Registered Dietitians (RD) and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) are food and nutrition experts. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognizes these two credentials as synonymous. Professionals who have met the criteria outlined below earn the RD/RDN credential.
Registered Dietitians apply the science of nutrition by utilizing nutrition and food knowledge to promote health and/or to treat disease. Registered Dietitians work in a variety of settings including hospitals, health departments or clinics, long-term care facilities, community outreach, government agencies, school food service, corporate wellness programs, food and hospitality industry, pharmaceutical companies, private practice, supermarkets, and research, among other settings.
Most of Auburn’s RD graduates work in hospitals as clinical dietitians or in out-patient clinics, including renal dialysis centers. Others work as nutrition educators in public health settings and corporate wellness programs, as directors of child nutrition programs in schools, and as managers of foodservice systems in healthcare and other settings. A few work in sales, most notably for pharmaceutical and nutrition support companies. Some are self-employed as nutrition consultants to long-term care facilities or in private practice specializing in areas such as eating disorders and obesity management. Dietitians may be found on the staffs of food magazines and in public relations firms. Dietetics is a very flexible career with many emerging employment opportunities.
Some RDs hold additional advanced practice certifications in specialized areas of practice such as pediatric or renal nutrition, obesity management, nutrition support, sports nutrition, and diabetes education. These certifications are awarded through the Commission on Dietetic Registration and/or other medical and nutrition organizations. Such specialty certifications are recognized within the profession and may be required only for advanced-level positions
State Licensure: 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. In the state of Alabama, you must be licensed to practice.
Auburn’s DPD provides the academic requirements to become a dietitian. Graduates of the DPD, after completing the Baccalaureate degree, receive a Verification Statement and then MUST be accepted into an ACEND accredited supervised practice program to complete the next step in the process to become a Registered Dietitian (RD). Supervised practice programs, such as dietetic internships, provide a minimum of 1200 hours of practical experience. Some programs are combined with additional academic studies at the graduate or undergraduate level. Most practice programs charge tuition and fees, and most fulltime programs take about 9 to 24 months to complete depending on whether or not graduate coursework accompanies the practice component. Auburn DPD program graduates MUST complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program to be eligible to sit for the Registration Exam for Dietitians.
Students apply for supervised practice programs (e.g., internships) primarily during the spring semester of the senior year in the DPD. Academic performance is a strong predictor of student success in obtaining a placement. Paid and volunteer work experience in nutrition, dietetics, food service, community settings, or related fields is also valued. Acceptance into dietetic internships and other practice programs is highly competitive.
After completing an ACEND accredited supervised practice (e.g., ISPP or dietetic internship), Auburn DPD graduates are eligible to sit for the National Registration Examination. This is a computerized test that graduates must pass in order to receive the RD/RDN credential. Additional information about the Registration Exam can be found at www.cdrnet.org. Registration exam review materials can be purchased through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) (http://www.eatright.org/). Review courses are also available to assist with exam preparation.
Auburn University offers an Individualized Supervised Practice Pathway (ISPP) in conjunction with the M.S. in Nutrition. Students who apply and do not match to a dietetic internship are eligible to apply to the Graduate School and the M.S. in Nutrition Non-Thesis Option ISPP Experience. www.humsci.auburn.edu/ispp/.