A Registered Dietitian (RD) is considered the top nutrition expert who will link good nutrition to better health. The RD credential is the only credential nationally recognized in foods and nutrition. This credential is necessary for most employment in the health care industry as well as for many other opportunities in foods and nutrition. For this reason, it is expected in the future that the RD credential will be a greater requirement in this growing field.
The RD credential is earned following completion of academic training, supervised practice experience, and the successful passage of the nationally administered board exam.
The RD exam is a computer-based board exam, similar to that of other health professionals board exams. It is reflective of all the major areas in dietetics including: food service, clinical, management and community.
There are two different pathways you can take to become a dietitian.
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The difference between a "nutritionist" and a RD is that there are no requirements to use the title of "nutritionist". This term has no standard of education or training. This means that anyone could use the title "nutritionist" even if they have no background in this field. For this reason, you need to verify their qualifications in order to be a reputable source. In contrast, the RD is a nationally recognized title for nutrition expert. It reflects a high level of training and experience in the nutrition and health field. To maintain this status, the RD is required to complete continuing education units to remain knowledgeable in current practices in the field.
A licensed dietitian (LD) is one who has been licensed by a state to ensure that only qualified, trained professionals provide nutrition services or advice to individuals requiring or seeking nutrition care or information. Only state licensed dietetics professionals can provide nutrition counseling. Non-licensed practitioners may be subject to prosecution for practicing without a license.