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What is an RDN?Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) are food and nutrition experts with a minimum of a graduate degree from an accredited dietetics program and who completed a supervised practice requirement, passed a national exam and continue professional development throughout their careers. There also are specialty credentials in areas of gerontological nutrition (CSG), sports dietetics (CSSD), pediatric nutrition (CSP), renal nutrition (CSR) and oncology nutrition (CSO). Board-certified specialists are credentialed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration, the credentialing agency for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In addition to RDN credentialing, many states have regulatory laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners. RDNs work in a variety of settings:
- Hospitals, HMOs or other health care facilities, educating patients about nutrition and administering medical nutrition therapy as part of the health care team. RDNs may 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.
- Private practice, working under contract with health care or food companies, or in their own business. RDNs 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.
- 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.
- 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 an NDTR?Nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs) — often working in partnership with registered dietitian nutritionists — screen, evaluate and educate patients, manage and prevent diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and monitors patients’ and clients’ progress. NDTRs work in settings such as hospitals and clinics, extended care facilities, home health care programs, schools, prisons, restaurants, food companies, foodservice providers, public health agencies, government and community programs such as Meals on Wheels, health clubs, weight management clinics and wellness centers. NDTRs must complete a two-year college degree in an approved dietetics technician program, have supervised practice experience and pass a nationwide examination to earn the NDTR credential and must complete continuing education courses throughout their careers.
RDNs, NDTRs, Dietitians and Nutritionists: What’s the difference?Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) and nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered (NDTRs) are credentialed practitioners.
A credential is a professional qualification — like MD for doctors or physicians — that lets the public know that the practitioner is a trained expert. In nutrition and dietetics, the credentials for trained experts is RDN and NDTR. Usually when someone says “dietitian,” they mean an RDN.“Registered dietitian nutritionist” and “nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered” are legally protected titles. Only practitioners who have completed specific educational requirements, passed a national exam and continue learning through ongoing education can use these titles and credentials. However, there is no specific, standardized meaning for “nutritionist.” Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, and unfortunately, unqualified health care recommendations can cause people harm. So whether someone calls themselves “dietitian” or “nutritionist,” check for credentials to ensure they are qualified nutrition experts.