For centuries, people thought little about the link between their health and what they put into their bodies. But there has been a significant shift in recent years as most people now realize the role diet and nutrition plays in their lives. As the trend of better health through better nutrition continues, there will be an even greater need for registered dietician nutritionists.
What is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist?
Registered dietitian nutritionists, or RDNs, are professionals with the ability to translate the science of nutrition into practical and commonsense solutions for everyday people so they may live healthier lives.
RDNs are typically required to attain specific training and credentials. Specifically, they must achieve a minimum of a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college, as well as have completed course work that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
RDNs are required to complete an ACEND-accredited supervised practice program at a healthcare facility, foodservice corporation or community agency. These studies may be combined with their undergraduate or graduate studies.
RDNs are also required to pass a national examination that is administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) and maintain professional education requirements.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of RDNs are projected to increase by 21% through 2022, faster than the national average for all other occupations. This increase may be due to a couple of factors. With rates of obesity, diabetes and other degenerative diseases on the rise, RDNs play a critical role in helping individuals achieve health and wellness. Also, as the Baby Boomer generation ages, the need for RDNs working within nursing homes and home healthcare is expected to increase.
According to 2012 salary statistics from the BLS, the average annual wage of a registered dietician nutritionist was $55,240. However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics listed the median annual wage as $60,000 as of 2013 data.
RDNs have the ability to work in a variety of clinical settings, such as public health, education, healthcare, research, private practice and government agencies.
Duties and career opportunities may include the following:
- Work in health maintenance organizations (HMOs), hospitals or other healthcare facilities, and educate patients about nutrition so they can make better choices in their daily lives. They may also manage foodservice operations in these facilities as well as in correctional facilities, schools and day-care centers.
- Work as a sports nutritionist educating clients about the connection between nutrition, health and fitness.
- Work in a private practice setting acting as liaison between healthcare coordinators and food companies.
- Provide services to nursing home residents, restaurant managers and food vendors and distributors.
- Work at universities and medical centers assisting physicians, students and nurses in their education about the science behind food and nutrition.
- Work in research within food and pharmaceutical companies directing or conducting experiments that help answer essential nutrition questions and, in some cases, finding alternative food and nutrition recommendations given to the general public.
If you are passionate about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and wish to help encourage and inform others in their journey, a career as a registered dietician nutritionist might be something worthwhile to pursue. If interested, a good place to start is by obtaining training from a regionally-accredited university or college.