Working as a Registered Dietitian
A Registered Dietitian (RD) is the most widely recognized nutrition professional. Although it is possible to specialize in nutrition without being an RD, many nutrition-related jobs require the RD credential because it signifies professional competence. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics(AND) is the professional association that establishes the criteria for becoming registered and administers the process.
Where Do Registered Dietitians Work?
The majority of registered dietitians 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 dietitians work in community and public health settings and academia and research. A growing number of registered dietitians work in the food and nutrition industry, in business, journalism, sports nutrition, corporate wellness programs and other non-traditional work settings.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of registered dietitians is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2015 because of 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 patients’ reduced lengths of hospital stay. Faster growth is anticipated in nursing homes, residential care facilities and physicians clinics. ADA’s survey of members shows RDs work in these settings:
|Hospitals (inpatient and acute care)||34.0%|
|Clinics and ambulatory care centers||11.6%|
|Community and public health programs||11.3%|
|Extended care facilities||10.9%|
|Consultation (primarily to health-care facilities)||6.3%|
|College and university faculty||5.5%|
|Other for-profit organizations and industries||4.7%|
|Other non-profit organizations||4.5%|
|Private practice (primarily to individual clients)||3.5%|
|School food service (K-12 and college)||3.0%|
|Consultation, primarily to other organizations||2.0%|
|HMOs, physician and other care providers||1.7%|
Many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners in addition to RD credentialing. These state requirements are frequently met through the same education and training that leads to the RD. The Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics describes how to become a certified Dietitian (CD) in Wisconsin. Some RD’s hold additional certificates in specialized areas of practice such as pediatric or renal nutrition, nutrition support, or diabetes education. These certificates, awarded through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for ADA, and/or other medical and nutrition organizations, are recognized in the profession but are not required.
What kind of job can I expect to get?
Although most positions in the health and wellness fields require the RD credential, there are opportunities for students who earn their Bachelor’s degree but do not complete the RD requirements. Positions include Diet Clerk or Assistant, Food Service Supervisor or Manager, Community Nutritionist, jobs in the hospitality industry, and Sales and Marketing in the health, pharmaceutical and food industries. In addition, graduates of the B.S. Dietetics program are eligible to take the Registration Examination for Dietetic Technicians and obtain the “Dietetic Technician Registered” credential (DTR). (See: http://www.cdrnet.org/certifications/dietetic-technician-registered-dtr-certification for further information on this process.)
Below is a list of just some of the employment possibilities.*
|Area of Practice||RD’s in Area of Practice||Setting||Subspecialties/Titles|
|Food & Nutrition Management||15%||
|Consultation & Business||8%||
|Education & Research||7%||
*Position title and responsibilities, defined by the employer, determine if RD credentialing is required.
Salaries and Job Outlook
According to AND’s 2009 Dietetics Compensation and Benefits Survey, half of all RDs in the US who have been working full-time in the field for five years or less earn between $42,000 and $55,000 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 many RDs, particularly those in management, business and consulting, earn incomes above $86,000.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dietitians is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2005 because of 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 patients’ lengths of hospital stay. Faster growth, however, is anticipated in nursing homes, residential care facilities, and physician clinics.
Need More Information on careers in Nutrition and Dietetics?
The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (A.S.P.E.N.) is an interdisciplinary organization dedicated to improving patient care by advancing the science and practice of nutrition support therapy.
- Labeling and Nutrition
- Dietary Supplements
- Food Safety
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides global leadership for a research, training, and education program to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood disease and enhance the health of all individuals so that they can live longer and more fulfilling lives.
- Women, infant, and Children (WIC) Program
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- School Meals
- Food Distribution Programs
- Disaster Assistance
- Child and Adult Care Food Program
- Summer Food Service Program
- Farmers Markets Nutrition Programs
- Nutrition Education
- Food recalls
- Growth charts
- Fact sheets
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the United States government’s principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.
The National Dairy Council (NDC) is the nutrition research, education, and communications arm of Dair Management Inc. NDC is comprised of a staff of nutrition science researchers, registered dietitians and communications experts dedicated to educating the public on the health benefits of consuming milk and milk products throughout a person’s lifespan.
MyPlate offers personalized eating plans and interactive tools to help you plan/assess your food choices based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is the world’s largest medical library. The Library collects materials and provides information and research services in all areas of biomedicine and health care. Collections include MEDLINE/PubMed, NIH MedlinePlus Magazine, and clinicaltrials.gov.
The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing together the world’s top researchers, clinical nutritionists, and industry to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition for the sake of humans and animals.
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is recognized as the policy voice of biological and biomedical researchers.
Career Development Resources For Students
UW-Madison Department of Nutritional Sciences alumni have found employment in diverse environments. The following is a sampling of the positions held by DNC alumni:
Donna Weihofen, MS, RD – Author, media spokesperson
Anne Lund, RD, MPH – Research Coordinator, Instructor – University of Washington, School of Public Health
Teresa Curtis, RD – Nutrition Education Program Specialist
Kari Taff, RD – Sales and Marketing, Harbor Athletic Club
Terry Hilger, RD – School Nutrition
Kirsten Mollderm, RD – Clinical Dietitian
Lisa Bingen, MS, RD – Metabolic Dietitian
Jeremy Isensee – Sports Nutrition Coordinator, Division of Intercollegiate
Jenifer Johnson, RD – Community Nutritionist
Michelle Rybolt, RD – Sales and Marketing food manufacturer
Courtney Cherveney, RD – Eating Disorders Specialist
Sarah Schumacher, RD, – Outpatient Specialist
Karen Kritsch, RD – Transplant Dietitian
Barbara Dale, RD – Nutrition Support Dietitian
Amanda Hawkins, RD – Hospital Clinical Section Chief
Gayle Meissen, RD – Hospital Chief, Nutrition and Food Services
Sheila Weiss, RD – Director of Nutrition Policy
Sami Hayden, RD – Nutritionist for the USDA school meal program
Sarah Mattison, RD – Private practice – nutritional consultant, personal trainer
Mary Marcus, RD – Cystic Fibrosis Specialist