To Credential or Not Credential – Registered Dietitian is the Question

DieteticsOne of the degrees that I recruit for is the Master of Science in Food Science and Nutrition with a specialization in Dietetics, offered through Colorado State University (CSU) and the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (Great Plains IDEA). One of the admission requirements for this degree is for the applicant to hold the credential of Registered Dietitian (RD). Oftentimes, prospective students are looking for a degree they can earn “en route,” but CSU and the Great Plains IDEA degree was developed for practicing RD’s who would like to do the following:

  • Advance their level of practice
  • Retool for new career opportunities
  • Pursue doctoral study with enhanced knowledge in a specific area of dietetics practice

When a person makes the choice to move into the field of Food Science and Nutrition, most often they come to a fork in the road, one direction leading down the path of a nutritionist and the other a Registered Dietician. What’s the difference?

Registered Dietitian

The American Dietetics Association is responsible for the registered dietitian credential. The RD credentialing process has four requirements: completed a minimum of a bachelor’s degree (some accreditation requirements), completed an Accreditation Council for Education and Nutrition Dietetics-accredited supervised practice program, passed a national examination, and completed continuing professional educational requirements. There are many employment settings that require the RD credential. These can include, but are not limited to, hospitals, HMOs, sports nutrition, corporate wellness, universities, medical centers, and research labs.


A nutritionist is a non-credentialed title. Most nutritionists have some education in the field of food science and nutrition. According to the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), 46 states regulate nutritionists through registration, certification, and licensing requirements. Nutritionists can start a private practice or find work in similar industries as RDs, but will miss out on jobs requiring the RD credential.

People have made successful careers out of both paths, but the simple take-home message is that an RD is a professional credential, much like a Registered Nurse (RN). There is a prescribed course of study and experience attached to the credential which oftentimes reflects positively on the earner. If you decide the road of an RD is right for you, or you have already earned this status and are looking for an advanced degree, our program is right for you. I welcome you to contact me with further questions about our the Master of Science in Food Science and Nutrition with a specialization in Dietetics or the process of becoming an RD.

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