What do Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) do?

RDNs are food and nutrition professionals who unite the science of nutrition with application of nutrition principles to improve health through interventions, including education and counseling, at the community and individual levels or by addressing nutritional aspects of medical problems in clinical practice. Many work in acute care hospitals, long-term care, and medical offices as members of the health care team or in community-based settings. Other areas of practice include corporate wellness, journalism, sports nutrition, the food and nutrition industry, and others. Find out more about careers in nutrition and dietetics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Educational requirements to become a credentialed RDN

Requirements to become a credentialed RDN include three steps:

  1. Earning a degree: Beginning January 1, 2024, a minimum of a graduate degree (master’s or doctorate) is required in order to take the RDN credentialing exam.
  2. Completing required didactic coursework and supervised practice: Students must complete an ACEND-accredited program or programs that encompass all required coursework as well as a minimum 1,000 hours of supervised practice experience. This can involve completing 1) an ACEND-accredited Didactic Program in Dietetics (DPD, usually a bachelor’s degree program) followed by completion of a completely separate ACEND-accredited supervised practice program (i.e. dietetic internship) OR 2) a single ACEND-accredited program that combines coursework with supervised practice to meet all requirements in one place. The GP at UTK falls under the latter category, though several prerequisites can be well met through our undergraduate dietetics program or Didactic Programs in Dietetics at other institutions.
  3. Passing the RDN exam: The national credentialing examination is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR). More information about this step can be found on the CDR website.  Many states and territories additionally require credentialed individuals to be certified or licensed by the state prior to practicing in the profession. The State of Tennessee requires licensure. The program at the University of Tennessee prepares students to be certified or licensed across all states and territories.

Note: In order to maintain the credential, RDNs must complete a minimum of 75 continuing professional education hours every 5 years

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