign or International Dietitian Education Program). Note, effective January 1, 2024, a graduate degree will be required to be eligible to take the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
  2. Complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice dietetic internship program or individual supervised practiced pathway is an option. Supervised practice/experiential learning is combined with the Coordinated Program, Future Graduate Program, and International Dietitian Education Program.
  3. Pass the Commission on Dietetic Registration’s dietetic registration exam.
  4. Gain licensure in your state of practice, if applicable.
  5. Maintain continuing education.

how to become a registered dietitian with a bachelors degree

Becoming a registered dietitian is not a career path you should take lightly. Compared with nutritionists, it is a highly regulated industry that requires specific education, training, experience and licensure. However, it can be well worth it, considering the wages and your passion for helping others.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the 2020 national median pay for dietitians and nutritionists was $63,090 per year. The highest 10% of earners made more than $90,000 per year. The highest median salary was $69,660 in outpatient care centers, followed by $64,010 in government, $63,380 in hospitals and $60,330 in nursing and residential care facilities. 

The job growth of the dietitian and nutritionist profession is also promising: In 2020, there were 73,000 jobs, and the BLS expects this number to increase 11% by 2030.

According to the BLS, most RDs work full time, but working hours are flexible. You may choose to meet with patients outside of normal business hours. 

The BLS lists a number of different career paths for registered dietitians. Some options include:

  • Clinical dietitians provide medical nutrition therapy and create customized nutritional programs based on the health needs of patients.
  • Community dietitians develop programs and counsel the public on topics related to food, health and nutrition. 
  • Management dietitians work in food service settings such as cafeterias, hospitals, prisons and schools where they manage food programs. 

No matter which career path you choose, this is a great field to specialize in. The ability for RDs to work in private, nonprofit and government sectors allows for various learning opportunities and provides a well-respected salary. Registered dietitians also have the benefit of bettering the lives of individuals and families through nutrition and dietetics.

RxRD Nutrition | What's the Difference Between Dietitian and

how to become a nutritionist without a degree uK

Despite a lot of the false information out there, it is definitely possible to become a nutritionist without holding a BSc (Hons) degree. 

The main thing that you need to be aware of if you do decide to choose this route though, is that the course that you choose to enrol on is run by a reputable course provider, and covers a variety of relevant content that will truly help you to grow your knowledge in this area. 

Step 1: Researching possible career paths 

Before enrolling on the first course you stumble upon, you should definitely have a think about the kind of career that you want. The qualifications that you choose will directly affect your employability when it comes to specific job roles. 

If you’re already working as a fitness professional for example and you’re looking to add to the services that you already provide for your clients rather than pursuing a full-time career in nutrition, then a sports nutrition course would be all that you needed, and learning how to become a holistic nutritionist isn’t such a difficult route! 

If you were thinking of becoming an Online PT and providing meal plans as part of a paid service online (so you would become an online nutritionist), a course in this area would also cover you for this, as well as being able to provide meal plans to your regular gym clients. 

In short, if you wish to advertise yourself as a qualified nutrition advisor or become a nutrition coach then there really is no need to complete a degree, although it’s not a waste of time if you do have one already. 

Stick with us to find out more on nutritionist careers later on in the article! 

Step 2 – Finding a course provider 

This links directly to our previous point, as the role or additional expertise that you wish to gain is affected by the area of nutrition that you study, e.g. sports, health-related, etc. 

We do actually run a specialist course in obesity and diabetes control here at OriGym that compliments nutrition expertise nicely, if you were looking to move into the sports nutrition field. 

So, what things should you look out for when choosing your course provider? 


Can I become a Registered Dietitian Online without a Nutrition Degree?

Before you even look at course content, the first thing that you should do is scrutinize their website from top to bottom and find out whether their course is:

  • Ofqual regulated
  • REPs recognised (if it’s a sports or exercise related course) 
  • Recognised or accredited by all necessary bodies in the sector that your course falls under 

If you weren’t already aware, Ofqual is a government department here in England that regulates all qualifications, including school examinations and tests. 

They’re essentially there to ensure that the qualifications that people receive are high-quality and provide them with the knowledge that they need to fulfil any duties post-qualification. 

They also provide the clients of those who take these qualifications with reassurance that they’re receiving a service from someone who is adequately trained and skilled in their area, and chose to become a certified nutrition coach in the right way! 

Delivery Methods & Location

Depending on how busy you are and whether you’re currently working full-time or not, one of the biggest deciding factors for you right now might be whether the course is time-consuming or not. 

Location ties into this if the course can’t be fully completed online, as it means that you will have to travel to take part in any workshops or assessments that need to be completed at the course provider’s venue. 

Ask yourself:

  • Can the course be completed online? 
  • Do I have to attend any workshops/assessments? If so, where are they based?
  • Do the delivery methods of the course suit me? (e.g. online lectures, online portfolios, etc.)
  • How much support will I get? Will I have direct contact with a tutor?

If you can’t find the answers to all of these questions on the course provider’s website then don’t hesitate to contact them and ask. It’s better to find out everything now before you make the decision and purchase a course! 

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