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When you hear the term “nutritionist,” you must ask for more information to verify the qualifications of the person using this title. Unlike the credential RD, there is no nationally recognized credential associated with this title “nutritionist.” This means anyone can call himself or herself a nutritionist, with or without any educational preparation in food and nutrition.
The term nutritionist could be appropriately used if the person were educated in nutrition. For example, an RD is also a nutritionist, as well as university professors and researchers in foods and nutrition. Sometimes the title is actually used as an employment title for RD’s in certain setting (e.g. public health, clinical specialists, and in state and federal government). However, since the term is not regulated or credentialed, it is often used by people without any training who may actually do harm by giving inappropriate advice. Therefore, when you hear the term “nutritionist”, you need to request more information about the person’s qualifications before you can feel secure with the advice you are getting.
In order to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) you must complete your B.S. in Nutrition or Dietetics at a regionally accredited college or university. The nutrition program at SUNY Plattsburgh is accredited by the American Dietetic Association's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE).Your degree must meet the minimum academic requirements as approved by the American Dietetic Association (ADA). This will make you eligible to apply to any of the approximately 245 different internships located in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
The internships are extremely competitive so you will need to show that you have a solid GPA as well as some experience in the field of dietetics before you apply. College and community involvement also is an important part of the process. This means you need to start early in your career in nutrition planning for your internship. After completing an ADA approved internship you must pass the National Registration Examination for Dietitians. When you pass the exam, you are qualified to be a Registered Dietitian (RD).
Complete a didactic program in dietetics (DPD) accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), such as a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at SUNY Plattsburgh. In fall of your senior year of college you will begin the process of applying for your internship. The Nutrition Program Director or your academic advisor will help you select and apply for the internship of your choice. A listing of all internships available can be found on the ADA website (www.eatright.org) or from the program director.
Be accepted into and complete a CADE accredited dietetic internship. Each internship is comprehensive and designed to provide students with the understanding and skills vital to pursue a satisfying career in nutrition and dietetics. Some internships provide interns with the chance to also complete a graduate degree. Each internship exposes the intern to a vast scope of available career options. You will complete rotations of supervised experience in clinical, community, and food-service management.
Dietetic internships are competitive. Students can apply for internships in the fall of their senior year or after working in the field for a year or more.
Dietetic internships are usually 9–12 months long and offered by approximately 245 sites throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Students are expected to complete 1200 hours of supervised practice during their internship.
After successfully completing all the requirements for the dietetic internship (1. academic requirements (B.S.) and 2. the internship), you will be eligible to take the National Registration Exam for Dietitians. Computer testing at specific sites allows you to immediately find out if you passed the exam. Once you have passed the exam you are allowed to use the initials "RD" after your name signifying your status as a registered dietitian. You may re-take the exam at a later date, if needed to pass.
Over the past five years, 88% of SUNY Plattsburgh nutrition program graduates passed the National Registration Examination for Dietitians on their first attempt.
Dietetic technicians generally work independently or in teams with (or under the supervision of) an RD to perform routine duties at the technical level. Areas of employment are similar to that of RDs, such as hospitals, nursing homes, long term care facilities, out-patient health care & wellness clinics, community nutrition (WIC programs, public health agencies, meals on wheels, community health programs), food companies, and in food service management. The job market for dietetic technicians is assumed to be good and growing somewhat faster than that of RDs. According to ADA, the average salary level for dietetic technicians is about 75% of the average salary for RDs. Salary levels vary within regions and scope of responsibility. Please see the American Dietetic Association’s website for more information at www.eatright.org.
The American Dietetic Association recommends that dietetic technicians be registered, and many work environments require that an individual be credentialed as a Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR). Some hospitals and long term care facilities will employ B.S. dietetic major graduates as dietetic technician without the DTR credential.
Complete a 4-year didactic program in dietetics (DPD) accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE), such as a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at SUNY Plattsburgh. In spring of your senior year of college you will begin the process of applying for the examination for diet technicians. The DPD nutrition program director will help you complete the application process for taking the Diet Technician Registration Exam.
After successfully completing the academic requirements (B.S.) you will be eligible to take the National Registration Exam for Diet Technicians. Computer testing at specific sites allows you to immediately find out if you passed the exam. Once you have passed the exam you are allowed to use the initials "DTR" after your name signifying your status as a registered diet technician. You may re-take the exam at a later date, if needed to pass.
In New York State, dietitians and nutritionists who provide out-patient services must be certified. The certification is CDN (Certified Dietitian Nutritionist). Insurance reimbursement for medical nutrition therapy requires a provider to be an RD and CDN.
Certification is a state credential that limits the use of particular titles to persons meeting pre-determined requirements, while persons not certified could still practice the occupation or profession. This credential recognizes, or certifies, that the professional is qualified to practice in that specialized area. Consumers in these states who are seeking nutrition therapy assistance need to be more cautious and aware of the qualifications of the provider they choose.
To meet the education and experience requirements for certification in dietetics-nutrition, you must satisfy certain criteria as outlined on the New York State Education Department website at www.op.nysed.gov/dietlic. You can become a CDN with or without being an RD
An RD is automatically qualified to apply to become a Licensed Dietitian, a Certified Dietitian, or a Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN). Usually the application requires documentation of education, training, RD exam results, and a fee. You must be at least 18 years of age. In summary, if you have passed the RD examination you do not need to take the certifying examination, but need to file the necessary paperwork, application, and fee.
If you are not an RD, you must qualify for and successfully pass the certification examination to become a CDN. Please check the most recent guidelines at the New York State Education Department website: www.op.nysed.gov/dietlic. In general, to be eligible to take the certification exam, you must meet both the education and experience requirements, which include:
The Certification Examination is offered by Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists, email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: (727) 446-6086.
If you would like to find out more about the nutrition program at SUNY Plattsburgh, please contact:
Dr. Ena Joseph, Program Director
Office: Hawkins Hall 215B
Phone: (518) 564-4223
Fax: (518) 564-3100