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RD Job Description

Information taken from www.eatright.org

What Is a Registered Dietitian?

A Registered Dietitian is a food and nutrition expert who has met the minimum academic and professional requirements to qualify for the credential "RD." The majority of RDs work in the treatment and prevention of disease (administering medical nutrition therapy, often part of medical teams), in hospitals, HMOs, private practice or other health-care facilities. In addition, a large number of RDs work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of RDs work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition, and corporate wellness programs.

Job Responsibilities

While dietitians fill a variety of different roles depending on whether they work in an institutional, educational or clinical environment, there are a few basic job responsibilities that are common among all of them. They are responsible for working closely with their clients, as well as professionals from a variety of different fields.

Dietitians are responsible for consulting with health care workers about the particular needs of their patients, write grant request for research programs, analyze food content and composition for manufacturers, develop specialized diets, ensure that proper safety regulations are being addressed and inspecting meals before they are served. Dietitians may also do prepare budgets and supervise the purchase of food service equipment. Dietitians are often employed by various academic institutions to directly teach students or in a research capacity.

In addition to the above duties, many dietitians follow entrepreneurial pursuits on a freelance basis advising and educating various organizations and individuals on proper nutritional and dietary standards.

Educational and Professional Requirements

Registered Dietitians (RDs) are food and nutrition experts who have met the following criteria to earn the RD credential:

  • Completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree at a US regionally accredited university or college and course work accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Completed an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency, or a foodservice corporation or combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, a practice program will run six to 12 months in length.
  • Passed a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). For more information regarding the examination, refer to CDR’s website at www.cdrnet.org
  • Completed continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.

Some RDs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice. These are awarded through CDR, the credentialing agency for the Academy, and/or other medical and nutrition organizations and are recognized within the profession, but are not required. Some of the certifications include pediatric or renal nutrition, sports dietetics, nutrition support and diabetes education.

In addition to RD credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. Frequently these state requirements are met through the same education and training required to become an RD.

Salaries and Job Outlook

According to the Academy's 2009 Dietetics Compensation and Benefits survey, half of all RDs in the US who have been working in the field for five years or less earn $51,100 to $62,200 per year. As with any profession, salaries and fees vary by region of the country, employment settings, scope of responsibility and supply of RDs. Salaries increase with years of experience and RDs, in management and business, earn incomes of $85,000 to $88,000.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dietitians is expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2014 because of the increased emphasis on disease prevention, a growing and aging population and public interest in nutrition. Employment in hospitals is expected to show little change because of anticipated slow growth and reduced lengths of hospital stay. Faster growth, however is anticipated in nursing homes, residential care facilities and physician clinics.

Employment Opportunities

Registered dietitians work in a wide variety of employment settings, including health care, business and industry, community/public health, education, research, government agencies and private practice.

Many work environments, particularly those in medical and health-care settings, require that an individual be credentialed as an RD. RDs work in:

  • Hospitals, HMO's or other health-care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health-care team. They may also manage the foodservice operations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers and correctional facilities, over-seeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.
  • Sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness and health.
  • Food and nutrition-related business and industries, working in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing, product development or consulting with chefs in restaurants and culinary schools.
  • Private practice, working under contract with health-care or food companies, or in their own business. RDs may provide services to foodservice or restaurant managers, food vendors and distributors or athletes, nursing home residents or company employees.
  • Community and public health settings, teaching, monitoring and advising the public and helping improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.
  • Universities and medical centers, teaching physician’s assistants, nurses, dietetics students, dentists and others the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition.
  • Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies, universities and hospitals directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.

Professional Associations

The main professional association for dietitians is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It was founded in 1917 as the American Dietetic Association and has since become the largest organization of nutritional professionals in the world. Their primary goal is to optimize health through the proper practice and implementation of nutritional guidelines. This organization is headquartered in Chicago and currently has a membership that exceeds seventy thousand members. The vast majority of these members are registered dietitians.

Need More Information?

For other career guidance information, contact Academy’s Accreditation and Education Programs Team:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Accreditation and Education Programs Team
120 South Riverside Plaza, Suite 2000
Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995

Phone: 800/877-1600, ext. 5400
Fax: 312/899-4817
E-mail: education@eatright.org

Email the HUEC web coordinator if you have trouble accessing this page.

Department of Human Ecology - Oneonta, NY 13820 Phone 607-436-2705