Required qualifications and professional associations

A dietitian's education in health science involves significant scientific based knowledge in anatomy, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, physiology, nutrition, and medical science. In addition to this scientific instruction, dietitians must undergo an internship to learn counseling skills and aspects of psychology.

There are a few different academic routes to becoming a fully qualified registered dietitian:

    * A professional bachelor degree in Dietetics which requires four years of studies

Or

    * A Bachelor of Science degree and a postgraduate diploma in Dietetics

Or

    * A Bachelor of Science degree and a master's degree in Dietetics

Internship is also essential to become a fully qualified Dietitian. The internship process differs in different countries.

In the US nutrition professionals include the registered dietitian (RD) and the "dietetic technician, registered" (DTR). These terms, as well as simply dietitian, are legally protected terms regulated by the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Dietitians are registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration (the certifying agency of the ADA) and are only able to use the label "Registered Dietitian" when they have met strict, specific educational and professional prerequisites and passed a national registration examination.

Besides academic education, registered dietitians must complete at least 1200 hours of practical, supervised experience through an accredited program before they can sit for the registration examination. In a coordinated program (CP) students acquire internship hours concurrently with their coursework. In a didactic program (DP)these hours are obtained through a dietetic internship that is completed after obtaining a degree. In both programs the student is required to complete several areas of competency including rotations in clinical, community, long-term care nutrition as well as food service, public health and a variety of other worksites.

Once the degree is earned, the internship completed, and registration examination passed, the individual can now use the nationally recognized legal term, Registered Dietitian and is able to work in a variety of professional settings. Most states require additional licensure to work in most settings. To maintain the RD credential, professionals must participate in and earn continuing education units 75 hours every 5 years.

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