How Do I Become a College Dietitian?

Jennifer Voight
Jennifer Voight
College dieticians typically must have a degree in nutrition, dietetics or a related area.
College dieticians typically must have a degree in nutrition, dietetics or a related area.

Most regions require those who want to become a college dietitian to have at least an accredited bachelor’s degree and possibly a master’s degree in nutrition, dietetics, or a similar area. Many regions have certification, licensing, or registration requirements and require continuing education courses to maintain those credentials, so anyone who wants to become a college dietitian should check regional requirements to make sure he or she has taken the right exams. Some countries or states require that someone who wants to become a college dietitian hold a registered dietitian (RD) credential, but usually that is optional. In addition to specific educational requirements, an RD is also required to complete an accredited supervised internship.

A college dietitian performs large-scale planning of the food service programs of colleges and universities and may be an employee of either the college or a food supply company that works on contract with institutions and businesses. If employed as a food supply services contractor, job assignments may vary, so it is a less likely route of finding a permanent position as a college dietitian. It’s important to have both a thorough knowledge of food and nutrition and an ability to manage a large food system to become a college dietitian, especially if a position in dietetics management is desired.

It’s necessary for a prospective college dietitian to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or dietetics and specialize in administrative dietetics, which deals with food, rather than clinical dietetics, a field in which dietitians work directly to counsel patients. These specializations will determine the general course of a dietitian’s career, but allow some room to change directions if the student decides that becoming college dietitian is not the end goal. Coursework will include food science, anatomy and physiology, and biological sciences. Certain minors, like business or chemistry, can be helpful to a student who wants to become a college dietitian.

As virtually all dietitians hold bachelor’s degrees, it may be necessary to obtain a master’s degree or work as an intern in a specialty area after college to further stand out from other job applicants. Internships usually last for nine months to one year and will expose the student to work conditions very much like those experienced on a permanent position. An RD designation can also help increase applicant marketability. In the US, candidates must pass an exam administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association and complete a specialized internship supervised by an experienced RD.

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    • College dieticians typically must have a degree in nutrition, dietetics or a related area.
      College dieticians typically must have a degree in nutrition, dietetics or a related area.