Who Is a Registered Dietitian

The initials RD after someone's name mean "registered dietitian." A registered dietitian is a food and nutrition authority who has met academic and training requirements to earn the RD credential—and so provide credible nutrition guidance to the public.

As an important member of the healthcare team, an RD may have specialized expertise, perhaps in pediatric, maternal, or sports nutrition; oncology, cardiovascular, or renal nutrition; weight counseling; or diabetes education. Besides being in healthcare, education, and research, registered dietitians also provide nutrition and food expertise in business (corporate wellness, consumer affairs, product development, marketing, sales), government (public policy, government programs), food service (restaurant, institutions) management, fitness (education, training), communications (media, public relations, writing), culinary jobs (test kitchen), and in private practice counseling and consulting.

To earn the RD credential, an individual must complete a minimum of a bachelor's degree in nutrition or a related field from a U.S. regionally accredited college or university program and coursework approved by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE) of the American Dietetic Association. He or she must complete a CADE-accredited supervised practice program at a healthcare facility, community agency, or a food-service corporation, which may be combined with undergraduate or graduate studies. Typically, a practice program runs six to twelve months. Many dietetics professionals earn graduate degrees, as well.

To become registered, candidates must pass an extensive examination, administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency of the American Dietetic Association. All RDs are required to stay current with ongoing continuing education. Only dietitians who have passed the exam and maintain their continuing education are considered "registered."

Some registered dietitians also have specialized credentials, such as Board Certified Specialists in Pediatric Nutrition (CSP) or in Renal Nutrition (CSR), or as Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE).

universities. The title "dietitian" or "nutritionist" often describes what they do.

Letters after a name don't necessarily qualify someone to provide nutrition services. Even when that person holds other academic degrees, nutrition may not be his or her specialty. Probe further.

The initials RD for "registered dietitian" or DTR for "dietetic technician, registered" mean the person has met specific educational requirements in nutrition and health. See "Who Is a Registered Dietitian?" and "Who Is a Dietetic Technician, Registered?" In states with licensing, dietitians may have more credentials, such as LD (licensed dietitian); terms differ among states. Many qualified nutrition experts also have advanced degrees, such as M.S., M.Ed., Sc.D., M.D., or Ph.D.

In many states the titles "nutritionist" and "diet counselor" aren't regulated, so terms like these may be used by those not properly qualified to give accurate nutrition information or sound advice. For example, salespeople for dietary supplements, so-called health advisers, and some authors may call themselves "nutritionists." In reality, they instead may be self-

proclaimed experts, perhaps with just a little nutrition training or with only mail-order credentials.

Mail-order, diploma-mill credentials may appear impressive—but don't be fooled. The U.S. Department of Education defines a "diploma mill" as an organization awarding degrees without requiring its students to meet the established educational standards followed by reputable institutions. To see if an institution is accredited, not a diploma mill, check in your library for a list of accredited educational institutions.

Licensing qualified nutrition experts in many states helps ensure credible nutrition guidance and quality healthcare. Although qualifications for licensing differ from state to state, they often reflect the same education and training required to become an RD.

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