How to Become a Dietitian: Degrees, Certification & Jobs

Learn how to become a dietitian and about the various dietitian degrees, certifications and career options that you'll have.
Compare dietitian schools  

Dietitian & Nutritionist Career Facts

How to Become a Dietitian 

What dietitians do: A dietitian, also called a dietician, is an expert in exploiting food and nutrition to manage diseases or promote a healthier lifestyle. You will plan a menu, oversee the preparation of the food to make sure it aligns with your menu plan, and also consult with people on what to eat. You will work mostly with pregnant women, the elderly, patients with lifestyle diseases, and even with food companies.

Where you find a job: Senior homes, private and public health clinics, rehab and recovery centers, cafeterias, gyms and health centers, hospitals, food companies

What Type of Educational Requirements Are Required to Become a Dietitian

You need to complete a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as food and nutrition, public health nutrition, nutrition and dietetics, and clinical nutrition.

Make sure the school is certified by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics ( Likewise, all programs should also cover both classroom and practical training.

You will learn in your course the following subjects: 

  • Data processing
  • Statistics
  • Management theory
  • Bacteriology
  • Business administration
  • Economics
  • Physiology
  • Home economics
  • Sociology

Undergraduate programs offer several paths of specializations. You can focus on health and wellness, nutrition science, sports nutrition, and culinary arts.

Once you get your nutrition degree, you can now specialize in being a dietitian. However, gaining advanced degrees will provide you with a competitive edge over other dietitians.

If you want to specialize in nutrition counseling, you need to comply with the licensing and degree requirements mandated by your state. Keep in mind that only registered dietitians can provide nutrition counseling as per the rules of the Center for Nutrition Advocacy (CNA).

The Didactic Program in Dietetics will provide you with the foundation for the practical application of your classroom training if you plan on becoming a registered dietitian.

Should I Get a Master’s Degree?

Define and understand your career goals before choosing a graduate course. While a master’s degree bolsters your CV and increases your chance of promotion, doing so also involves more responsibilities.

Here are the specializations that you can pursue:

Master of Science in Nutrition (MS)

This MS in Nutrition is a two-year program which will provide you with the foundation to build a life-long career in dietetics and nutrition. You will learn to interpret, analyze, and utilize data to come up with data-based decisions. You will also acquire information about human psychology, holistic nutrition, public policy, research statistics, and nutrient metabolism.

Didactic Program in Dietetics 

Studying a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics involves tackling more theories and application on medical sciences and biology as well as designing nutrition-based programs.

Furthermore, taking a Nutrition and Dietetics course also enhances your reasoning and research skills with the number of behavioral strategies that can alter the personality of an individual. At the time of publication, eight didactic programs in dietetics are accredited in the U.S.

Can I Take Online Programs?

Fortunately, you can also take online programs to earn a nutrition degree. You can even pursue a graduate program even if you don’t have the time to take standard classes in the classroom.

Presently, ACEND has accredited three online bachelor of science programs for a nutrition degree. Meanwhile, if you want to pursue a graduate program, there are even more choices available for you.

The curriculum offered by the MS online program is the same as the curriculum offered on campus. You can even choose a specialization, from fitness, sports, or eating disorders.

Whether on-campus or online, the primary subjects are mostly the same.

You may also want to read this page about becoming a registered dietitian online.

What is a Holistic Nutrition Degree Program

Holistic nutrition courses are offered both in the undergraduate or graduate programs. You will learn to blend modern science with holistic treatments. You will study biology, physiology, chemistry, chemistry, anatomy, and the unique principles of whole foods and organic.  

You will learn the following in the holistic nutrition degree program:

  • Food science
  • Whole foods cooking
  • Counsel patients in a supervised setting
  • Foodservice and dietetics

For on-the-job training, students will spend time on clinic shifts, community centers, and learn the rudiments of being a student-clinician.

Licensing and Certification

At the minimum, the criteria to become a registered dietitian include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in nutrition at a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education
  • At least six months of practice on a program certified by CADE
  • Pass the test given by the Commission on Dietetic Registration
  • Maintain your certification if you pursue continuing education

Although the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) gives the exam for national certification to become a registered dietitian, each state has its regulations and rules. You can’t practice in most states without a license and certification.

Check your state’s requirement on these tables for Nutritionists and Dietitians.

Types of Jobs in Nutrition

As society learns more about health and nutrition, it’s clear that food plays an important part in people’s health and happiness.

As a result, there are more and more jobs in nutrition available in society, and that doesn’t just mean helping people make menus to help them lose weight.

Instead, there are a wide range of positions that you can get with a background in health and nutrition.

Experts for Media

From consulting on television shows and films to writing content for magazines and websites, many media outlets seek experts in health and nutrition to provide information. Pursuing this career in health and nutrition provides you the opportunity to use various media outlets to share valuable knowledge about healthy eating, reaching a wide audience.

Food Safety Consultants

Anyone who works with food, from school cafeterias to high-end restaurants, needs to understand food safety. This includes allergens, cross-contamination, and protocols to keep food-borne illnesses from making people sick. People with a background in health and nutrition can work in these settings training staff members about food safety to prepare them for their jobs.

Menu Development

Registered dietitians are frequently called upon to help develop inclusive menus for patrons of restaurants. This often includes options for those with common allergies as well as lifestyle choices such as vegetarian and vegan eating. Nutritionists are able to work with restaurant owners and chefs to ensure that the meals developed to accommodate these needs also meet general nutrition requirements.


Many universities and other higher-education institutions offer jobs in nutrition. These nutritionists often work with the athletic department to ensure that athletes are getting the nutrition needed for maximum athletic performance. They may also work with the cafeteria to ensure that the school offers a variety of food appropriate to students’ needs.

Healthcare Facilities

Many nutritionist jobs are in healthcare facilities. An RD can work with a healthcare team to ensure that patients are getting the nutrition needed based on their diagnosis and circumstances.

For example, a patient with diabetes may need to be educated about what they can and cannot eat in order to keep their blood sugar levels stable. Working on a healthcare team can give you the opportunity to be an integral part of a patient’s recovery and health.

Whether you work for a magazine, restaurant, or on a healthcare team, your knowledge in health and nutrition can be used to make a big difference in people’s lives. With the importance of nutrition in society, you can build on your passion for nutrition for a satisfying career.

Click the blue button that says “Find Schools” to compare dietitian programs.

Nutritionist Schools Programs and Career Guide

Find a School Today

Search, compare, and even get matched to the best dietitian programs for you.