What is a Registered Dietitian (abbreviated RD or RDN)?


    A registered dietitian (RD) is defined by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a food and nutrition expert who has met academic and professional requirements including but not limited to:

    1. Bachelor's degree with course work approved by AND's Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education. Coursework typically includes food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, sociology, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and chemistry.

    2. Complete an accredited, supervised, experiential practice program at a health-care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation.

    3. Pass a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.

    4. Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration. 

    Some RDs hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice, such as nutrition support, pediatric or renal nutrition and diabetes education. About half of all registered dietitians work in clinical settings, private practice, or health-care facilities. Many work in community and public health settings, academia and research, business, journalism, sports nutrition and wellness programs.

    What are the responsibilities of an RD?

    According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (, RDs work in the following professional areas:


    - Hospitals, HMOs or other health care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. They may also manage the foodservice operations in these settings, as well as in schools, day-care centers, and correctional facilities, overseeing everything from food purchasing and preparation to managing staff.


    - Sports nutrition and corporate wellness programs, educating clients about the connection between food, fitness, and health.

    - Food and nutrition-related businesses and industries, working in communications, consumer affairs, public relations, marketing, or product development.

    - Private practice, working under contract with health care or food companies, or in their own business. RDs may provide services to foodservice or restaurant managers, food vendors, and distributors, or athletes, nursing home residents, or company employees.

    - Community and public health settings teaching monitoring, and advising the public, and helping to improve their quality of life through healthy eating habits.

    - Universities and medical centers, teaching physicians, nurses, dietetics students, and others the sophisticated science of foods and nutrition.

    - Research areas in food and pharmaceutical companies, universities, and hospitals, directing or conducting experiments to answer critical nutrition questions and find alternative foods or nutrition recommendations for the public.


    What is the difference between an RD and a Dietetic Technician?
    An RD has a Bachelor of Science (four-year) degree from an accredited institution by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetic Education (CADE) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, has completed a supervised practice (coordinated program) or an internship, has successfully passed a national RD exam, and maintains continuing education hours. 

    A Dietetic Technician has completed an associate of science (two-year) program, in most cases at a community college. A Dietetic Technician, registered (DTR), has passed a national DTR exam and maintains continuing education hours. The role of the dietetic technician is to support the dietitian. There are distance learning programs available for students interested in becoming DTRs. For further information on these programs and on community colleges that offer dietetic technician programs, please see 

    How can you become registered?
    Students must complete:
    - the academic requirements (didactic) at an accredited institution by the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetic Education (CADE) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 
    - a supervised practice (Coordinated Program, CP) or a dietetic internship (accredited by CADE) 
    - a graduate program with a dietetic internship 

    What is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?

    A "dietitian" has completed a didactic four-year program and supervised practice or internship accredited by CADE and passed the national RD exam. They are credentialed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The term "nutritionist," on the other hand, has no legal definition. Nutritionists may have degrees in nutrition science, medicine or biochemistry, but they are not credentialed by CDR.

    For more information, go to the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.




    Code of Virginia

    Chapter 27.1 of Title 54.1 – Dietitians and Nutritionists





    Code of Virginia ...........................................................................................................1

    Chapter 27.1 of Title 54.1 – Dietitians and Nutritionists ................................................1

    § 54.1-2730. Scope of chapter ....................................................................................1

    § 54.1-2731. Prohibited terms; penalty .......................................................................1



    § 54.1-2730. Scope of chapter.

    Nothing in this chapter shall preclude or affect in any fashion the ability of any person to provide any assessment, evaluation, advice, counseling, information or services of any nature that are otherwise allowed by law, whether or not such services are provided in connection with the marketing and sale of products. 
    (1995, c. 391.)

    § 54.1-2731. Prohibited terms; penalty.

    A. No person shall hold himself out to be or advertise or permit to be advertised that such person is a dietitian or nutritionist unless such person:

    1. Has (i) received a baccalaureate or higher degree in nutritional sciences, community nutrition, public health nutrition, food and nutrition, dietetics or human nutrition from a regionally    accredited college or university and (ii) satisfactorily completed a program of supervised clinical experience approved by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics;
    2. Has active registration through the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; 
    3. Has an active certificate of the Certification Board for Nutrition Specialists by the Board of Nutrition Specialists; 
    4. Has an active accreditation by the Diplomats or Fellows of the American Board of Nutrition; 
    5. Has a current license or certificate as a dietitian or nutritionist issued by another state; or 
    6. Has the minimum requisite education, training and experience determined by the Board of Health Professions appropriate for such person to hold himself out to be, or advertise or allow himself to be advertised as, a dietitian or nutritionist. 
      The restrictions of this section apply to the use of the terms "dietitian" and "nutritionist" as used alone or in any combination with the terms "licensed," "certified," or "registered," as those terms also imply a minimum level of education, training and competence. 

    B.  Any person who willfully violates the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.