A registered dietitian (RD) is a health care professional
with expertise in food and nutrition. The term “registered
dietitian” is a legally protected title and may be used only
by those who have completed an accredited baccalaureate program,
clinical experience, and national exam administered by the Commission
on Dietetic Registration (CDR). Some registered dietitians call
themselves “nutritionists,” but the definition of this
term is variable and it is influenced by licensure laws that differ
from state to state.
Registered dietitians assess the nutritional needs
of both sick and healthy people and then develop individualized
plans of care to improve or maintain health. They apply principles
from basic, social, and behavioral sciences to persons of all ages,
and a dietetics curriculum includes courses in chemistry, biochemistry,
anatomy, physiology, food science, management, economics, sociology,
psychology, and microbiology.
Registered dietitians work in hospitals or other
health care organizations, sports nutrition and corporate wellness,
public health, universities, schools, private practice, research,
and the food industry. Persons seeking careers in dietetics need
to have an interest in science, organizational and administrative
skills, and a genuine interest in working with people of all ages
as individuals or groups.
Areas of Specialization
Currently, there are four areas in which registered dietitians may
obtain certification as specialists: renal nutrition, pediatrics,
nutrition support, and diabetes. Certification requires completion
of an examination by the CDR or other medical/nutrition organizations.
Registered dietitians may also practice in specialized areas such
as eating disorders and weight management, cardiac rehabilitation,
or geriatrics without specialized certification.
Registered dietitians are employed by hospitals, government agencies,
public schools, day care centers, nursing homes, pharmaceutical
companies, food service companies, health maintenance organizations,
health clubs, the food industry, research laboratories, public health
clinics, correctional facilities, and private practice. Registered
dietitians may choose to work part- or full-time (40 hours/ week).
The number of Dietitians and Nutritionists employed in Florida in
2006 was 2,371. It is projected that in 2014 there will be 2,718,
an annual average growth rate of 1.8 percent.
Length of Training/Requirements
Entry-level dietitians must complete an American Dietetic Association
accredited bachelor's degree with a major in human nutrition, food
science and nutrition, dietetics, or food management. This is followed
by a supervised practice/internship program with a minimum of 900
hours. The next step is successful completion of the national registration
examination for dietitians offered by CDR and registration is maintained
by a program of continuing education.
Graduate programs are available leading to master's and doctoral
degrees. Those with advanced degrees may become teachers, researchers,
and managers. However, not all advancement requires additional education.
With experience, advanced knowledge, and management skills, dietitians
may advance from assistant to associate and then director of a dietetic
In the state of Florida, licensure is regulated by the Dietetics
and Nutrition Practice Council. All registered dietitians are eligible
for state licensure and there is no requirement for additional education
or supervised practice. Licensed dietitians/nutritionists designate
their status using the credentials LD or LD/N. A complete description
of the licensure requirements for dietetics and nutrition practice
may be found in the Florida Statutes Title XXXII, Chapter 468, Part
X (ss. 468.501 - 468.518).
Dietetic registration (RD) is maintained by completion of 75 hours
of continuing education every five years. State licensure (LD or
LD/N) requires 30 hours of continuing education every two years
Medical Errors: 2 hours for initial licensure and each renewal;
Management, risk management, personal growth, and educational
techniques: a maximum of 10 hours;
Approved home study courses: a maximum of 15 hours.