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How do I Become a Dietitian?

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  • Written By: Hillary Flynn
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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Dietitians, also called nutritionists, work in private practices, at hospitals, for schools or nursing homes, and for outpatient clinics. The main goal of a dietitian is to implement healthy eating plans for patients with disorders or diseases or as a preventative measure for healthy individuals. To become a dietitian, one must complete a bachelor's degree program in food and nutrition, dietetics, food service systems, or a similar subject. The program should be approved by the American Dietetic Association’s Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education.

Most states require a license to become a dietitian. However, requirements vary by state, so it is key to determine which state one wishes to practice in before planning an academic program. In addition to the requirements made by individual states, some may wish to pursue certification by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association. The credential awarded is Registered Dietitian. Though this is not required, it may increase job opportunities.

To acquire the Registered Dietitian designation, one must pass an exam. Before being allowed to sit for the exam, a candidate must first complete certain educational requirements as well as a supervised accredited internship. Most internships come after a bachelor's degree is obtained, so a lot of candidates wishing to become a dietitian choose to complete internships in conjunction with a graduate degree program. All advanced education in dietetics is helpful in obtaining sought after positions and competition is often heavy for prime spots.

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To become a dietitian specializing in a focused area such as rehabilitative nutrition for anorexics, it is always best to acquire advanced education on that particular subject. Dietetics has many areas of specialization, but to branch out into different areas, a dietitian must first gain the appropriate knowledge, then gain the appropriate experience that will support entry into a new area of expertise. To become a dietitian for a school, or nursing home, or any of the other common facilities, a candidate should be selective with internship options and ensure the internship will provide the required experience.

Some dietitians work in research, some in clinical practice, and some choose to work in education. It's a good idea to explore all opportunities to determine where the best fit will be for each individual. Most academic programs will provide an overview of the different areas, but it's important to do a lot of investigating to ensure admittance to the most comprehensive program.

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