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Registered Dietician Programs

If you want to become a dietician, you will need to take specialized courses at one of the registered dietician schools in your area. Certified dietician programs prepare students to earn the Registered Dietician (RD) credential. Those that hold this credential can pursue a career as a registered dietician, nutritional counselor or a dietary consultant. Students who successfully complete a dietician degree become food and nutrition experts and are trained to offer personalized advice on healthy diets. Some students choose to complete an online dietician degree.

Types of Dietician Courses

The curriculum of dietitian schooling programs and courses varies only slightly by school or training center. Some of the most common courses offered include:

  • Introduction to Nutrition
  • Nutrition through the Life Cycle
  • Principles of Food Science
  • Community Nutrition
  • Nutrition Counseling and Education
  • Food Service Organization and Management
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Organic and Biochemistry
  • Microbiology for Health Sciences
  • Introduction to Biochemistry

Advanced and some certified dietician programs focus on courses centered around menu development, budgeting, planning safety and sanitation procedures, and the nutrition or dietetic industry as a whole.

What Do Dietician Schooling Programs Teach?

Students will need to attend dietician colleges to receive formal certification or a degree. Programs are usually offered as four-year degree programs and cover a range of topics in human nutrition, dietetics, meal planning and diet education. Most dieticians and nutritional counselors are also trained how to manage meal plans for different clients and medical patients, and how to make recommendations about diets based on certain health issues.

Dietician Degree Programs

Degree programs train students how to treat certain types of illnesses with medical nutrition and customized nutrition programs. Students learn how to evaluate the patients' nutritional needs and develop a customized program that will ensure the individual reaches their nutritional requirements and maintains good health.

Those who successfully complete a program are trained to work in a variety of settings, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Health clubs
  • Community wellness centers
  • Schools
  • Elder care facilities
  • Food service management firms or restaurants

Most certified dietician programs are four-year programs and lead to a bachelor's degree. Students enrolled may choose to specialize in a certain field so that they can become:

  • Clinical dietitians - to provide nutritional services to patients at nursing care facilities, hospitals and to develop nutrition programs
  • Community dietitians - to counsel individuals and groups about healthy nutritional practices
  • Management dietitians - to plan meals on a larger scale for healthcare facilities and food service organizations
  • Consultant dietitians - typically work in their own private practice or under contract with a healthcare facility

How to Become a Dietitian

After completing an accredited four-year degree program, students may need to apply for licensure based on their state's requirements. In some States, only those who are licensed to work as a dietitian or nutritionist are allowed to maintain certain titles. The Commission of Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association awards the Registered Dietitian credential to those who pass an exam, and have completed degree requirements and an internship.

Applying for Dietician Colleges

Prospective dietitians and nutritional counselors need to earn a bachelor's degree in a dietetics program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), the credentialing body of the American Dietetic Association. They also need to complete a Dietetic Internship program so that they can get hands-on training and experience in the field.

Many registered dietician schools are very competitive and their internship programs only accept students who meet certain criteria. Students who are ready to apply for a dietetic internship must maintain a certain GPA, complete dietetics-related work or have equivalent work experience, have some leadership experience, and collect some letters of recommendation. They may also need to complete a formal interview to discuss their career and educational goals.

How an Online Dietician Degree Program Works

Students who cannot complete their schooling at an area campus or those who need some flexibility when completing their degree may be able to complete an online degree program. An online degree program typically offers the same types of courses as a standard degree, but students must communicate with professors and other students over the web, download course materials, complete online quizzes and exams, view lectures online, and participate in discussion groups to meet their program requirements.

Students enrolled in an online program may also be required to complete an internship at an area hospital, nutritional center or other approved location.

Career Options with a Dietician Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of dietitian and nutritionists is expected to increase just 9 percent through 2018, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Dietitians with advanced degrees can expect to choose from the best job options. As of May 2008, the median annual wages of dieticians and nutritionists were $50,590. The majority worked for outpatient care centers, general medical and surgical hospitals, and in nursing care facilities.

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